Amid managing a situation like the Covid-19 outbreak, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and worried. Many of us took the news and rushed into panic mode, grabbing necessities and planning the days ahead. Once the madness had calmed and we got into our routines, many other issues crept in and perhaps we were not ready for those. Focusing on how to slow the spread of the virus is important for our physical health, however, identifying ways to manage our mental health is also crucial.
By Laura Potgieter – Hr Company Solutions
Social media was full of ideas on how to deal with lockdown, to continue with your routine and to keep your physical and mental health at its peak. Many, even the strongest minds, forgot to think about the increased feelings of anxiety, powerlessness, impatience, irritability or frustration. As the weeks seemed to move faster than we expected, the news got worse and lockdown was extended we may have felt uncertainty about the future or worry about isolation amidst rapidly changing schedules and social plans.
While feeling worried is normal and expected, there are many ways that we can increase our resilience during this time:
Take a break from the news and social media.
After a certain point, it can be more upsetting than informational. Make sure the information you do get is from reputable and non-sensationalist sources. Evaluate how much is helpful for you to read in a day, and then possibly stick to that limit. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. It is also destructive to wait for MORE information as plans are being made – this just feeds into anxiety and even if you were not an anxious person before this, it will certainly create some serious anxiety now with less support because it is new. Yes, the world has changed, jobs are being lost, economies are falling apart, people are dying, and people are surviving. This is undeniably the most traumatic time that we as a country and world have faced and with no clear answers for a way forward, it is going to create more turmoil and stress. So, take a break – give yourself a limited amount of news time and social media time too. How do you do this? Everyone is talking about it – every Whatsapp group, everyone on your Facebook timeline, Instagram and LinkedIn are just shovelling it down your throat. Try to do some other activities you enjoy returning some normalcy back to your life as much as possible. Make time to unwind and remind yourself that these strong feelings will fade.
Take care of your body in a way that works for you.
This doesn’t only mean that you need to become a gym fanatic now. Just be aware of what you are putting in and doing with your body. Take deep breaths. Stretch. Do Pilates. Let your kid ride your back and play with you or walk in your garden and pick flowers in the sun. Try to eat relatively well-balanced meals, move your body regularly, get plenty of sleep and highly limit alcohol and drugs. This will help boost your immunity — and your resilience. It is as important to your mental wellness that what you do with your body will reflect on your mind! So, it doesn’t need to be extreme (this is not the time to be extreme), just be gentle and don’t eat every yummy item in your fridge. I know it is tough – we are all craving the entire fridge and our newly learnt baking efforts created by utter boredom but be strong. You are not using the same amount of energy that we usually do, so maybe make a deal with yourself – if you walk around the garden or do 10 minutes of Pilates, you can have a treat! This goes for your kiddies at home too – they are watching your EVERY move and you also don’t want to instil bad habits in them. So, try and be proactive with this until we return to some sort of normalcy.
We are naturally social creatures – don’t let this get you down, find a way to connect to everyone that you love!
Researchers have found that some individuals may experience mental health problems for the first time during a pandemic. Adjustment issues, depression, and anxiety may arise. A study from the Ebola virus outbreak indicated that increased numbers of people reported mental health and psychosocial problems. A study from the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009 indicated an increase in a variety of emotional symptoms.
We are in strange waters here and there isn’t a magical map as to where we will end up. No one knows how things will be in 3 weeks’ time, or in the next 6 months. So, it is best to stay connected and to verbalise your concerns, fears and anxiety with those who are probably feeling it too. Unfortunately, it is likely that those with existing mental health conditions may get worse. There is no doubt that individuals who are especially vulnerable to stress and anxiety may be at the highest risk. Once again, speak to your social network, friends who know what you have been through or family members and your doctors – stay connected – many are offering skype consultations to check in and make sure that you are handling things and that you are okay.
Severe anxiety may also cause an increase in substance use. Individuals who have been in recovery may become more likely to relapse as their stress levels increase. This is a very scary trend and should be monitored carefully, especially during this time. If you know of someone in this situation, reach out and make sure that they are handling things. Find ways to help them if they have found themselves on a dangerous path – this will make their recovery after the pandemic much harder but if you intervene sooner rather than later, there is hope.
Keep an eye on your children – happy parents’ equal happy kids!
None of us do well with uncertainty, and this crisis is a lot for our children to process. They are all looking to us for a sense of calmness. How we handle this situation will undoubtably be imprinted on our children for their ENTIRE lifetime! Just like us, our children are experiencing a great deal of loss of their normal lives right now. Some kids may be struggling with many of the sudden changes in their day-to-day existence, missing their friends and their normal routines. This is where you can help them keep connected too – if your children are young and need help to connect – get in touch with other school Moms and let them have a chat to their friends. It doesn’t have to happen every day, but it should happen often enough so that they know that they are not the only ones being affected by this pandemic and the restrictions that have been implemented are on each family.
When children are stressed, it is often expressed in physiological changes and changes in mood and behaviours and we don’t all have the strategic knowledge or books to turn to in order to figure out what is happening in their minds or how to deal with it.
Kids don’t always verbalise their struggles, but anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can manifest in different ways. Be aware of regressive behaviours and then be patient with them – in general, we are all going to regress a little in our functioning during this time of major transition but children are going to regress more than adults, and the younger the child, the more the regression is likely to be.
Behaviours that you thought your child had grown out of may suddenly reappear. This could include thumb-sucking, needing a special toy for comfort, bed-wetting or other potty-training issues. Please know that this is totally normal and to be expected. When routines return to somewhat normal, so will these things. A major thing, which was mentioned earlier is changes in eating habits, including loss of appetite or extra comfort eating. This is often apparent in older kids and teens. However, as I said, your kids are watching you and if you are doing all these things, they might follow easily. Now more than ever, you have lots of eyes on you – so be the calm during and ahead of the storm!
As fear and anxiety increase during these uncertain times, it is important to recognise and be grateful for what we have, stay connected to those we love and care for, and lend a helping hand to those who need it.