As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health implications of coronavirus have evolved as a significant concern.
The coronavirus outbreak has affected a significant number of people worldwide, halting everyday life as we knew it.
Day-to-day life was already stressful before the pandemic. However, new challenges during COVID-19 have taken a heavy toll on mental health and overall well-being for many people.
The pandemic has challenged us with severe lifestyle changes, interrupting our routines. In addition to everyday struggles, people now worry about getting sick, losing their job, going through financial hardship, and losing social connections.
The new social distancing rules, the necessity of wearing face masks, and lockdowns are enormous challenges for most people.
For many people, the fear of dying or losing loved ones is just overwhelming.
These challenges need to be addressed to prevent long-term psychological consequences from the greatest health crisis in history.
Speaking about the mental health impact of COVID-19, mental health experts predict an increase in the following mental illnesses in the near future:
Anxiety and Depression
From remote working and virtual homeschooling to coping with sickness and death due to the virus, COVID-19 challenges have contributed to increased mental health concerns, triggering mental health conditions, or aggravating existing ones in millions of people worldwide.
A rise in anxiety and depression symptoms is expected in a crisis like this. When we feel threatened, the amygdala in our brain activates the cognitive-emotional-physiological reaction known as the “flight or fight” response to help us adapt to stress.
Therefore, it is natural to experience anxiety in a crisis. However, excessive or continuous worry and fear can destabilize your resilience, harming your health and quality of life.
Mental health professionals are concerned that the incidence of anxiety, depression, and self-harming behaviors will increase significantly in the pandemic’s aftermath.
According to a recent study, the frequency of negative moods among children and their families increased significantly during the lockdown. Social isolation, missed social development opportunities, childcare burdens, unemployment, income loss, and illnesses caused a decline in children’s and parents’ mental health.
For many people, uncertainty is one of the biggest COVID-19 challenges. A combination of uncertainty and responsibility can have a profound effect on one’s mental health, triggering or exacerbating symptoms of anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and other psychological concerns.
Apart from health care workers, who are beyond burned out, the state of complete exhaustion affects many people these days.
Burnout is described as a state of exhaustion caused by excessive or chronic stress. It occurs due to emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion over a more extended period, and it differs from feeling stressed out now and then. Burnout causes you to constantly feel exhausted without relief from it, triggering other health problems, reducing your motivation and productivity, and impairing your relationships.
Some of the common signs of burnout involve:
- Mood swings
- Self-esteem issues
- Feeling helpless and hopeless
- Disturbed sleep
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weakened immune system
Social distancing, quarantine, and lockdowns lead to isolation and loneliness, affecting people of all ages. Most frontline workers have stayed separated from their loved ones for weeks or even months.
The inability to travel has kept us separated from our families – many of us have not seen our parents, children, or spouses for a long time. Young people have missed out on social interaction opportunities, as school lessons, camps, proms, and sports events were canceled. This leads to loneliness and mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Also, there is growing evidence that loneliness and isolation are linked to an increased risk of physical illness.
Parents worldwide are concerned about the increase in their children’s screen time. In the past year, children and adolescents have been engaging with technology more than ever.
Studies show that the false impression of connection that we get from technology and social media actually aggravates feelings of isolation and loneliness. The pandemic added fuel to the flames of alienation that our society has already absorbed.
Mental health experts say that specific mental illnesses such as eating disorders, social anxiety, or addictions thrive in isolation. People who struggled with addiction and eating disorders before the pandemic are struggling even more.
Spending more time in an environment that triggers unhealthy behaviors and being unable to get support, many people have sunken deeper in mental illnesses and substance abuse.
Eating disorders are about much more than food. These severe mental health conditions require evidence-based treatment and can worsen in times of increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns commonly related to eating disorders.
How to Cope with the COVID-19 Pandemic
Resilience to stress is crucial to finding a breather from the pandemic. How you manage stress in times of crisis can affect your mental and physical health, work productivity, relationships, and well-being in general.
Make Self-Care Your Priority
Self-care strategies such as getting enough sleep, mindful meditation, nutritious meals, regular physical activity, and safely spending time outdoors can help you manage coronavirus anxiety and improve your overall health.
Also, spending time with your loved ones and pets can have therapeutic benefits and help you manage anxiety and depression symptoms.
Research shows that connecting with nature has uplifting effects because it can help you relax and let go of negative emotions and thoughts.
Regular physical activity is known to promote a variety of changes in the brain. Exercise has the power to stimulate the release of dopamine and endorphins, neurotransmitters also known as hormones of happiness. An increase of these neurotransmitters in your blood causes effects similar to what antidepressant medications do, revitalizing your spirits and making you feel good.
Consider Reaching Out to a Professional
If you feel that you are not equipped to manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns on your own, seek help from a mental health professional. Counseling and psychotherapy can be a safe environment to address the issues you face and develop effective coping strategies.
Build an intimate relationship with God
The most important step you must take in order to cope with this pandemic and its effects on your daily life is to build an intimate and strong relationship with God. There is no stronger foundation than His very own being, there is no greater shelter than being surrounded by His loving arms. But can you cultivate an intimate relationship with God? First of all, recognize Him as your Creator and savior. Secondly, try to spend some quality time with Him through reading the Bible, praying, meditating about His word, telling Him about our anxieties, worries, and problems.
The closer we get to God, the more sheltered we are going to feel. Remember what Philippians 4:6-7 says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This is the resource we have always had in times of crises, anguish, and uncertainty. In Psalm 94:19, we can see how David felt when he turned to God: “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” God can help you navigate these turbulent times. God bless you.