COVID-19 has been at the forefront of the news for well over a year. The global pandemic has turned the world upside down creating a strange new normal. Unfortunately, the effects of the virus, face masks, social distancing, job loss, or school closures have taken a toll. While the effects of COVID-19 on mental health may not be immediately visible, the stress and strain of the virus are present for many people.
How does COVID affect your mental health?
The stress of facing the mounting challenges can take a toll on one’s physical, emotional, and/or mental health. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in adults who report mental health or substance abuse issues.
COVID-19 implications for mental health
While the public health efforts to avoid getting infected with the coronavirus may help keep you physically healthy, the social distancing and quarantining can also make one feel lonely or isolated. The lack of social contact with others can also add to one’s stress or anxiety.
Mental illness is not just a side effect of living through the pandemic. Research now shows that half of those who have contracted COVID report depression as a side effect. Unfortunately, for many, the symptoms of major depression may last for months beyond the initial infection.
When lockdowns were lifted and COVID numbers initially declined, many people were ready to re-enter the world and resume a sense of normalcy. For others, the idea of stepping back into the thick of things and mixing with other people brings a sense of fear and anxiety. COVID anxiety syndrome has become a new phenomenon as people navigate how to return to normal with their fear of contracting a highly contagious illness.
In addition to the increase in depression and anxiety, many adults reported changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. Others have noted increases in alcohol consumption and substance abuse. For example, research shows that substance abuse in young adults increased from 13% to 25% amid COVID-19. Speaking with a provider can help manage substance use during a difficult time.
Tips to protect your mental health
The first part of protecting yourself against the impacts of the pandemic is understanding that it is natural to feel stressed or anxious sometimes. Consider the following tips to manage your stress and maintain your mental health:
1. Know the warning signs
Learning the warning signs of mental illness can help you seek out help for yourself or your loved ones. Be aware of the following:
- Sleep changes
- Appetite changes
- Mood changes
- Drop in functioning
- Feeling disinterested
- Problems focusing
2. Practice deep breathing
Breathing exercises are a great way to relax your body. Deep breathing relieves stress in the body because the deep breaths send a message letting your body know it is okay to calm down. Belly breathing is a simple way to start, and it can be done from anywhere.
3. Find an outlet for your stress
In addition to breathing exercises, finding an outlet for your stress can help keep overwhelming anxiety at bay. You can relieve your stress through exercise, meditation, yoga, personal time to yourself, eating healthy, and getting adequate sleep.
4. Lead a healthy lifestyle
Your mental health and overall health are connected. Being stressed about something that is beyond your control is not part of a healthy lifestyle. Stay positive, learn a new skill, set goals for yourself, rest, avoid unhealthy substances, have a good support system, maintain a good diet and exercise, and be mindful of yourself.
5. Seek professional help
If you or a loved one has tried the suggestions above but still feel something is off, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.
Contact Salveo Integrative Health for your mental health concerns
The expert team at Salveo Integrative Health offers behavioral and mental health services in Lawrenceville and Flowery Branch, GA, and telemedicine in North Carolina. Let our team help you protect your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Contact us today!