COVID 19 and Mental Health
With the advent of the recent COVID 19 virus infection, the reactions and attitudes of people fluctuate from overwhelming panic to absolute indifference.
Either people are thinking "Its not going to happen to me,its just media hype, it isn't so dangerous" or " We are all going to die". The truth lies in between both these statements.
Despite there being ample resources to explain the reality of the illness, there is an equal amount of information being circulated on social media platforms and unconfirmed sources.
The rising death toll, struggling health care systems and ambiguity regarding the nature of the virus has created an environment of stress. The stress levels are either pushing people to take adequate precautions, enter a stage of fright while some others are living in absolute denial.
Lets discuss the various aspects of Mental health with regards to social isolation and COVID 19
Immune system involves the body processes which help us fight virus and bacteria to protect our body. In the past 30 years, more than 300 studies have been done on stress and immunity. It has been proven each time that psychological challenges are capable of reducing the immune response. A decrease in immunity increases vulnerability to infections and worsens the course of the illness.
Stress in the form of constant worry, fear of impending death, painful illness, being breathless, losing loved ones or simply contracting a newfound infection affect us in more ways than we know. These thoughts act as psychological stress and in turn reduce immunity or our capacity to fight the virus. The brain sends defence signals to the endocrine system, which then releases an array of hormones that not only gets us ready for emergency situations but severely depresses our immunity at the same time. This fear is serving to be counterproductive and taking us away from the goal of being healthy.
Adequate precautions must be taken, government advisories must be followed, however there is a fine line between concern and anxiety. As we hear of the infection spreading in our country, our state , our city and finally our locality even if your immediate response if to panic, remind yourself that negative thoughts are not keeping you healthy.
2 Subconsciously relating various words together
Along with following the regulations by the government, it is essential to keep our perceptions about the illness and associated stress under check.
The social media is continuously bombarding us with information and gore details. It is essential in such times to follow advisories and keep informed from reliable sources and keep away from random forwards or videos. It affects us unknowingly and is accumulated in our subconscious. A simple message " I never thought, even death would be 'Made in China'" , it may bring a smile to our face, but this is piling up in our subconscious. Somewhere we end up relating 'china', 'virus' and death to each other unknowingly.
Keep away from unnecessary bombarding of information through social media. Follow government websites and reliable sources to stay updated.
3 Social isolation
When one voluntarily takes a break from work and decides to stay home, it is seen as an opportunity to reconnect with self and loved ones. In the current situation most people perceive it as monotony or boredom. The only difference is that of perspective and choice. If I think I have not chosen to be in isolation and I don't know how long it will last, this creates a repulsion and restlessness. If you can accept this and change your perspective it’s possible to make the most of your time.
The internet provides adequate opportunities for learning a new language, a musical instrument or simply listening to music. It is possible to virtually connect with your next door neighbor (recommended) or someone across the globe, without leaving the comfort of your house.
4 Red flags for mental Health
If you experience disturbance in sleep, increased irritability, excessive thinking , change in appetite , decreased or increased appetite, panic episodes, inability to focus, excessive fatigue which last for more than 10-15 days, you may consider visiting a mental health care professional.(A psychiatrist or a psychologist)
5 Things that could emerge
Consider this as an opportunity to re-examine your lifestyle.
A good night’s sleep and feeling refreshed in the morning is the hallmark of good mental health.
Sleep hygiene to be maintained
Going to bed at a fixed time daily, waking up at a fixed time.
Meals to be taken 2 hours before bedtime.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol few hours before bedtime.
Keep all Gadgets away at least an hour before bedtime.
40 minutes of physical exercise daily. (At home only)
Daytime sleep if required less than 30 minutes.
The diet plan which was indefinitely postponed could finally see the light of day. Do not skip meals and eat a balanced diet, don’t starve yourself.
Breath Meditation, Yoga in the confines of your house. Stay Calm
Don’t forward things on social media without verifying it yourself.
6 Psychology of escaping quarantined patients.
If you are approached by a speeding car as a reflex you will jump out of its way, there is no time to think. This is mediated by the sympathetic response. It activates flight and fright in the patient. Similarly, being a suspect brings with it an array of negative thoughts like fear of breathlessness and impending death. In such a state willpower and rational thinking takes the back seat .One tries to escape this mental stress by physically fleeing from the place, as a result patient tends to act impulsive.
Also there is an association in our minds between contracting the virus and death, patients are often overwhelmed with this thought and they don't wish to die in isolation.
P.S. Please disinfect your mobile phones as well along with washing your hand.
You can use this link for the same
Dr Nahid Dave