The mental impacts of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic are only just starting to reveal themselves and is now being considered as the next crisis related to the virus. More and more people are experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. Despite the confinement measures being lifted across the world, there is undoubtedly a collective and global psychological trauma, and also the fear of a second lockdown. This article will explore the impact of the confinement measures on mental health and where you can find possible treatment options going forward.
A study titled: The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it, published in The Lancet, explains that ‘mass social isolation is likely to result in mental health difficulties for a considerable number of people’. With the study highlighting the numerous adverse effects of being quarantined, such as: ‘emotional disturbance, depression, stress, difficulty sleeping, low mood, irritability and anger’.
After establishing some of the possible psychological impacts of confinement, this article will now explore various techniques and tools that will help you take care of your mental health and manage this situation as best as you can.
Don’t worry if you are having or had difficulty adapting to the confinement measures and living your life during a global pandemic. According to the British Psychological Society, it can take up to 10 days to adapt to a new situation. They recommend establishing a routine as quickly as possible, as this facilitates ‘a sense of control’ and the uncertainty of an indefinite period of confinement, by adding structure to each day. Where lockdowns have ended, there is the added stress and uncertainty of not knowing if there will be further restrictions.
Here is a selection of apps that will help improve your productivity and concentration and allow you to create daily goals, whilst at the same time, organising your day, for example Todolist. In this second article you will find specific guidance if you are struggling to work from home during this period of confinement.
As (Smith & Barrett) explain, “the uncertainty of not knowing what lies ahead, especially in times of adversity, can lead to feelings of anxiety and fear”. The Coronavirus quarantine differs from other situations of confinement, in that for the most part, we did not know when the quarantine would end, or if there will be another. As such it is difficult to project far into the future, and ultimately we can become anxious about the future and the unknown.
Here is a selection of apps that can help with feelings of anxiety and stress:
Despite Mind Shift being an app designed for people with anxiety, it can also help people with mood disorders and insomnia. This app contains a number of mindfulness strategies, with mindfulness being defined as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally (Jon Kabat-Zinn). From the mindful breathing exercises to a 9-minute meditation, this app can help you become more aware of your body and how you feel.
Calm is quickly becoming regarded as one of the best mental health apps. Similar to Mind Shift, it is aimed at people experiencing stress and anxiety and the app offers guided meditation, breathing programs and mindfulness exercises.
Chillpanda is on the NHS’s list of recommended mental health apps. This is catered towards younger children, but can also be used by adults. It aims to help you to relax, manage your worries and improve your wellbeing. The app measures your heart rate and suggests activities relevant to your state of mind, such as breathing techniques and light exercise.
Chillpanda is available to download for Android and iOS devices.
During this period of confinement and social isolation it has been important to maintain social links with your friends and family, however if you lived on your own this was arguably more difficult to do, however these apps to make free video calls will help you stay in touch with your loved ones when you cannot be physically with them.
It is important to be aware that"living in close proximity with the same people for long periods of time can be stressful". According to Smith & Barrett, people should develop"an area of personal space, a place where someone can retreat to in times of frustration."
Confinement could have exacerbated pre-existing tensions, this can be seen with the rise in domestic violence cases.
During this period of social distancing it is almost inevitable that at some point people will experience feelings of low mood, a lack of motivation, and possibly depression. Smith & Barrett explain that knowing it is “perfectly normal for mood and motivation to ebb and flow and that there will be some good days and some days” is comforting. Their advice is to find a ”sense of purpose”. For some this is work, for others this can be “finding a passion project” to spend time on. In addition, keeping a journal (written, visual, voice) offers people “a cathartic route to express their feelings”. All of these activities aim to keep a sense of control and order in people’s daily lives.
Here are a few articles which contain a wide range of activities to keep you busy:
Important: If you or anyone that you know is struggling with feelings of depression, it is important to know that there are people ready to help.
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According to Smith & Barrett, where possible it is important to build an exercise routine as an “effective way of counteracting feelings of monotony and boredom and reducing feelings of stress”. In complement to this, studies have shown that exercise is linked to improved mental health.
When you can go outdoors for exercise, even if this is just for 20 minutes, the combination of fresh air, exercise and sunshine will do wonders for your mental health and personal wellbeing. However, outdoor exercise is not a possibility for everyone. As such, we have plenty of exercises and physical activities that can be done at home to help improve your mental health.
If you are having trouble sleeping because you are stressed and anxious the above meditation exercises and apps should help to relieve your anxiety. Another possible reason for increased difficulty sleeping is that people are spending more time in front of screens, be that mobile devices, televisions or laptops, and as a result are exposing themselves to more blue light late into the evening.
It may be a good idea to install a blue light filter onto your device. You can download Flux here for your laptop, Android and iOS devices. It is designed to adjust the intensity of your screen and reduce the amount of blue light you are exposed to.
A similar app for Android users is Nightmode, blue light filter. If you are an iPhone user, you can go into your Settings and go to Display & Brightness, here you can enable Night Shift.
Doomscrolling is when you are constantly scrolling down your news apps, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media feeds reading bad news. Doomscrolling typically happens just before you go to bed, interrupting your sleep - or as soon as you have woken up. Acknowledge that you are Doomscrolling and try to actively avoid doing it. Find other activities to do that have positive benefits on your mental health.
Hopefully this article will have been able to help you take care of your mental health during this difficult period, with some excellent apps, articles and tutorials. Stay safe and stay healthy!
If you want to read the full article from The British Psychological Society, you can do so here.
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