Good mental health is fundamentally essential to humanity’s overall health and well-being; when our mental health is challenged, depression can set in.
Pre-pandemic, suffering from mental health issues would have been challenging in itself, with many people being reliant on the support of mental health services. COVID-19 has not only had a severe impact on pre-existing mental health patients but there has also been a marked increase in the numbers of new cases of depression and anxiety.
Discussions about mental health are widespread, perhaps more so today amid the pandemic.
It is worth highlighting that which constitutes mental health. One’s state of well-being and recognition of one’s abilities, coping with everyday life situations, working productively, the ability to contribute to society are all elements describing mental health.
The pandemic has forced people to confront matters that exerted undue psychological strain on their mental health. These might relate to isolation, anxiety, loneliness, addictions, depression, insecurities, and fears.
Lockdown and Its Effect on Mental Health
The World Health Organization recommended lockdown in January 2020 when they became aware of the full extent of the threat of COVID-19. By this, they meant for society to go into quarantine and isolate from each other.
The impact of lockdown on specific individuals has been severe. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income, and fear triggered mental health issues or exacerbated existing ones. Consequences may include increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety.
Contracting COVID-19 itself may result in mental and neurological conditions such as depression. For those living with anxiety or depression, the impact of this is severe.
Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms of major depression are recognizable as follows;- sadness and a lack of motivation persisting over a period.
These symptoms, if untreated, can lead to an impairment in daily life manifesting in behavioural changes such as changing sleep patterns, loss of appetite, concentration, and self-esteem.
In extreme cases, an individual with depression may have thoughts of suicide. COVID-19 has triggered more severe symptoms in two-thirds of people already suffering from depression. Treatment is complicated further by the difficulty in getting treatment while in lockdown.
The Importance of Early Intervention
During a pandemic, recognizing symptoms of depression in a loved one is critical because the usual channels for treatment are not available.
In normal circumstances, early intervention is key to setting in motion a regime to commence treatment. During a pandemic, nothing is normal. Forced into isolation, vulnerable individuals require closer scrutiny and support.
The most often reported difficulty during the pandemic relates to exercise and a healthy diet. If brought back into balance, both of these would go some way, alleviating depression and anxiety.
During the pandemic, with the unforeseen situations individuals have to cope with, self-care is difficult to maintain. Individuals who may have lost their income may have lost sight of their usual healthy eating and exercise regimes.
Exercise releases a chemical into the brain that automatically improves an individual’s mood.
During the pandemic, many people might find it challenging to maintain their usual exercise routines. Accepting this is important.
Certain adjustments have to be made regardless, with exercise routines being no exception. A wide range of online classes is available to be done at home. Take a walk when restrictions allow it. Take up a hobby or do some gardening.
Healthy eating choices play a significant role in the recovery of someone who is depressed. Small changes at the outset can make a big difference. Swapping unhealthy snacks for healthy ones are nutritionally beneficial and can improve the mood.
Despite all the stress that the pandemic brings, here are ways to help manage your mental health during COVID-19. Follow this checklist to assist with overcoming depression and all the challenges COVD-19;
1. Plenty of sleep
Making sleep a priority is essential, especially when suffering from depression. Consider reducing caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine if sleep is elusive. Avoid screen time before bed. Instead, read a gentle book or listen to soft relaxing music to calm the mind.
2. Stick to a Routine
A routine works well to alleviate and manage stress. We cope better when sleep, meals, and a work structured environment is a form of good coping techniques.
3. Practice Gratitude and Meditation
Express gratitude inwardly or outwardly daily. This act serves to shift the focus outward and releases dopamine and serotonin, which are feel-good hormones.
Even if it is 5 minutes a day, regular meditation is a great way to destress and regain focus. Concentrated breathing helps thoughts and feelings drift away.
4. Seek Social Support
Social isolation during the pandemic has put a tremendous strain on people’s mental health. There are ways to keep connected without risking one’s health.
Connecting online has become very easy and provides a way to stay in touch with family, friends, and work colleagues. These connections relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
5. Consult Virtually
Lockdown saw many health professionals reducing their appointment options. Routine checkups are available, offering therapy and treatment virtually. Unable to connect with a person’s regular health provider, crisis lines and charity lifelines are available 24/7.
6. Don’t Skip Your Medication
With routines disrupted by the pandemic, there may be a tendency to skip taking prescribed medication that is part of treatment. As recommended above, keeping to a routine is an effective way to avoid forgetting.
A pandemic alters society in ways no one could imagine. One of the most positive changes is an enhanced sense of community.
Neighbours are getting to know neighbours, and people are coming together. With the support of friends, family and community and following the above guidelines, overcoming depression is achievable.
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.