Psychosocial impacts of Covid-19 and ways to practise self-care

Nowadays, the novel coronavirus is causing widespread concerns, fear, and stress among people. Such reactions should be considered natural in such an uncertain situation. It is also natural that the virus is affecting the mental health of an individual, group, society, community, nation, and the whole world as well.

The outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) may be panic and stressful for the people. Various studies and research works have concluded that being quarantined for a long period of time may result in anxiety, stress, anger, sleep disturbance, feeling of isolation, and depression. Staying indoors while maintaining social distance is the only way to control the further spread of coronavirus now. But, it is also a reality that a different person reacts differently to such situations.

Different research projects in various countries have found that psychological effects of quarantine can burst into post-traumatic stress, a feeling of isolation, anger, fear, confusion, and depression, misuse of alcohol and substances among others. It is said that those people having weaker social relationships are 50% more likely to die over a given period in comparison to those with a more healthy relationship with strong connections. Staying alone seems to be as mortal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

That is why staying away from social connections, even for a short period, does not feel good and may result in emotional and cognitive disturbances. As much as possible, binding ourselves with the family rather than staying alone makes one happy, lively, and safe too. According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology and neuroscience professor at Brigham Young University, “It’s this unpleasant condition that propels us to find out social connections just like hunger animate us to search for food”.

But, in this current pandemic situation, avoid face to face contact to save yourself from dangerous and direct effects. A healthy and nutritious diet should be taken to boost up the immune system to function properly with limited use of alcohol and sugar intake. Avoid smoking.

Meanwhile, most of the health care workers working in the frontline are facing stress because of long working hours, limited availability of personal protective equipment and the subsequent fear of the high risk of infection and exposure. Those health care workers may become apprehensive that they may suffer from the financial crises, and unemployment etc.

Besides, other vulnerable groups of people like pregnant women, children and elderly people with disabilities should be kept in safe places allocating only fewer visitors, but they might find it lonely. Because of stigma and discrimination, people may become panic and prone to develop anxiety in the coming days.

To cope with such problems, here are a few tips that you can implement for an effective self-care in this critical situation:

Psychological first aid

  • De-stressing the person verbally by calming down
  • Relaxing them by maintaining a comfort zone
  • Giving attention to vulnerable people with co-morbid conditions
  • Avoiding talking about stressful situations
  • Providing and maintaining proper health with food, sanitation, and water among with basic needs
  • Repeated reassurance of safety, reinforcement of positive thoughts

Psychosocial counselling: People should ventilate their feelings and talk, share about other issues to relieve from stress. If you feel overwhelmed, seek help for professional support early.

Here are a few other tips to further maintain physical and psychological health

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Meditate as you wish.
  • Pay attention to personal care (take bath; use face masks, gloves, standard hand sanitiser; wash hands with soap and water, etc).
  • Social distancing is mandatory, but mental distancing is not.
  • Engage yourself in diversional activities (reading newspapers and books, listening to music, cooking food).
  • Learn something new to develop your skills or do something that makes you happy.
  • Think that you are not alone and share your feelings with family members, colleagues, and friends.
  • Be a role model for the children.
  • Admit that it is normal to be sad, stressed, panic, angry, and confused, during an outbreak period.
  • Limit your screen time: Using a phone for a long time can affect your mental health directly and indirectly and may develop sleep disturbances, and loss of appetite.

The author is a staff nurse at the Department of Psychiatry, Nepal Medical College Teaching Hospital.

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