Can We (Mentally) Survive the Pandemic?

Written by Amelia Putri

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, yet the situation is still not improving, at least to the majority of our communities. Humans are evolving, it is true. By evolving, it means we are constantly changing in a relatively slow and steady state. The pandemic, however, forced us to take a sharp and drastic turn. We are now living under restriction, and most of all, uncertainties.


The lockdown, quarantine, physical/social distancing, strict health and security measures sounds unimaginable just a year ago. When COVID-19 hit us like a huge wave of a tsunami, which we were not prepared for. There were massive attack of panic and fear that suddenly led to us into stress, depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of distress. The schools and offices closure reshaped our way in doing anything, working, communicating, and of course, our daily life pattern. To sum it up, almost every single aspects of our life are affected.

We are surrounded by COVID-19-focused media, which exposes the numbers of new victims daily. Those are measurable numbers because it’s physically detectable, while mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health and well-being because not only it is harder to measure and notice the symptoms, it is not a priority in our general population. Long-term or chronic stress, through too much wear and tear, can ravage the immune system and increases the risk of a number of diseases and other physical condition.

 

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Social Challenges

New Normal norms regulate how we interact socially. Our adaptation skill is greatly challenged. Virtual and online communication replaced our physical interaction. Our usual ways of seeing family, friends or just familiar faces have been put on a pause. Although government regulations are necessary to maintain social balance and guarantee the safety of all individuals, a direct strategy aimed to manage the psycho-social issues related to COVID-19 crisis and its consequences in the community is currently lacking.

Even though most people have fear related to infection, boredom often overrides their decisions. Instead of staying home, many people start going out without a doubt. Like a double edged sword, both actions, staying home and going out in a social matter, has its own results. Staying home, especially under isolation for a long-term may cause loneliness to many people.

 

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Individual Challenges

The pandemic brought the issues of mental health into the open, highlighting stress impact and pre-existed mental issues and how it worsened during the pandemic. People from all ages, from children to senior adults, consciously and subconsciously are affected. We often focused on adults only. Adults relentlessly speak out loud about how hard it is to cope with New Normal daily life. It requires a certain skill to keep everything in balance – work, home, social, and children who are now “home schooled”. Children and youth are greatly affected as well, especially if they are living with a parent who has a mental health condition.

Distress, boredom, social isolation, insomnia, frustration, loneliness, fear of uncertainty, economic challenges, separation from loved ones, loss of loved ones, interruption of social necessities, unfortunately, in this context of hopelessness – together with other individual characteristics, struggles in keeping everything under control, may lead to negative outcomes.

 

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Becoming a Survivor (Mentally)

Surviving is our natural instinct. During this pandemic, to survive does not mean to escape. It is to cope, to adapt and live with it. We list what you can do to help you mentally survive the pandemic.

  • Try calling a friend, family member, or anyone that you can trust to talk about your feelings. If you are not comfortable in doing so, you can also write in a journal or your phone or computer, draw a sketch, or just express your feelings in any way you are comfortable with.
  • Do physical activities in a safe environment. Exercising not only can maintain your overall physical health and appearance, but also good for your mind.
  • Create a new routine where you get up and go to bed at similar times, eat at regular hours, and schedules slots for personal hygiene and your daily chores.
  • It is time to do what you like, what you want to do, and try new things or hobbies. Your daily routine is important, but doing something that makes you happy can ease stress. You can also find a project or activities that involve your family, such as clean out the garage, plant hydroponic vegetables, or make some home videos for YouTube.
  • While keeping busy and moving is productive, you can also boost your focus by practicing mindfulness. When you feel the anxiety build and stress is kicking in, stop what you are doing, sit and breathe deeply for 10-30 minutes. This practice will calm you and help you feel more grounded.
  • Try joining some virtual communities. If you like doing yoga and often attended yoga classes before the pandemic, you can now easily find some online yoga classes and communities.
  • Limit your daily news intake. Constant exposure to negative news can contribute to anxiety and stress. Instead, read books about other topics.
  • Limit your screen time. We often set this rule for our children, but it is good for you too. Scrolling over Instagram or other social media for too long may contribute to insecurity. Social media like Instagram exposes “flawless” people. Online games can also be toxic and lower our productivity.

 

Although we often hear that we are in this trying time together, we cannot neglect our feelings. If you feel like you cannot hold your negative feelings anymore, do not hesitate to seek for a help from counselor or therapists. We, Modula Jiwa, are here for you, to listen and to work with you in making your way out of these uncertainties.

 

References

10 Mental Health Tips to Help You Survive the Pandemic by Jamie Lee.

A Snapshot: UNICEF’s Approach to Mental Health During COVID-19 in East Asia and the Pacific by UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (EAPRO).

Loneliness During Coronavirus by Mental Health Foundation.

Stress Weakens the Immune System by American Psychological Association.

The Psychological Impact of COVID-19 on the Mental Health in General Population by G. Serafini, B. Parmigiani, A. Amerio, A. Aguglia, L. Sher, and M. Amore.

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