Coping with the Psychological Effects of COVID19: It’s time to build our resilience with ingenuity

COVID-19 is here and for a mild respiratory virus it has proved to be a wrecking ball. The economy has certainly fared worse than most of our bodies. A cure is still being sought and we have all been told to stay inside. Even the introverts have been crowded out. We used to see it in movies and video games but the reality is that we are living in a lockdown and it is a new experience. It is stressful on our systems, regardless of our personality or past experiences, because ultimately we are all human. Time for some good news, because we could all use some. The preventive measures are pretty spot on. The brainy guys might not have a lot of experience with this particular virus but humanity has interacted with its brothers and sisters before. Therefore we have a good idea of how the virus solves the problem of mobility. A lot of what is being recommended such as washing hands, keeping the said hands away from your face and social distancing are very effective ways of remaining virus-free.

Something that the virus has strengthened indirectly is poor mental health. Anxiety and depression have leveled up because the pandemic has created the perfect conditions for them to thrive. Uncertainty, too much time indoors, lack of activity, loved ones at peril, sad news everywhere… Such things are straight from the manual on how to get a mental illness. We therefore need to take extra steps to level the playing field lest we survive the pandemic only to be taken down by mental illness.

1. Follow the rules

Wash your hands with soap regularly, stay indoors, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth and keep the social distancing. This is your shield against the pandemic. Cherish it. When this is over and you emerge unscathed you will pat your past self on the back for having played by the rules.

It gives you some peace of mind too knowing that you have done your part to stay safe and to protect your loved ones.

2. Cut down on the bad news.

We actually can’t deal with depression or anxiety by bingeing on sad stuff. It just doesn’t work that way. You can’t deal with wetness by standing in the rain, right? So we have to deliberately reduce our exposure to woeful news if we are not to dive headlong into depression. Try reading the news instead of watching. At least you have better control there and it doesn’t hit you head on like watching does.

3. Do you really need all that news?

Knowing that people somewhere don’t have protective equipment is fine, but unless you are in a position to do something about it, why are you watching it? Just being informed doesn’t help you or those people. It only puts you on the path to depression and makes sure you are on fourth gear. You also don’t have to check the news every five minutes. It just adds to your stress. When it is time for things to get better they will… But it is not dependent on how many times you switch on the news channel.

4. Now is the time to exercise

Exercise boosts brain activity in many wonderful ways. Producing the “happy chemicals” is like the icing on the cake. And we need all the happiness we can get. We may not all have gyms in our houses but we do have a body and it has weight. Whether it is push ups, sit ups, max planks or squats… we can put that weight to good use. You also don’t have to do 50 push ups a day. Be kind to yourself and start slow. Just five. Consistency is better than ferocity.

5. Eat right

Quarantine does not give you an excuse to feed yourself on food from hell. What we eat actually affects our moods. Hydrate. Try cooking something healthy, even if it is just one healthy meal a day. Cooking can be a joyous experience as long as we are not criticising each and every step we make. You are not a chef after all… give yourself room to make mistakes. If you can, get a recipe online and make something marvellous. It will take your mind off the pestilence and you will get that good feeling of having achieved something.

6. Balance the scales

All work and no play… the reverse is true as well. Now that we are stuck at home, we run the risk of all play and no work. Either extreme is deleterious. Our brains need a sense of balance. Spare some time to do something constructive. Could be a hobby or actual work but don’t just sit there and watch zombies all day. Doing that is akin to tying your brain up and dragging it towards depression by the feet.

7. Look for the good news

Whether it’s just memes or comedy, we need to substitute the bad stuff for the good. Aggressively seek out things that can make you happy and give you a little laugh, because bad news is being dished out generously from all corners and we need to balance things out. A happy environment makes a happy and healthy mind.

8. Humans are social beings

Keep the connections going. Even if by phone. We are designed to function with others and we can’t run away from that. So embrace it. Look for it. It is a part of us and when we miss a part of us we are bound to get sick.

9. Connect with your maker

Pray for this thing to end. Even if you are an atheist, there is something you believe in. Call on that powerful being as your anchor for we need all the help we can get right now. For believers, now is the time to acquaint yourselves with God by reading His book because hope is what will keep us going and hope is found in those pages.

10. Connect with nature

Nature is a peaceful thing to behold, even if we are just looking at it from our windows. Take some time to indulge in the fresh air, the songs of the birds and the greenery from your window if and when you can. It will do you good.

Ps. The information provided here has been sourced from approved public health online platforms including the WHO. Where there is doubt please do not hesitate to refer from these sources.

Author: Dr. Were Dennis, Chief Editor – Ryculture Health and Social Innovation.