In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people’s daily living has changed. To curb the spread of the virus, public health and safety measures were put into place. Discouraging non-essential travel, observing social distancing, canceling large-scale events, and moving to digital experiences—these are some things that make up the “new normal.”
However, the virus can significantly impact one’s health, even without becoming directly infected.
Effects of COVID-19 on Mental and Physical Health
The new risks that the pandemic puts on daily living, combined with the shift towards remote work and distance learning, can adversely affect one’s mental health.
Stress from the pandemic can cause feelings of worry and fear towards the health and safety of loved ones and yourself, job status, and financial standing. The sudden lack of opportunities to socialize due to self-imposed quarantines can leave people feeling lonely, overwhelmed, and incredibly isolated.
Additionally, those with pre-existing mental health conditions, first responders and essential workers, and people with higher risks of contracting the virus may experience heightened levels of distress in the current situation.
Some of the physical manifestations of these negative emotions are disrupted sleeping patterns, a lack or an increase in appetite or changes in eating habits, difficulty concentrating, and excessive use of tobacco, alcohol, or other substances. The fear and stress related to the pandemic may also worsen chronic health problems and existing mental health conditions.
Ways of Coping Amidst the Pandemic
In order to cope better with the new normal, the following are things you can do to uplift your mental state and improve your overall mental and physical health.
- Have a routine
You may already have had a daily routine prior to the pandemic. However, it’s essential to create one that you can practice from the safety of your home. This helps ground your day and give it structure.
Try to go to bed and get up at similar times to help get your sleeping hours back on schedule. Additionally, keep your work and resting hours distinct from one another to help you better focus and establish healthy boundaries.
- Schedule media breaks
While it’s good to keep up with the news and stay on top of the latest developments, too much information can increase your feelings of anxiety and distress. Additionally, navigating the online sphere can further create negative emotions.
Aside from reducing your exposure to news and social media, set aside time to go offline. While offline, try to engage yourself in hobbies or other activities that you enjoy and don’t require you to go online to put your mind at ease.
- Connect with loved ones
One good way to self-care during work from home is to connect with your loved ones. Best of all, the use of apps and technology means that you can avoid the risk of going out to public places.
Schedule a video call with friends and family to catch up and share stories. You can even decide on online activities like playing games, watching movies together, or having a simultaneous mealtime to make it fun.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Keeping your health in shape is critical in the face of a pandemic. As much as possible, eat nutritious and well-balanced meals to keep your resistance up. Consider learning simple exercises to do at home to stay active while avoiding a potential risk of transmission.
If you are on any maintenance medication or receiving treatment for current health issues, keep in contact with your doctor to ensure treatment can continue.
- Limit alcohol and tobacco consumption
Overindulging in alcohol or tobacco can happen, especially if it’s done as a response to the fear, anxiety, or even boredom resulting from the pandemic. Limit your consumption of these substances if you can’t stop completely. Try finding healthier alternatives and consult with a doctor about your options for quitting.
- Reframe your perspective
Feeling upset about the current situation can start from a perceived lack of control or inability to help yourself and others. Instead of dwelling on what you can’t do, focus on what you have and what can be done. If you have loved ones living away from you, consider reaching out to them and offer a listening ear and emotional support.
Additionally, while one person alone can’t eradicate the virus, providing donations to organizations working to help those in need during the crises is just as important.
Mental Health Matters, Too
Until researchers have found a vaccine or cure for the COVID-19 virus, life in the new normal will remain. As long as the threat of the virus is still present, people need to find better ways to cope and protect their health—both mental and physical—in the long run. Making the necessary lifestyle changes to accommodate the new normal can make all the difference in weathering this health crisis.