Understanding mental health during COVID-19 lockdown

The COVID-19 crisis has gripped the entire world. Businesses have been shut and billions are now forced to live inside their homes. This is an unprecedented crisis in the modern world. While much has been written about the economic impact of the crisis, little attention has been paid to the mental health challenges the lockdown can pose. In this article, we will identify some important points to keep in mind with regards to mental health. Furthermore, we’ll provide a guide to how parents can be more supportive of their children. 

Everyone is different

The most important idea to keep in mind with regards to mental health is that people are different. Different things impact each person differently. For example, one person can feel stressed about doing household chores while another may enjoy them. Similarly, genetic, environmental, and personal histories all play a role in shaping our unique identity. This is why it is incorrect to invalidate someone’s feelings based on your own. You may react completely differently to something, but it is important to note that the other person may not. Acknowledge what the other person is feeling, instead of implying that it is somehow wrong for them to feel that way. This is a crucial aspect without which there can be no progress in improving and maintaining mental health.

Risk factors

Humans are social animals and staying isolated from others can harm mental health. You may not even realize as the stress of isolation and social distancing begins to creep up on you. In other words, lack of social contact is a risk factor for mental health problems. Similarly, those with chronic health conditions are more likely to suffer from mental health problems. If you or someone you know has a chronic health problem, encourage them to seek ways to cope with the challenges of social distancing. Age is another important factor as older people are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Finances are another relevant area of concern. The uncertainty with regards to employment can lead to acute stress as the lockdown duration increases. Parents have to worry about their child’s health, take stock of their education, look after running the house, and expose themselves to infection risks. Without social support, this can also have a cumulative effect which can lead to problems such as depression and anxiety. Social indicators such as gender, poverty, education, ethnicity, race, religion, and location can all play a role in how vulnerable we are or how we cope with challenges. Now that we have identified these risk factors, let’s identify some signs and symptoms of common mental health problems. Bear in mind that each person is unique and that not everyone demonstrates all of these signs.

Common signs to look out for

Depression

Depression is a serious mental illness that can lead to suicide as well. Here are some signs to look out for, according to the NHS.

Psychological symptoms of Depression:

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Having low self-esteem 
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling guilt-ridden
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others 
  • Having no motivation or interest in things
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • Feeling anxious or worried 
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Physical symptoms of Depression:

  • Moving or speaking more slowly than usual 
  • Changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased) 
  • Constipation 
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Lack of energy
  • Low sex drive (loss of libido)
  • Changes to your menstrual cycle
  • Disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning

Anxiety 

Here are some important signs and symptoms for Anxiety to look out for:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Feeling agitated
  • Feeling tired or fatigued
  • Feeling restless
  • Sleeping problems
  • Problems with focus and attention
  • Tense muscles or body aches
  • Irritable mood
  • A sense of fear
  • Panic attacks

Excessive stress

Recognize the following signs of excessive stress.

  • Moodiness
  • Sadness
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleeping problems
  • Appetite changes
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of libido
  • Fatigue/tiredness

The lists are not exhaustive and they only point towards potential mental health problems. Only a mental health professional can make a reliable diagnosis. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some things that you can do to cope.

Coping strategies

  • Seek professional help

Youmay feel uneasy about visiting the hospital or medical facilities during this crisis. However, many mental health professionals can assist the internet or telephone. It may not be the best option, but it is the most suitable one for now.

  • Support your loved ones

Support your family and friends by being observant about their behaviors. Encourage them to seek help if you notice something’s not quite right. Do not invalidate how they feel. Help them out through shared activities. While meeting and greeting with friends may be difficult, you can use social media and other technology-driven solutions to maintain contact.

  • Personal habits

Take stock of your habits if you realize that you are experiencing difficulty. Avoid smoking and alcohol. Improve your diet by incorporating fruits and vegetables. Exercise regularly and try meditation or yoga.

Summing up The lockdown and social distancing measures are taken by countries across the world due to COVID-19. However, this is having both short-term and long-term effects on mental health. This is an important point to recognize because any mental health problems can lead to deterioration in the quality of life. Acknowledge that everyone reacts differently to things, and don’t invalidate another’s emotions. Pay special attention to individuals who have risk factors for developing problems. Similarly, learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and acute stress. Support your loved ones, improve your habits, and seek professional help where appropriate. You and your loved ones not only are able to cope with the challenges but come out stronger than ever before.

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