Feeling the Quarantine Blues?
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Six months into lockdown, and COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the US to a total of over 5 million people. And even if those diagnosed with the virus recover, the prolonged symptoms can go on for several weeks. The coronavirus undoubtedly presents a devastating physical toll on people, but it is important to address its effect on mental health as well. According to Johns Hopkins University, approximately 26% of adults in the US suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition in a given year, with many suffering from more than one mental disorder at a given time .
If you’ve been feeling more anxious and/or depressed about the future, or are generally more prone to feelings of sadness, frustration, or hopelessness, you’re not alone. With the coronavirus still going strong, the combined impacts of social distancing, quarantine, and isolation can be extremely overwhelming--and understandably so: disrupted routines, loneliness, fear for yourself and others, among other factors can all cause increased levels of stress, which is a perfectly natural response to a pandemic . A study recorded in the journal American Psychologist surveyed over 800 participants (approximately 180 of which reported a pre-existing mental health condition) to research the effects of past pandemics on mental health, finding that nearly 25% of respondents reported experiencing significantly worse depression and anxiety during lockdown . These conditions are especially prevalent in health workers due to their longer work shifts and heightened fear of becoming infected or passing on the infection to loved ones . Subsequently, it becomes increasingly important to take care of your mental health to the best of your ability in these trying times.
An essential part of this process is being able to distinguish between negative and positive coping strategies. According to HealthLink BC, examples of coping strategies that tend to worsen stress include:
Increased substance use
Avoiding friends and family
Eating too much or too little
These practices can be extremely detrimental to your mental health. On the flip side, coping strategies that are positive can include:
Doing creative activities such as drawing, writing, making music, etc. Learn something new or pick up a new hobby.
Exercising or walking outdoors regularly (while adhering to social distancing guidelines)
Staying connected with friends and family. Use your time at home to bond with the people you love
Establishing a routine and taking a break from the news are more ways to help cope with stress, but it is also important to educate yourself about the facts of COVID so that misinformation doesn’t create unnecessary anxiety .
Sometimes taking care of your mental health can be overwhelming and you may consider seeking professional help, but it can seem harder to do so because of the pandemic. Fortunately, telemedicine has become a popular method allowing patients to communicate with healthcare professionals remotely through electronic communication (such as one-on-one videoconferencing). It not only reduces the risk of virus transmission but also presents a potentially effective way of alleviating the maldistribution of professionals across certain areas and increasing access to mental health services .
Without a doubt, the coronavirus has had a huge impact on each of us, physically and mentally. In these uncertain times, it becomes more important than ever to stay connected with loved ones and to lend each other support, even if we have to stay six feet apart when doing so. Please don't hesitate to reach out to others, and remember that empathy and compassion are needed now more than ever.