It’s been more than 8 months now since the whole world has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is causing deaths of many people on a daily basis. It has economic implications too because of which GDP of the countries are suffering, people are losing their jobs, etc. Above all these issues the pandemic is taking a surprising toll on people’s psychological well-being. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in late June 2020, 40% of the adults in the US reported struggling with mental health crisis or substance use. According to a study conducted at University of Oxford, researchers found that anxiety, depression and insomnia are the leading mental health issues recovered patients from COVID-19 are dealing with. They further found that 1 in every 5 recovered patients from COVID-19 reported having a first time diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia.
The times are hard. Staying home most of the time and not been able to meet our closed ones including friends, family members and colleagues can be very challenging. Therefore, it is more important than ever that we keep ourselves psychologically fit. It is not easy working at home. It is not easy studying online for months. Overall, it is not easy to accept these new realities. But we humans are very resilient and there are some things we can do every single day to ensure our good mental health.
1. Build a routine
Having a routine is the most important thing right now. By building a routine we allow ourselves to have some structure during the day. Routine helps us remain focused and not get distracted by the unimportant things. Rachel Goldman, who is a psychologist and clinical assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine says, “When people don’t have a routine or structure to their day it can cause increased stress and anxiety, as well as overwhelming feelings, lack of concentration, and focus.” Having a routine does not mean we should have a very strict schedule. The rationale behind a routine is to give a structure to our day so that we have some sense of control over it. Furthermore, routine is more than crossing off our to-do lists. There should be sufficient time for self-care as well. When people have a regular routine their stress levels are low, they are much more productive and are able to form good daily habits. In the end what matters is that we follow a routine that works best for us and not forget that everything takes time.
2. Moderately consume the news
We are living in the 21st century where gathering information is not a problem anymore unlike older times when information was still scarce. The real challenge is to eliminate what is not important and relevant and consume what needs to be consumed. We all suffer from information overloading. This is why it is more important than ever that we consume information moderately especially the news related to the pandemic. We do not realize it but news affects us unconsciously and the negative affect it has on us comes out in form of our behaviors. Just the way excessive sugar is toxic for our bodies,’ news is toxic too. We do not feel any changes taking place in our bodies so we keep on consuming news mindlessly without realizing that it is harming our minds. There is so much the media is feeding us 24*7 and it is not relevant at all.
3. Eat healthy food items and exercise regularly
Keeping healthy eating habits and exercising regularly can definitely keep us both physically and psychologically fit. So many people are complaining gaining weight as their routine has been completely disrupted. Guess what? Whatever routine you are having is a new reality and you might as well adjust to that. According to a report published by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on 27th March, 2020 good nutrition becomes very crucial before, during and after an infection. While eating healthy food does not prevent anyone from contracting the virus it becomes important in supporting a strong immune system. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, eating nuts and whole grain foods, avoiding too much sugar, fats and salt, drinking plenty of water can be among the first steps towards a healthy diet. We are supposed to move our body parts and they work better if we remain physically active. Some research suggests that elevated levels of aerobic activity (exercise that significantly raises our heart rates) may be associated with greater reductions in depressive symptoms.
4. Connect with people
The pandemic has changed how we interact and connect with people. Fortunately, we have technology because of which we are able to know about the well-being of our loved ones even if they are thousands of miles away from us. It is important that we understand social distancing is physical distancing and not emotional distancing. Since we should be physically distant during these times in order to avoid the spread of the virus we should keep in mind to stay connected with each other. Call your friends from time to time. Call your family members from time to time. Keep a close check on them even if it is virtually. Ask them about their activities, jobs, studies, etc. Keep them in a loop so that they do not feel isolated. A key finding in one of the latest studies was that time spent consistently with the family members was related to better mental health. People spending more time with parents and siblings face to face or via video/messaging was related to less loneliness and less depression. So, don’t forget to connect with people on a regular basis.
5. Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep is something which should never be compromised with especially when times are stressful. An adult human body requires 7-8 hours of an uninterrupted sleep. Sadly, people sacrifice their sleep because they wrongly perceive it as a luxury. Sleep is not a luxury. It is a necessity just like the air we breathe in. No matter how stressed you are for whatever reasons make sure you get a good night sleep every single day. Sleep empowers an effective immune system and heightens our brain functions. It further enhances our mood. Try to remember the time when you didn’t get enough sleep at night and you were all cranky the whole day. Make sure you sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid your screen time at least 1 hour before going to bed. Prioritize your sleep and you are prioritizing your life.