One of the issues that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore is how vulnerable people are to mental health problems. With the seemingly endless rounds of isolation, quarantine, and lockdowns around the world, mankind has been confronted with a period of separation from others like none other in recent history.
Some of the commonest psychological issues that have presented include anxiety and panic, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, insomnia, digestive problems, depression, and post-traumatic stress. In fact, a worrisome report published in the Lancet medical journal warned that there could be long term effects of periods of isolation, even for durations less than 10 days, with psychiatric symptoms manifesting up to 3 years later.
The reason for this is that prolonged isolation can negatively affect physical and emotional health, altering sleep and nutritional patterns, in addition to reducing opportunities for movement and blood flow around the body. This in turn depresses the natural pathways of human expression and pleasure, resulting in low mood and poor sense of well-being. Truly, as Aristotle, the Greek philosopher stated, humans are indeed “social animals”.
To address this, now is the time to prioritise self-care, by ensuring that we protect ourselves by limiting the amount and sources of news we consume and taking regular breaks from social media in the incessant COVID-19 news cycle. Staying socially connected to family and friends, keeping physically active and healthy, spending time in outdoor open spaces, and establishing a routine with regular sleep schedules are vital to maintaining one’s mental wellbeing.
Positivity, kindness to oneself and kindness to others should guide our thoughts, words, and actions. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
This pandemic has brought with it enormous loss, grief, loneliness, and disappointment. As the virus is determined to evolve and survive; our human survival instincts should prompt us to find ways to not only survive but thrive and defeat the pandemic and its onslaught on our minds with hope, determination, and resolve.