Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the Pandemic
By Ama H.Vanniarachchy
Mental Health is equally important as physical health and it is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health. Mental health is a state of well-being in which a person understands their abilities, can cope with the normal stresses and anxieties of life, and can work productively without any distractions for their daily lives.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act; helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health includes ‘subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualisation of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others’. The WHO further states that the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realisation of their abilities, coping with normal stresses of life, productive work, and contribution to their community.
Why is mental health important?
Mental health is integral for a person to lead a healthy and balanced life. This is important because it is a vital part of a person’s life and impacts their thoughts, behaviours, and emotions. Being emotionally healthy can promote productivity and effectiveness in a person’s daily life, work, education, career, social life, and relationships that allow them to adapt to changes in life and cope with adversity.
Mental health is important because:
• Physical health and mental health are closely associated and it is proved that depression leads to heart and vascular diseases.
• Mental disorders also affect a person’s health such as eating habits, exercise, sleeping patterns, alcohol, and tobacco use, etc.
• Mental ill health also leads to social problems like unemployment, broken families, poverty, drug abuse, and related crimes.
• Medically ill patients with depression have worse outcomes than those without.
Mental health has an impact on;
• Productivity at work
• Personal relationships
• Crime rate
• Alcohol and drug abuse
COVID-19 and mental health
The pandemic situation that affected the entire globe has a huge impact on the mental health of all of us. The mental health of people has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. More issues such as difficulty in sleeping, eating disorders, increases in alcohol consumption or substance use, and worsening chronic conditions, due to worry and stress over the coronavirus are challenges for mental health.
Isolation and loneliness during the pandemic may present specific mental health risks for households with adolescents and older adults. Job loss and financial instability are associated with increased depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem which could lead to higher rates of substance use, disorder and suicide.
The pandemic has caused insecurity, confusion, emotional isolation, and stigma among communities causing mental health risks. Reasons identified by research that is challenging mental health during the pandemic are;
• Fear and worry about your own and your loved one’s health
• Social isolation
• Job loss
• Financial breakdown
• Domestic violence
• Depression among older adults
• Harassment faced by women
• Stress for young women
• Poor physical health
• Limited access to mental health care
Women and older people are known to be the highest groups who are at a higher risk during the pandemic. Health care providers are also particularly vulnerable to emotional distress in the current pandemic.
People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:
• Those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19
• Children and teens
• People caring for family members or loved ones
• Health care providers
• Essential workers
• Those who have mental disorders
• Those who have lost their jobs and financially unstable
• People who are socially isolated from others, those who live alone, and people in rural areas
• Homeless people
How to maintain good mental health during the pandemic?
Healthy ways to cope with stress:
• Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19
• Take care of your emotional health
• Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to the news, on electronic media, and social media. Continuously listening to pandemic news will be distressing
• Taking good care of your health (read positive and happy things, meditate and workout, work on your hobbies and favourite activities such as gardening or cooking)
• Eat healthily
• Get enough sleep
• Avoid excessive use of alcohol
• Connect with others. Talk with people you trust and care about how you are feeling. As social distancing occurs, consider connecting with people you love through online, through social media, or by phone or mail.