Mental & Physical Health
The urgency to return to normalcy, to the pre-covid life, is a mutual feeling amongst all. But, health experts across the world have warned that premature return to ‘business as usual’ can be disastrous. Public health campaigns now are not only promoting safety measures but also addressing the implications of the pandemic on people’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Pandemic fatigue, although rampant in today’s scenario, poses a serious risk to our well-being as individuals and society. Never before needs has resilience and tenacity been more indispensable to curb the ravaging spread of the novel coronavirus. People are juggling a lot of things simultaneously- financial distress, pressures of work from home, online classes, child/family/sick ones care, isolation, and chaotic work-life balance. People are being driven to the point of exhaustion; emotional and physical exhaustion. The road to the end of this year has been a precarious journey for all of us. As a society, we are re-learning social, physical, and mental aspects of living in a pandemic. Behavioural insights have indicated that fear can make both our nervous system and emotional part of our brain go into overdrive, resulting in feelings of impulsiveness, loss of control, and panic. The fear of coronavirus and prolonged precautionary lockdowns has triggered erratic behaviour in certain sections of society. The wear down that we are experiencing currently is simply a natural, psychological response to the stressful and unprecedented circumstances that we have found ourselves in. Although pandemic fatigue and anxiety is inevitable, there are courses of actions that we can take to de-escalate our daily mental burden. Psychologists and health experts have compiled the best practices to help the masses compel with pandemic related emotional and physical burnout.
Here are some expert-backed strategies that you should try to accomplish to protect your mental and physical health:
- Create definite work-home boundaries– If you are one of the lucky ones who still has a job and the job requires you to work from home, the first step to reducing your stress and anxiety is to construct a clear work-home boundary. Remote working has its challenges. Establishing boundaries might be easier said than done, especially if you have elderly or children to care for. But what helps in this state of affairs is confining your workspace to one corner of your house to prevent office work from invading your personal life. An accredited daily work routine with specific work hours will contribute to enhanced productivity. Outside of the working hours, putting away electronics and work tools can help you unwind and enjoy time with your family, without the encroachment of work stress. Experts recommend occasional recess to break the monotony of work and help our brains to rejuvenate.
- Reduce news and social media intake– Social media is a guilty pleasure and it’s one of the major contributing factors to your fatigue and anxiety. Pessimistic articles, misinformed news, social media trolling, etc can ignite a vicious cycle of fear and panic in our minds. Limiting your news intake and personalising social media feeds to follow uplifting accounts can counteract your anxiety. This is because, in a fearful state of mind, our brains naturally seek external stimuli to reinforce feelings of fear. In such a cognitive state, the brain distorts all incoming information and generalises everything to fit into our beliefs and perspectives, even though that information isn’t quintessential accurate or true. Following only a specific genre of information will impact your perception, reinforce your fears, and elevate your anxiety. To keep spirits high, be mindful of the information (also the amount of information or news) you consume, pursue cheerful content, and unfollow or mute accounts that disperse misinformative perturbed materials.
- Keep things in perspective– While the pandemic might seem never-ending, it’s pertinent to keep things in perspective for the sake of our sanity. The COVID vaccine is on the horizon, therefore this pandemic too shall pass. We need to sustain precautionary measures like social distancing and hand washing to keep our families and communities safe. When the COVID surrealism ends, we can all enjoy the outdoors like we once did, share a meal, hug one another, and heal from the bereavement of loved ones lost. But until that time comes, we owe it to ourselves, our family, and the society to persevere and recognise the necessity for restraint and caution.
- Stay in touch with friends and family– Isolation is hard for social beings like us. The perpetual lockdowns and the absence of fraternizing have left certain groups vulnerable to depression and anxiety. To maintain a certain degree of normalcy, stay connected with your family and friends. Sharing your feelings and communicating openly can help you relieve stress. Since most people are still at risk of contracting COVID, large gatherings are unsafe and inadvisable. But, technology has given us the provision to stay in touch with family and friends virtually and enjoy some downtime together- zoom calls, phone calls, gameplay, live-streamed concerts, self-help webinars, and virtual tours of monuments and museums are some activities to try together with your social network. Something as simple as engaging in a conversation can have an enormous impact on our mental health. Anxiety and depression can be managed better if you articulate and share your feelings with those close to you.
- Incorporate a workout routine– Health experts have emphasized how immunity plays a major role in one’s susceptibility to COVID. Everyone must prioritise nutrition and exercise to build their immunity and reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus. You must find time for self-care in your daily routine to focus on your physical well-being. While not everyone may have access to gyms and public parks, there are abundant home-workout videos, apps, and courses to keep you fit. Physical activity is known to stimulate the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These compounds regulate our mood, appetite, and sleep cycles as well as negate the side effects of depression. Serotonin, the happy hormone, promotes healthy functioning of the brain and is known for its mood-boosting benefits. Doctors recommend regular exercise to relieve symptoms of depression and upkeep immunity levels. We highly recommend our readers to build a workout routine for themselves to protect their mental and physical health.
- Keep yourself busy and help others whenever possible– Exercising is one way to keep our minds occupied. But it’s a good idea to find a new hobby to keep yourself busy. Being a couch potato might be the easy option but it’s unhealthy for your physical and emotional health. Participate in online courses to learn a new skill or volunteer for a community food drive. Activities as such will keep your mind shielded from negativity, help you upskill yourself, and contribute to the greater good of the society. In such distressing times, you never really know how much of an impact a small act of kindness can have on someone. People are dealing with loss and a helping hand is all they need. Volunteering is helpful for both the receiver and the helper. ‘Caremongering’, a popular trend in the UK and Canada, is spreading across the world where people volunteer to run errands for the elderly and those in need. Participating in humanitarian aid programs can be a great way to contribute to your community and manage your anxiety and pandemic fatigue.
- Prioritise nutrition– A healthy body hosts a healthy mind. Mental health and physical well-being are two sides of a coin; one cannot exist without the other. While ordering takeout every day may be convenient, it’s not very sustainable for your health and finances. Following a wholesome, well-balanced diet can make a world of difference in your mood and the body. After all, we are what we eat. Use your diet as a means to boost your immunity and overall health. Some foods can lead to an immediate high followed by a subsequent crash which results in mood swings, irritability, and stress; avoid such foods as much as possible. Foods with high protein and potassium are known to calm the nerves, so choose dishes with high nutritional value to boost your mood. Replace instant gratification with nutritional meals, opt for whole and organic foods whenever possible, and plan your daily diet to include the recommended portion of important nutrients to ensure that you are in peak health. Prioritising nutrition is crucial to help build resistance against COVID.
There is no manual on how to navigate this crisis. We need to do what’s necessary to be part of the solution and not the problem. We need to be responsible citizens and adopt these strategies to support a resilient mindset and body. We recommend seeking professional help if your symptoms of fatigue and anxiety are severe.
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