Catching COVID-19 or safely dealing with existing physical health problems is likely top of mind for many these days. But they aren’t the only conditions affected by the pandemic. Mental health is another major area of concern during these trying times.
Research is now emerging about the pandemic’s effect on mental health in China, where the first COVID-19 outbreak occurred. Parts of the country went into lockdown in January, continuing into early April.
A study published in Psychiatry Research surveyed more than 7,200 Chinese men and women during the lockdown. They found more than one-third were suffering from COVID-related “general anxiety disorder,” while about one-fifth were showing signs of depression. Just over 18 percent indicated sleep trouble.
All the doom and gloom out there can make it seem like these struggles are inevitable, but many experts agree there are plenty of coping strategies to help you calm down and feel better during the pandemic.
A good place to start is acknowledging that you might be feeling overwhelmed, scared, or stressed. Instead of avoiding these feelings, accept them, and tell yourself it’s OK to feel that way. Next, focus on things you can control, and things that make you feel good.
For example, you can control how you spend your days. One place to start is shutting off the news and setting a daily time to check it, looking at only trusted, reliable sources. With the extra time, you can carve out moments of joy and relaxation.
Appreciate the exercise you’re getting. Have fun chatting or playing a game with family or friends (remotely if needed). Perform a hobby like painting, or cooking a meal. All of these can be mood boosters to limit stress and foster positive emotions.
You can also help shut down your stress response with meditation or relaxation methods. Sitting outside listening to the birds’ chirp or reading a book, doing yoga, or even just taking a few deep breaths can help lower cortisol and adrenaline.
These are troubling times that can leave your mind uneasy. Turning your focus to what makes you feel good and what’s within your control can help you weather the storm.
Devon Andre holds a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the University of Windsor in Canada and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Andre is a journalist for Bel Marra Health, which first published this article.