From the month of March, after we realized that COVID-19 is rapidly spreading its tentacles in India, our lives have been plunged into uncertainty. The government-enforced lockdown that followed immediately threw our daily routines out of gear, and many of us have been struggling to come to terms with this evolving situation ever since. Due to this, the impact on our mental health during coronavirus lockdown has been huge.
For those with existing mental health problems, the problem is bigger. Constant exposure to news and social media highlighting how coronavirus is taking lives across the country can keep you on the edge and aggravate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Can poor mental health affect your immunity?
Health experts around the world have spoken about how deteriorating mental health can lower your immunity. High-stress levels for prolonged periods are very bad for the body’s immunity against external pathogens like the coronavirus. What this means is that stress and anxiety make you vulnerable to the virus.
Common causes of poor mental health:
- Unavailability of cigarettes and alcohol for those who are addicted to it
- Difficulty in securing prescription medications during the lockdown
- Financial troubles
- Job loss
- Domestic violence
- Being in the constant presence of someone in the family with whom one has a troubled relationship
The obvious question now is – how can we protect our mental health during coronavirus?
Mental health and coping during COVID-19
- Limit your exposure to news
Let’s face it, the focus of every newspaper you read or social media websites you visit is the coronavirus and the disastrous effect it has had on our lives. Constantly reading such news raises the risk of anxiety and panic attacks.
You need to avoid checking the news once every hour and bring it down to once or twice a day for five minutes. Set aside a fixed time for reading the news.
Also, ensure that you get your information from reliable sources to prevent exposure to misinformation.
- Take breaks from social media
Just because you are staying in, it doesn’t give you the license to stay online 24*7. Just like the news, social media also exposes you to information about coronavirus. Besides, it has been well documented that social media in large doses is bad for your mental health.
If you are on social media groups (WhatsApp, Facebook etc.) where the information is overwhelming them consider muting them.
- Stay connected with loved ones
If you are cooped up in your house alone and away from your family, call them up every day. Living through long periods of self-isolation can be difficult, lack of human contact can worsen anxiety and other mental health problems.
Use apps like WhatsApp and Skype to stay in touch with loved ones through video calling if possible.
- Exercise and eat healthily
Both of these things are linked to your immune system.
First, let’s focus on the diet. You are what you eat, so ensure that you stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables and follow a healthy immune-boosting diet. Avoid eating processed foods to keep your physical health at its peak. Include herbs like neem and turmeric in your diet.
When it comes to exercise, if you had a habit of going to the gym or jogging outdoors before coronavirus then it’s time to switch things. Do simply bodyweight workouts at home – they are effective in burning fat and keeping you fit.
Remember, eating healthy and regular exercise are the keys to a good immune system.
- Use relaxation techniques
Using relaxation techniques to calm yourself is a very effective method of dealing with anxious thoughts. Multiple studies on relaxation methods like pranayama (breath control) have observed that they are effective in managing anxiety.
And it’s very simple too. All you have to do is –
- Sit in a quiet place in a crossed-legged position. If you can’t then sit on a chair.
- Close your eyes.
- Close the right nostril with your thumb and inhale from the other nostril.
- Block the other nostril with your middle and ring finger and exhale from the right nostril.
- While staying in the same position, inhale from the right nostril.
- Close the right nostril with your thumb, and then exhale from the left nostril.
- Repeat the whole process for 10 minutes with your eyes closed.
- Stop and reflect
Instead of reacting to news reports and what other people are saying, take a moment to ponder over everything you say and do.
This will prevent unnecessary stress. It will also give you time to calmly and logically think things through and respond consciously instead of reacting.
Don’t ignore your mental health during these testing times. Follow the tips mentioned to keep your mind fit and agile. Stay safe!