Social isolation has affected millions of people due to lockdown measures that have been put into place all over the globe to curb the pandemic. These lockdown measures can be linked to feelings of uncertainly, fear of the unknown, anxiety and depression. These feelings are normally coupled with insomnia and post-traumatic stress called Post-Pandemic PTSD.
Anxiety and Depression at COVID Lockdown
Anxiety is associated with fatigue, especially amongst healthcare workers and those serving on the frontline of the global disaster. Millions of people have been confined to their homes are experiencing boredom, frustration and loneliness.
Anxiety, boredom, social isolation and frustration are directly related to confinement. Most human beings are not used to being confined to their homes with little to no social contact with others. Frustration can all be attributed to having to make a total change to their normal daily routines before Covid.
Unfortunately the imposition of quarantine can lead to extreme feelings of hopelessness that in turn can cause unhealthy sensory processing patterns that are known to lead to anger, and even suicidal behavior.
Many communities have had to implement mental-health support systems to those who are psychologically vulnerable during COVID-19. Mental health is a priority for both health services and authorities who have had to rapidly adopt clear behavioral strategies so as to reduce dramatic mental health issues amidst the outbreak.
Social Separation and Overwhelming Loneliness
The effects of social isolation can lead loneliness and boredom. These feelings have significantly dramatic effects on both physical and mental well-being. Isolation can in turn enhance feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and hysteria which can attribute to an increase in negative behavior.
Cognitive functions and decision making are sometimes impaired by anxiety and later by disabling feelings of loneliness. When you need a hug, but don’t have anyone.
Unfortunately these feelings can be directly related to alcohol and substance abuse which is used to make life seem easier to cope with amidst the terrifying feelings of impending doom.
These feelings are caused by the inability to carry on with normal daily activities, interruption of social activity and other illnesses that can have a detrimental effect on mental well-being.
The Risk Factors of Pandemic PTSD During Covid
Lack of Supplies
In earlier days, the impending lockdowns brough with them feelings of anxiety and frustration even when it came to obtaining basic supplies from grocery stores. Worry and anxiety ensued as people would line up outside grocery stores to obtain daily necessities.
These feelings continued well into the lockdown period where people were unable to get adequate supplies due to lockdown regulations.
Supplies had been reduced to little or nothing as opposed to pre-Covid times when most daily necessities were found in abundance and were always easily accessible.
In many cases poor or inadequate information from public health authorities has caused significant stress due to its inappropriate guidelines and concerning calls for immediate action. This inadequate information has led to confusion and a lack of understanding about the measures that are needed to stop the spread of the disease.
In some country’s contradictory health messages, poor coordination and multiple jurisdictions have led to post-traumatic stress symptoms in many people.
PTSD Preventative Measures
Enabling a Sense of Hope
Psychological resilience is defined as the ability to support and retrieve psychological well-being during stressful conditions. The vulnerability of millions of people across the world can be awakened by existing or novel pathogens that can increase the inability to cope. This is especially true if people are not equipped with the correct coping strategies.
Unfortunately, being less resilient to social threats, such as Covid-19 can enhance the risk of individuals developing mental health conditions.
A message of hope and social protection given by healthcare and other authorities can greatly reduce the impact that the pandemic has on mental health by offering containment measures.
These measures can be implemented in the community as a whole to enhance resilience to the pandemic as well as an individual’s ability to react to the social threats that the disease brings with it.
Social and Emotional Support
A greater quality of social support is associated with the reduced likelihood of developing psychological distress and psychiatric conditions during times of turmoil.
Adequate social support for the general population should be provided by the community so as to offer targeted messages to people who are suffering from anxiety.
In many cases a variety of mental health support strategies are required in hard hit pandemic areas so as to facilitate lifestyle changes and re-adaptation activities to the public.
It is so easy for most to feel lonely during this time, especially if they going through quarantine alone. It is vitally important to check in with family members and friends on a regular basis. There are many creative and fun new ways in which to communicate with others during quarantine.
Zoom calls, virtual bingo or karaoke nights can be organised and facilitated through many virtual platforms. You could even try a virtual wine tasting or happy hour. Trying out a weighted blanket also help with loneliness.
Try to make a habit of contacting an older family member at least once a week. Planning these virtual check ins will also give you something to look forward to each week.
Think positively and try to find a way in which to reflect. This can be done through writing or listening to music and can help to shake off any negative feelings and energy.
Combatting PTSD and Anxiety through Lifestyle Changes
Mood changes are directly linked to low blood sugar levels, dehydration, and chemicals in processed foods.
It is important for people to practice healthy eating habits by staying hydrated, eliminating processed foods and sticking to a diet that is rich in complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
Adequate sleep is vital when it comes to combatting anxiety and depression and it is important to follow these rules in order to get a decent rights rest.
- Sleep only at night.
- Do not read or watch television in bed.
- Avoid caffeine at night.
- Avoid eating late at night.
- Keep your room at a comfortable temperature.
- Make sure your room is dark enough to sleep in.
- Make use of a weighted blanked when sleeping. These blankets have a swaddling affect which can activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Some people find comfort in sleeping with their head under the blanket covers because it provides a sense of safety which may date back to childhood.
- Try your best to go to bed at the same time every night.
Regular exercise is an excellent way to promote both a person’s mental and physical well-being. Exercise can help to regulate the bodies creation of cortisol which is a stress induced hormone. Try to exercise for at least half an hour on a daily basis.
A number of studies have suggested that meditation can reduce the symptoms of PTSD. Meditation reduces stress hormones by calming the sympathetic nervous system. This is directly related to our ‘fight-or-flight’ responses to danger.
For more information about mental health during the pandemic visit: https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/covid-19