The current global pandemic has led to an increase in anxiety and depression. The increasing number of deaths, unemployment rates, physical isolation from loved ones, altered daily routines and social distancing is taking its toll on many people. Before getting into how to deal with anxiety and depression, it’s important to understand what these terms mean.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a state of uneasiness or worry about an uncertain situation. Anxiety can degenerate into a mental health disorder (Anxiety disorder) when not checked. Everyone feels anxious every now and then – it’s a normal feeling but when you get panic-stricken persistently, then it begins to lean towards the abnormal.
What is Depression?
Depression is an emotional state of being unhappy, moody and uninterested in life and social activities. This mental health disorder is characterized by guilt, mood swings, sadness, insomnia, weight loss, suicidal thoughts among others.
The 24/7 update of COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the levels of stress, anxiety and depression. In times like this, we shouldn’t be concerned about just our physical health, there’s the need to take care of our mental health too. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage many countries and regions, there are ways we can maintain improve our mental health even in the midst of this global crisis.
1. Limit your media consumption
It’s important you get updated on the happenings around but don’t obsessively check the news as this intensifies fears and worries. The World Health Organization’s director-general advises people to check news from reliable sources only once or twice daily. Make conscious efforts to reduce screen time to a specific time frame and time of day.
2. Connect with loved ones
Social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection. Social distancing is a means of limiting the spread of the virus as suggested by health bodies; it shouldn’t sever human relations. As social beings, humans are hardwired for connection. Isolation and loneliness can aggravate anxiety and depression so it’s necessary we keep in touch with our loved ones. You can call, text, or video-chat with friends and family, join an online group, start a virtual movie or book club. Social media is also a great tool for connecting with people.
3. Practice self care
Good nutrition, exercise, great sleep and a healthy lifestyle are essential for your mental and physical health. Several studies have shown good nutrition leads to lower levels of anxiety and stress. Studies have also shown that people who consume lots of processed foods, unhealthy fats and carbs are likely to get depressed when compared to those who eat more unprocessed foods.
Also, the amount and quality of sleep you get has a great effect on your mental health. Engaging in regular physical activity and exercise helps relieve stress, reduce anxiety and improve your mood. Adopting a healthy lifestyle like reducing intake of alcohol, sugary drink and not smoking reduces the risk of getting infected with diseases.
4. Adopt the art of gratitude
Being grateful has a significant effect on your emotional health. Focus on your blessings and what you are grateful for. According to Journal Psychotherapy Research, it was discovered that writing a gratitude letter will do wonders to a person’s demeanor and overall emotional state. A great way to get started on gratitude is by practicing meditation.
5. Give a helping hand
You can help ease someone’s burden by assisting an elderly neighbour get groceries or donating to a cause. A study demonstrated that helping others makes you feel better about yourself. Being of help boosts your mental health and well being as well as adding purpose and meaning to your life.
6. Focus on the things you can control
There are so many things beyond our control. You don’t know how long the pandemic is going to last, you’re worried about your loved ones and how this is going to change lots of things. Breathe, Relax. Getting all worried will do you no good instead it will plunge you deeper into a state of anxiety and depression. You can’t control the outbreak but you can control some things in your circle of influence.
If getting COVID-19 is one of the things you worry about, you should simply take preventive measures. You can reduce your vulnerability to COVID-19 by:
- Avoid touching your face (most especially your eyes, nose and mouth).
- Washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Staying at home as much as possible.
- Avoiding crowds.
- Observing social distancing.
- Adhering to health tips by health bodies like WHO.
7. Seek Professional help
If your anxiety is escalating or you have suicidal thoughts, please seek help. Remember you’re not alone. The mental health professionals are there to help you. Kindly reach out to them if you feel overwhelmed.