How could the coronavirus impact my mental health?
Covid-19 is causing a number of issues, but one of its biggest problems is the mental health effects it can have. Whether you are self-isolating because you have shown symptoms, or you are simply stuck at home due to university/work closures, people will probably be more isolated over the next few weeks than they have been in years. The government is now advising that we stop all but essential social contact, something which many people will find difficult.
Social isolation has a negative impact on mental and physical health. It increases loneliness, which in turn can lead to depression and other mental health issues. Loneliness can also lead to physical health issues, with experts suggesting it can increase the chance of earlier death by 26%. Evidently, Covid-19 has the potential for significant health problems. The outbreak has been termed a “social recession” due to its profound impact on society, comparable to any economic recession in terms of scope and scale. Apart from loneliness and depression, the outbreak could increase anxiety and stress for some people. It is understandable for people to be stressed about loved ones, worried about their own health, or concerned about the uncertainty surrounding exams, university life, and potential lockdowns. In this guide, we will try to give some tips on how to manage stress and anxiety caused by Covid-19.
What are the students saying?
Many students we asked have expressed their concerns and worries surrounding the current outbreak. Here are some of their statements which might be relatable for you:
- It has all happened so quickly. Classes are now all online, there are queues in supermarkets, and the government has started to cancel everything. I mean, last week everything seemed normal, but now there is panic as we did think it would be so real.
- I’m worried because of my work. For now my work is open, and working in a shopping centre is risky due to the fact that there are more crowds. On the university side, they have already closed it, but it is more complicated for students now. We are not used to studying online or taking exams on the computer. I don’t like it.
- I’m feeling stuck, and anxious about my parents! I just want to go back to my country and be safe in my house. I feel like I can’t go outside because I’m afraid to get the virus. I’m also concerned about the shopping, it’s really annoying because you can’t find want you want. People just buy a lot for themselves and don’t care about others…
We have seen so many responses similar to this. With universities shutting down, it is a really difficult time for many students, who are anxious about the future and the uncertainty currently surrounding their studies. If you feel this way, don’t worry. It is a normal reaction, so don’t feel like you are alone.
How do I maintain my mental health during the outbreak?
There are a number of things you can do to keep your mental health in check:
Being stuck inside can be negative for your physical and mental health. Of course, if your university or work is cancelled, then you will be walking much less than normal. But it is not just your physical health that will take a hit. In fact, keeping active has been proven to have a significant impact on mental health. People who are active are less stressed (on average) than people who are inactive. Similarly, people who are active have more positive moods, and have a greater self-esteem, than those who are not.
There are many ways to keep active during the Covid-19 outbreak. Running around the garden / local park, walking to the shops, or cycling around town are all easy options. Even if you are inside, you can do yoga exercises, planks, or lunges. Here is a guide for 10 easy exercises you can do whilst inside. The NHS website also has a fun 10 minute cardio website you can do, so check it out here.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Students may find it difficult to eat a balanced diet at the best of times, and with the shops having limited supplies this could be even trickier. However, it is now more important than ever to eat a balanced diet, particularly to improve our mental health! Studies have found that eating more vegetables, nuts, grains, and fish can lead to a reduction in depression. Eating healthy should also be able to help your immune system stay strong, something which is important to fight off the spread of a virus. Here are 5 vitamins you should make sure you are eating. With the right food in your system, you will be mentally and physically ready to support your body over the next few months.
Keep in touch with people
One of the
worst things you can do during a period of isolation is not talk to anyone.
Whilst it may be difficult to physically see people, you can still keep in
touch with friends and family via social media or telephone. Having a video call with friends/family is particularly beneficial, as visual social
interaction has a positive impact on mental health. Ideally, you should try not to live alone during this period. Many students have moved back to live with their families, and this is something that you should strongly consider if you haven’t already. If not family, then try to stay with friends, or at least see them regularly. Social interaction is vitally important to the mental health of students, and you should try to keep this up at least to a small extent.
Keeping in touch with people is one thing, but it is also important to talk about your feelings. If you are particularly anxious or feeling down, then talking to other people is a great way to feel better. You will soon find out that others feel the same as you, and being able to laugh with each-other, or simply talk through your problems with someone else, is a fantastic way to improve your mental wellbeing.
Take a Break from the News
Sometimes the news can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to Covid-19. For many people, hearing ‘more deaths’ and other similar phrases can be upsetting.
Particularly if you are watching the news a lot, people can start to feel anxious or depressed. You should try to limit your time spent reading / watching the news, and spend more time doing fun, relaxing, or practical things instead. Of course the news is important, but don’t let it overtake your life. Similarly, make sure you don’t listen to fake news. Certain newspapers, and particularly social media stories, can exaggerate the facts. Only get your news from reliable sources, such as the BBC or The Guardian, and this will help to ensure you are getting facts, rather than fiction.
The Good News
If you are doing all these things, then it is likely you will be feeling much better. If not, then perhaps engaging in mindfulness or meditation could help you to relax. Whatever works for you, make sure you keep it up, and your mental health will likely improve dramatically. Looking on the bright side, the coronavirus actually gives you a chance to relax and engage in self-care much more frequently than normal. A lack of work, university life, and social gatherings gives you much more time in your day to relax and really improve your mental health. When the outbreak dies down in a few weeks, you should be much more mentally rested to tackle your busy student life!