By Zakiya Shaik
It’s no secret that we are living in a chaotic and, least to say, a scary world at the moment. Our perception of the way we have seen our once safe and untouchable planet has been crushed and changed almost overnight and we have been forced to adapt to this new way of life, filled with uncertainty and paranoia. How are we to process all that is going on when we’re unsure of where we are heading? Will we overcome this pandemic? Will thousands of us be left jobless due to a worn-out economy? When can we expect to live life as we have always known it?
Whilst some of us may find it easier to process what is happening, millions of people around the world that suffer from mental health issues are finding it extremely difficult to cope and function normally during this unprecedented time. Many individuals have only recently developed anxiety and depression as a result of the pandemic. While carefully monitoring our physical health and making sure any flu-like symptoms are quickly attended to, we cannot and should not ignore our mental health. Mental and physical health are interdependent and, now more than ever, we need to make sure that we are taking extra care of our mental state.
According to various sources, the main cause of anxiety and depression during the lockdown is the fear of being unproductive. Productivity is generally seen as a self-esteem booster and enables people to feel capable of accomplishing certain goals or tasks. Now we are faced with a situation that cripples productivity for thousands of people who are, for example, self-employed, part-time workers, or even students who find themselves unable to find the motivation to complete online tasks and assignments. Many households have seen their monthly income come to a deafening halt and social media is flooded with pleas from people who are asking for help so that they can make ends meet.
The aforementioned pressures currently being experienced by many are just a small portion of the number of negative effects the lockdown has had on South Africans. These pressures, in turn, have a tremendous impact on one’s mental state. Fortunately, there are current support systems put in place for different groups of people in order to help them deal with the psychological impacts of Covid-19. To name but a few, universities are providing online psychological services to help students cope with the adaptation of online studying as well as general psychological issues. Organisations such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group have a 24-hour helpline and an online chat system to help people cope with anxiety or depression.
Below is a list of tips and bits of advice gathered from various sources on how you can look after your mental health during the lockdown:
- Do not feel the need to be productive 24/7. This will exhaust you physically and mentally and do way more harm than good. Understand that not doing something productive every single day is okay and that you can use the free time to rest. There is nothing shameful about taking out some time for yourself without constantly feeling the need to be busy.
- Due to the fast-paced nature of our everyday lives, we often neglect aspects that should not be neglected, such as our religion and spirituality. Why not use this time to form healthy habits and implement necessary improvements and changes in certain aspects of our lives?
- Drug and alcohol use – when used as a method of escapism – provides nothing but temporary relief and increases the nature of problems that you are dealing with. If you are struggling with drug or alcohol use during this time, reach out for help, speak to loved ones about it and make a daily effort to break away from the habit.
- Use this time to learn a new skill: Social media has recently been flooded with pictures of people baking and cooking exotic food items. We can all learn something new and come out of the lockdown with a new set of skills.
- Exercise! It is highly tempting to fall into a habit of binging and being a couch potato during the lockdown. However, make sure you keep active in some way or the other, whether it is through cleaning the house or taking a jog in your yard.
- Journaling is also a great way to express what you are feeling healthily and constructively.
- Work on your dreams. Use time effectively by improving yourself. Look to people who inspire you in a certain field/aspect, and learn how you can adopt similar attitudes in your life.
- We are living in unprecedented times filled with uncertainty. Remember that it is natural to feel down at times.
Suffering from a mental health issue does not make you weak or any less of a person. Do not feel ashamed of it or try to hide your struggle. Talk about it to people you trust. This will certainly help you overcome your mental health issues.
Taking care of your mental state should be prioritised. Make sure that you take the necessary steps by engaging in positive thinking and monitoring your mental health. For people who are living in households where mental health is not given importance, it is your responsibility to make a difference for yourself. Reach out for help, practice constructive methods of improving your mental health and break the stigma. Mental health is as important as physical health.
Featured image via Pixabay.