Overcoming COVID-19, Mental Health Turmoil

The outbreak of COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus is a current pandemic impacting all humans globally. According to WHO, most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness, Spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. To prevent infection and slow down transmission, frequently washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub and not touching your face is crucial. While everyone is immensely concerned about physical well-being, mental health effects generated by the COVID-19 epidemic cannot be ignored.

The end of this virus is uncertain as there is no antiviral treatment or vaccine till date. In order to prevent and stop spreading, social distancing and self-isolation are being regularized extensively by governments in the world. However, as humans are pack animals, we intend to struggle physically and mentally during such prescribed isolation. The abrupt disruption in the entire lifestyle, and, new realities being forced upon, can be linked to mental health problems like fear, stress, anxiety, and depression.
The feeling of stress, anxiousness, depression, and general fear in such an unanticipated alarming situation is normal. Firmly, these feelings motivate and help to reconcile resources. But, if symptoms are not considered at the moment, severe results will impact abruptly, now, and even after this COVID-19 crisis is over. Moreover, potential symptoms linked to these mental health issues are; sleep problems, low appetite, and fatigue. Powerlessness, Virus related insecurities; the negative vision of daily activities, hopelessness, sadness, anger and increased use of substance gets escalated.  It affects the immune system, so taking healthy steps to reduce the agitation is significant. People already with mental health conditions also, must continue the treatment to prevent new worsening symptoms.
In order, to cope with the despair and social distancing, we can look at psychiatrist Dr. Sue Verma’s 4-M’s of mental health strategies:
Movement: Just get moving to reduce mental and emotional turmoil. Sticking to the digital devices, listening, reading, and watching the COVID-19 news, updating every next minute only intensifies fear and anxiousness. So, most importantly pick the most enjoyable activity and pump the endorphin; the happy hormone. Any form of exercise or movement increases your fitness giving a sense of productivity. Walking in different rooms, staircase, yoga, dancing, cooking, gardening, cleaning or even playing with the pet. Schedule the activity to avert procrastination. 
Mindfulness: Conscious strategies are powerful in the midst of the pandemic, so we can plan strategically and set required priorities. Common mindfulness techniques, like, the practice of meditation; it requires sitting down, closing eyes; focus on feelings while breathing in and out. 
Nature allures and renders comfort; walking into it, getting enough sunlight and fresh air lightens the mood. Another technique, Body scanning often practiced lying down with closed eyes in any flexible posture and being aware of all the body parts and bodily sensations helps to identify and reduce agitation. Mindfulness is more like visualization. It expands the consciousness and present moment experience.
Meaningful engagement: It is purposeful participation making every interaction count. Communicating with family, friends or anyone who needs to be heard; especially the children and elderly population inclined to the vulnerability of the virus. The interconnection can be in any way if not possible face to face. Phone calls, text messages, face-timing or even letter writing; precluding anyone from social isolationThe process requires trust, credibility and reciprocal empathy like never before. 
Mastery: It is not about what one is good at but more of building resilience. Substantially, the fundamental resource for everyone is to deepen and increase proximity in a relationship with parents, kids, friends, partners, and neighbors. Social distancing here does not mean emotional detachment. Showing respect to one another in any way possibly helps to foster morale. Also, planning a new schedule helps to build a sense of purpose in daily life, increasing good mental health. And lastly, realizing; with every danger comes an opportunity will enhance constructive thinking and feeling.
Besides, take actions, if buying things and storing reduces stress do it. These activities make an individual feel powerful and secure. Also, take time for self-care, identify long lost hobbies. Complete pending interests; read books, binge watch movies and play online or indoor games.

Importantly, take professional help if symptoms are uncontrollable. The psychiatrist and Psychologists are offering major psychological aid currently to reduced mental health crisis caused by the epidemic.

Hence, it is significant to discern, the level of mental health impact the COVID-19 is creating. The severe effect might not be visible at the moment, but it’s inevitable. The uncertainty of the end, the downfall of the economy, losing jobs, scarcity of basic needs, and isolation from your loved ones and sudden change, in reality, is ineludible to create panic. But, if these Mental Health problems are neglected during the initial stages, the aftermath consequences of this pandemic will be affecting more lives compared to now.

By :
Roji Maharjan

Psychosocial Counselor
Master in Counseling Psychology

Twitter : @rojimaharjana