Maintaining mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

March 31, 2020

Loneliness and social isolation may increase the risk of premature death by nearly 50%, according to two meta-analyses from Brigham Young University in Utah, US, in 2017. However, as many people’s freedom of movement is now severely limited thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, avoiding loneliness and keeping mentally healthy could become increasingly difficult. Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as mental health advocates, have offered official advice to preserve mental well-being and cope with loneliness and anxiety.

Dr. Aiysha Malik, the WHO’s technical officer within the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, noted recently that the ones most at risk of experiencing an increased sense of loneliness and anxiety are older individuals and those already living with mental health issues.

Dr. Malik mentioned some “basic strategies that [the WHO are] advocating to cope with the “relative isolation” such as taking part in some from of physical activity, keeping to routines or creating new ones, engaging in activities that give a sense of achievement […] and, importantly, really maintaining social connections.” Dr. Malik also points out that we should use this time to explore the full potential of digital technologies, to stay in touch with our loved ones, for keeping learning, and to get creative.

While digital technology and personal strategies, such as mindfulness and cooperation, may help those who are working from home at this time, there are adjustments that employers can make to ensure that their employees maintain their well-being and remain productive – a proper physical set-up for work  and adequate connection opportunities in a remote setting works wonders.

Dr. Malik repeatedly emphasised the importance of sticking to old routines and creating new ones to help give structure to our daily lives at a time when our normal activities are disrupted; Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, also shared a few personal strategies for coping with stress and anxiety, including simple relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and muscle relaxation.

Mental health trainer Tania Diggory, who is also the Founder -Director of Calmer, an organisation which aims to support entrepreneurs with their mental wellbeing, said: “We’re not always able to control external circumstances; however, we can learn to cultivate [healthful] habits where we feel in control of our personal well-being.”

Despite the instances of loneliness and anxiety due to the pandemic, which will hopefully pass soon, we should make the most of this time to reconnect with each other and ourselves; these social habits would also greatly alleviate mental distress.


Category: Features, Health alert

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