‘A perfect storm’: Anxiety and depression on the rise, experts warn
Along with the disrupting everyday life, COVID-19 brought plenty of mental health challenges for the people in quarantine. Many of these challenges could have long-term effects on people and stay present long after the traces of the virus disappear. According to census data, a third of Americans are experiencing heightened symptoms of anxiety and depression during quarantine, making it evident that the symptoms of the 2020 pandemic go beyond the virus itself.
The psychological cost of COVID-19
Signs of distress were more commonly shown among the most vulnerable populations. This included women, as well as minority communities. And while the virus itself does not impose a high risk for most younger people, studies have shown that they are the ones that are emotionally affected the most.
However, young people aren’t the only ones. In May, the World Health Organization warned of “a massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months,” largely due to extended periods of isolation, massive disruption of daily routines, and uncertainty about the future.
Seniors are at risk in more ways than one
Staying in isolation has also taken a toll on the mental health of the American senior population. Many are living in circumstances that don’t allow them to be with their families. Without being able to go through their everyday routine or see the people they love, they are continuing to struggle to emotionally cope and adapt to the new norm.
In Arizona, the main demographic affected by COVID-19 were aged 40 and above. The state is known to have one of the highest populations of senior residents. Not only are seniors the ones who are at risk of getting infected, but they also have to be aware of other potential threats. These included getting scammed by those who might offer fake tests in order to get their social security information. Along with this, lack of social contact is one of the primary causes of developing depression among the older age group. Being isolated for months on end is causing significant emotional and behavioral problems across the entire country.
How to take care of your mental health
Remaining proactive within the rules of social distancing is one of the main recommendations for battling mental health during the pandemic. Getting fresh air and daily exercise is highly recommended, along with taking regular breaks if you’re working from home. If you live alone, it’s essential to schedule phone calls with your friends and family as much as possible.
Sticking to a routine will help you ground yourself and gain some familiarity should your mind begin to race. Eating meals at regular times and having a strict sleep schedule will help you feel slightly more in control of the current situation. Don’t forget to schedule some time for doing the things you love to make sure there’s at least one activity you’re looking forward to every day. If your work is stressful, this will help you detach yourself from your work personality and engage in simple self-care activities.
Quarantine is a perfect time to add meditation and other self-care activities to your everyday routine. Even if it’s only five or 15 minutes, daily meditation can help reduce stress, improve your self-image, generate self-compassion and kindness toward others, and even improve your sleep, You’ll gain the ability to objectively control your racing thoughts and stay in the present moment. Over time, you’ll be able to meditate for longer periods and deepen your practice.
However, if meditation doesn’t appeal to you, working out every single day and moving your body will have similar health benefits. With gyms being closed, many businesses have decided to move their workout classes online and offer discounts. On days when your muscles are too sore, mix up your workouts with gentle yoga to stretch your body. In many countries, outdoor activity is permitted and even encouraged — a perfect time to test your running skills and get one of those “Couch to 5K” apps.
Mental health resources
Should your mental health be at serious risk, it’s extremely important to get help as quickly as possible. As many psychologists can’t offer in-person sessions, they have moved online, with some offering discounted fees. However, if you can’t afford a psychologist, there are many free resources that can help you tackle how you feel and get you to the right help.
Along with online counseling websites, you can find charities and helplines offering affordable, or even free, help. If you’re based in the UK, you can get free GP advice through the NHS GPatHand app where you can also order and reorder your medication.
During these unprecedented times, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Always make sure you reach out to people who can and will help you go through the hard times. Whether they’re professionals or people in your closest circle, it’s important to remember there is always someone out there who will listen. If you’re in immediate danger, contact the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.