CovidFit – Mental Well-being
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on people all over the world with implications for individual and collective health; as well as emotional and social functioning.
Uncertainty about the virus itself, disease prognosis, vaccination and vulnerable relatives coupled with worry about availability of resources, safety of frontline responders and health care providers are some of the stressors to consider. In addition, the imposition of public health measures that infringe on personal freedoms, possible financial losses for some and conflicting messages from authorities are other major factors that may contribute to widespread emotional distress leading to depressive and anxiety disorders.
Whilst those with existent mental health issues may struggle to come to grips with the uncertainty of the situation, there may be a considerable few who succumb to stress and develop some form of mental distress manifested as anxiety and/or depression.
Looking after yourself and loved ones in this trying time is crucial.
One of the most important things to consider is the current overload of information, referred to by the World Health Organisation as an ‘infodemic’ – we are being bombarded with information via news broadcasts and social media platforms.
The sudden and almost constant stream of news reports about COVID-19 can cause anyone to feel worried. In order to avoid developing undue anxiety and becoming distressed, it is crucial to control and minimise watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 and to seek information only from trusted sources so that you can take practical steps to plan and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek evidence-based information and updates at specific times during the day; once or twice at the most.
Protect yourself by following Public Health advice and encourage others to do the same. Supporting others when they need it will benefit both the person receiving support and the helper. For example, checking on neighbours/family by phone increases a feeling of community and solidarity toward the common goal of beating COVID-19 together.
Find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories e.g. positive images of people who have experienced COVID-19 and recovered. Share stories to offer encouragement when possible.
Acknowledge and support all those who are working to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Support for the Vulnerable
Older people, especially those in isolation and those with cognitive decline/dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated and withdrawn during this time.
Family and health care providers can help by:
- Sharing simple facts about what is going on
- Providing clear information about how to reduce risk of infection in words the elderly with/without cognitive impairment can understand (e.g. importance of washing hands correctly)
- Communicating instructions in a clear, concise, respectful and patient manner
- Repeating information whenever necessary; it is also helpful to
display information in writing or pictorially
Worthy of mention here is that social distancing measures can result in social isolation in an abusive home, with abuse likely exacerbated during this time of economic uncertainty and stress (if you are concerned about anyone, contact the RGP).
Practical and emotional support is paramount. Some further considerations:
- Make sure you have access to (and a supply of) any medications that are currently being used
- Ask your family and friends for help if you need it
- Be familiar with where, when and how to get practical help if needed, for instance having food delivered, requesting prescriptions or medical care.
- Learn simple daily physical exercises to perform at home when in isolation so you can maintain mobility and reduce boredom.
- Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible or create new ones in a new environment (e.g. regular exercise, cleaning, daily chores, singing, painting …)
- Keep in regular contact with loved ones (e.g. via telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference).
- Try to practice mindfulness; being present in the moment and acknowledging current feelings. Read more HERE.
Every child has his or her own way of expressing emotions.
Often, engaging in a creative activity, such as playing or drawing in a safe and supportive environment can facilitate this process. Children feel relieved if they can express and communicate their feelings. It is important to effectively communicate with children during this time. They need to be supported to find positive ways to express feelings such as fear and sadness.
Where possible and considered safe, children should remain close to their parents. If a child is attending a government-approved facility it is recommended that during periods of separation, some contact with parents and carers is maintained, especially for children who are experiencing stress or anxiety.
Maintaining a familiar daily routine is important and especially so if children must stay at home.
During times of crisis, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding on parents addressing concerns in an honest and age-appropriate way with your child can ease the anxiety. Remember, children tend to observe adults’ behaviours and emotions for cues (and reflect these).
Considerations for Older children/Adolescents
School routines are important coping mechanisms for most young people. The postponement or cancellation of exams, graduation ceremonies and future planning has caused a considerable degree of stress, anxiety and even disappointment. Students finishing their final years of study are also now worried about future job prospects and other related issues. Prolonged anxiety can affect overall physical and mental well-being.
For some children time away from school may have created a lack of access to resources (usually accessible through schools). During a pandemic mental health issues can be made worse due to lack of access to peer support and face-to-face services. Furthermore, seeking support by phone or online platforms can be challenging for some young people.
In regard to children with special education needs, such as those with autism spectrum disorder, additional issues such as frustration and anger may manifest. Creation of a set schedule often helps to reduce anxiety that stems from uncertainty.
As the pandemic continues, it is important to support children and adolescents who face a myriad of issues, both personal and related to sickness, parental unemployment or loss of household income.