Many lives have been changed with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a KFF Health Tracking Poll done in early April 2020, as many as 52% of Americans in the survey are worried they are going to lose their jobs and about 45% live in worry of losing their livelihood due to lower hours and workplace closure. All these pales in comparison to the 53% of people who worry that they or a close family member will get the coronavirus.
Worry and anxiety can have serious adverse effects on your mental health and lead to serious depression. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, rates of depression have been rising all over the world, especially among millennials. It is therefore important that we get concerned about how our mental health is affected by this pandemic, especially since millennials make up a large portion of the workforce.
Effects of the COVID-19 on Mental Health
Apart from the direct impact COVID-19 can have on human health, full lockdowns, social distancing and restriction of movement can have a huge impact on our mental health. Humans are naturally social animals, and as such rely on interactions with other humans to remain sane.
While full lockdowns can be good in helping build unity and togetherness in families and marriages, it could also increase strain in relationships, domestic violence and the potential to get divorced, especially when combined with the economic hardship brought about by the massive unemployment this period.
Some very clear effects the pandemic has on our mental health are:
- Fear: As shown in the KFF poll, a large number of people are worried about contracting the virus or that their close relations will contract the virus. Some people are already dealing with sick loved ones who already have the virus and are worried they are not going to make it. Many people are genuinely worried about their jobs, businesses and what the future holds for them after the lockdown is over.
- Feeling of Loneliness: Since we are social animals and our brains hardwired to trust and rely on people, it becomes lonely when we have to stay on our own during government-imposed lockdowns. This feeling of loneliness can cause the brain to release stress hormones into our nervous system, pushing our body into a state of alertness which could have adverse effects on our physical health.
- Domestic Violence: Victims of domestic violence (mostly women and children) have nowhere to escape to from their abusers. Reports show that there has been a huge rise in domestic violence cases around the world, especially in China, Brazil and Germany. Domestic violence can have a harmful effect on the physical, emotional and mental health of the victims.
- Strain on Relationships: Many relationships will be affected, some permanently, because of lockdowns. Many divorce lawyers believe that there will be a rise in divorces after isolation is over. A lot of divorces typically happen after Christmas and other long holidays when families are self-isolated and have to stay with each other for a period of time, and this self-isolation can shine a bright light on the already faulty parts of the relationship.
What Can We Do About These Effects?
The pandemic will be over one day, and we would have to return to our lives. Some lives will change forever, while others will return to business as usual. However, everybody will have to deal with these effects at some point during and after the pandemic, and how we deal with them will determine how we come out of this lockdown.
Here are some ideas on how to deal with the effects of lockdown:
- Accept that you can’t Change Some Things
Many of us haven’t lived through a period of uncertainty like this one, so we are very clueless on how to deal with it. For this reason, our first instinct is to worry about the situation and drive our minds into stress mode. Resist the temptation to do so.
Accept that you can’t change a lot of things about the pandemic and try to focus on the things that you can change about your business and life moving forward.
- Don’t Stay Focused on the News
Don’t go scouring through Twitter feeds, newspapers or news channels on TV for hourly updates on COVID-19 deaths and the search for a potential vaccine. It’s okay if you check it once a day, but that should be about it.
- Balance Family Time and Private Time
While the lockdown serves as a good way to spend time with your family or significant other, it is also an important time to spend with yourself. Try to maintain this balance between time spent with your family and time spent alone.
If you live alone, try to reach out to your friends and neighbors near you (while maintaining a healthy distance) and chat with them for some time every day or every week.
- Speak up Against Domestic Violence
If you are a victim of domestic violence due to lockdown, don’t stay quiet about it. Report to relevant authorities or at the very least, confide in friends and neighbors near you. Do not suffer in silence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken us all by surprise, and many of us have had to pay dearly for it. However, for those of us alive, we can bounce out of it stronger and with our mental health intact if we pay attention to our mental health and use some of the suggestions listed above.
Remember, the most important gift in life is life itself, and finding meaning in life after COVID-19 is possible if you take care of your mental health now.