It is already clear that limiting social contact is the most successful way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Still, the impact that quarantine, and isolation, in general, could have on individuals mental health is troublesome.
A recent review of research on the psychological impact of quarantine found that a quarantine situation can be linked with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), confusion, and anger. Some research even suggests these effects to be long-lasting. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, we cannot dismiss the implications that lockdown and quarantine measures hold on our mental health.
Trusted information and clear guidelines
Lockdown regulations announced by the South African government, is a necessary step to reduce confusion and social judgement. In countries where citizens were given a choice to self-isolate during the coronavirus crisis, as we have seen in Italy, people remained suspicious of the free choice of others. Confusion and social judgement have only worsened the anxiety created by the coronavirus.
Clear information from trusted sources is crucial for your mental health. Contradictory messages should be avoided by only trusting messages from official bodies and healthcare providers you trust over other fake news and amateur opinions.
When you are alone
Enforced isolation is especially distressing. Being quarantined may give one a sense of being at the mercy of the authorities, and the uncontrollable force of the Covid-19 pandemic. This could lead to a feeling of helplessness and uncertainty about the future that can be very unsettling.
Psychologists note that prolonged periods in situations where nothing changes can push people to turn inward. For some people, the experience can lead to extreme negative emotions. They may even develop a blurred perspective of their own thoughts against that of reality.
Stress during the Covid-19 lockdown may include:
- Worry and fear about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
It is imperative for people with pre-existing mental health conditions to continue their medical treatment and take note of any new or worsening symptoms. Contact your mental healthcare provider when necessary.
Things you can do to support yourself
- Give yourself a break from the news, including social media. Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Do regular indoors exercise.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Do some other activities you enjoy.
- Virtually connect with others through digital technology. Talk to trusted people about your concerns and your feelings.
In times of isolation, we should support each other by recognising mental health struggles and providing comfort even from afar.
Please, reach out to a Mental Health Professional if you are worried about your mental health condition. Life Path Health offers a 24-hour Helpline for mental health support. Call or WhatsApp 072 7900 506 for guidance, or visit their website.