Coronavirus: What mental health looks like in the face of a pandemic frenzy

Physical health won't count for much if you fall apart mentally.

It is important to take care of your mental health during these coronavirus times-Photo use for illustrative purposes. [Credit - Blackish-ABC]

For people who are unfamiliar or unbothered with its dynamics, mental wellness might easily be the last thing on their minds as coronavirus keeps pushing the world around us towards the brink.

The average Nigerian is on this table; seated comfortably, oblivious and likely dismissive of anything that goes beyond physical well-being and financial sufficiency. Afterall, that should be all that matters most in these uncertain and scary times, right?

Given the next-to-nothing importance generally attached to mental well-being in these parts, and the difficulty people face in meeting their most basic needs, it is easy to see how many can easily not give the tiniest damn about mental health, especially now.

Not as imposing as Coronavirus, but mental health issues abound all around us

Despite the last line of thought above, people do have mental health issues that they already struggle with. Even where there are no existing, underlying mental issues, now is a period where it is easy to slip into one or more – think depression.

There is fear, anxiety, worry for one’s health and that of family members, especially the aged ones. There is uncertainty, economic downturn, job losses, gloomy economic foresight, and non-stop bad news coming from the damage wreaked by Coronavirus. These things really have potential to do nasty things to one’s mental health.

When you also consider the fact that social distancing and isolation are triggers for people already grappling with mental health issues such as suicidal thoughts and tendencies to self-harm, the image becomes a little bleaker, and the case for awareness and drawing of attention to mental health in these times becomes stronger.

What now?

So, Pulse reached out to Ugo Victor, a medical doctor and founder of Mentally Aware Initiative who says that it’s a perfectly understandable reaction if anyone is freaking out right at the moment. “The level of anxiety and panic in the air is palpable,” he says, adding that “you are not alone, many people are.”

While good hygiene is being advocated and do-not-panic messages are being consistently drummed in the ears of the public, it's not improbable that fear and anxiety are already getting the best of many. But it is important to gain a sense of control to be able to manage the anxiety and panic that’s setting in.

How can this be done? you ask. Well, Dr. Ugo provides clear, practicable answers below.

Limit your access to stuff that stress or trigger you – including the News

“According to the WHO, you need to minimize watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed.”

It may actually be cool to set a time to listen in, and then tune out again.

“Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. Get the facts; not the rumors and misinformation,” the doctor says before adding that “seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones.

Immerse yourself in things that’ll take your mind off Coronavirus

“Keep yourself busy by reading books, playing video games and maybe this might be a good time to catch up on those TV shows that you’re yet to complete.”

There is no emotional distance. Reach out for help when you need it!

“In all of this,” Dr Ugo recommends, “remember to reach out for emotional support if it gets too much. Remain connected to family, friends and loved ones, even if virtually. Maintain a support system around you.”

If you’re already struggling with one issue before now…

It’s understandable that this time could be even more stressful for you. There’s a possibility that you “would feel more anxious and increased stressors may lead to relapses.”

So here’s how best you can get through this period, as prescribed by the mental health expert:

- “Both persons living with these mental health conditions and their Caregivers first need to acknowledge this early enough to ensure that they make proper plans.”

- “One [more] thing [you] can do is to create a well-being plan, that takes up some of the tips already above, be intentional about increased activities even while at home and making sure to undertake social connectivity activities like calling family and friends, and increasing efforts to be in touch with people who they are comfortable with but may not usually be in touch with.”

Mentally Aware is always available to help everyone who needs them, too

If you are struggling to manage anxiety and panic and need to talk with a counselor, mentally aware got you. Just reach out to them via DM on their Twitter: @mentallyawareng.


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