On rainy days, everyone knows the feeling of looking out their window to see the gloomy skies and trickling raindrops and thinking, “There’s nothing I’d rather do than stay home and curl up in my favorite cozy blanket with a cup of tea and a good book.” Sadly, stay-at-home orders and quarantines that have gone on for months longer than anyone anticipated has shattered that cozy ideal for even the most introverted of homebodies.
Since mid-March, when California became the first state to declare a state of quarantine or “stay at home” order, mental health professionals have been aware of the hidden dangers of Coronavirus, and have been predicting upheaval far less tangible than the physical symptoms or economic issues caused by the pandemic. A group from John’s Hopkins Department of Mental Health began conducting a survey in order to grasp the enormity of the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of American citizens. Over the course of six months, they amassed a collection of data that revealed concerning results.
Participants of the survey answered questions about their mental health that allowed the researchers to compare their mental state two weeks prior to the onset of the virus, and currently. Data showed that consumption of both social media and mainstream media had increased by over 150%, and that anxiety was rising concurrently. They discovered that this fact held true for participants with a history of mental health concerns and without.
Another survey conducted by Preventive Medicine asked almost ten thousand participants to share about their mental health. Data was gathered on how often contributors experienced feelings of anxiety, depression, nervousness, isolation, insomnia, and if these feelings contributed to a panic attack or other physical response.
15% of the participants reported experiencing at least two different symptoms-either anxiety, depression, loneliness, or insomnia, for three days of the week. 13% had three or more of the symptoms. More than a quarter of US citizens with no history of mental health struggles found their mental health to be a concern in the early days of the pandemic.
Sadly, not only did these studies reveal that people have been struggling with their mental health from the early days of the pandemic, but most have not been able to pursue medical help. Many healthcare organizations have streamlined their symptoms to focus on patients with Covid-19, or have put a hold on providing services, in the name of social distancing and reducing contact. People who truly need help are unable to use normal avenues because it was unavailable, or now doctors are overwhelmed with a backlog of patients.
So what can people do to stay sane while they’re stuck at home? Are there ways to boost your mental health while you wait for your counselling appointment? Absolutely.
One of the biggest things causing anxiety is all the uncertainty: how long things will be like this, if normality will ever return, and if you are coming down with the virus. While it is impossible to know how long social distancing and other preventative measures will be in place, it can be extremely helpful to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of Covid-19. Even the most vigilant hypochondriac can become aware of what is a true concern and what is mind over matter. Additionally, coming up with and adhering to standards that feel personally comfortable to you, regardless of what friends and family have settled on can provide peace of mind.
Knowing where to get tested, what to do if you receive a positive diagnosis, and treatment options can also help relieve the anxiety caused by unknowns. Having a plan in place and knowing who to call can be an immense relief.
Another way to safeguard your mental health is to limit the amount of time spent consuming news updates via social media or news outlets. Interacting with friends and family through social media is a great way to use the tool of social media to have a positive, helpful experience to address feelings of isolation or loneliness, but this is a far cry from passively absorbing large amounts of information and news.
Finding ways to get out of the house and unwind safely is another great way to rejuvenate your mental state. Going for a hike, planning a picnic outing for you and your loved ones, or even renting a cabin somewhere is a wonderful way of getting outside your four walls and experiencing nature.
The most natural source of anti-anxiety medicine is right at your fingertips: endorphins! Getting your body moving by walking, running, or doing an at home workout not only gets those happy hormones going, but that movement will also help keep you in a non-sedentary state. This can have a positive impact on your body image as well. Fueling your body with nutritious foods, getting plenty of rest, and drinking appropriate amounts of water will allow you to have the energy and vitality you need to tackle your tasks while quarantined.
Finally, if you are a person of faith, staying connected with your religious organization has proven to have a significant impact for the better. Participating in streamed services, video chat meetings, and any other avenues of continuing to be involved as best as you can is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.
If none of these things are helping, do not hesitate to find a form of healthcare that is accessible for you.