The coronavirus outbreak has led authorities around the world to take stringent measures proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO), such as social distancing. However, mental health experts are warning that this quarantine can result in individuals to experience negative emotions that directly harm mental health. This psychological effect could have prolonged effects if such measures are in place for long.
To fight this pandemic, most of the countries banned all the non-required activities and asked individuals to stay home. Globally, offices and colleges continue to operate remotely, restaurants and schools are closed, and nursing homes are barring visitors.
Some individuals are prone to experience long as well as short mental health issues such as insomnia, stress, substance abuse, and emotional exhaustion. Some factors have increased the risk of psychological fallout, like the quarantine lasting over a month and lack of access to the required supplies or telecommunication. Thus, minimising these risks can lower the likelihood of mental health issues.
What can be the impact of social distancing on mental health?
People were asked to stay at home due to the exposure, illness, or spread of coronavirus, which led them to be cut off from their daily routines. Psychologists research has found that during social distancing, isolation, or quarantine, individuals may experience following mental issues:
Anxiety and Fear
Individuals might feel worried or anxious about them and their family members contracting COVID-19 or spreading unto to others. Additionally, it is normal to have issues about achieving food and personal supplies. Moreover, some individuals might be having problems sleeping or focusing on daily routines.
Boredom and Depression
The pause from regular work and other essential activities disrupt ones daily routine and might lead to a feeling of sadness. The long periods spent at home can result in loneliness and boredom.
Frustration, anger, or irritability
The loss of an organised day, as well as personal freedom associated with the quarantine and isolation, can result in frustration. You might also experience resentment or anger towards the individuals who have issued quarantine or isolation orders or if you experience the spread of virus due to other person’s carelessness.
If you are not well or come in contact with someone with an individual who may have COVID-19, you might experience stigma by the individuals who panic that they will contract illness if they interact with you.
Older adults, individuals with mental health concerns, and health care workers assisting with the response to the COVID-19 might have increased risk of suffering psychological sorrow while engaging in isolation, quarantine, or social distancing.
Additionally, the individuals suffering disabilities who need special diets, medical supplies, or assistance from caregivers and other accommodations are at risk for the psychological challenge during the pandemic due to the enhanced difficulties in getting the kind of care they need.
How to combat the psychological fallout of social distancing?
Track news Consumption
Nowadays, staying updated with the latest information as well as recommended precautions is crucial. But, if the amount of news consumed is massive, it results in distressing our psychological well-being. Thus, pay attention to how much time you are spending on the news. If your stress level is rising, you need to take a break.
Source of Information
The most crucial thing than the amount of information we consume is the source from which we get the news. Make sure to consume news from some legitimate platforms, or stick to a reliable one. Otherwise, there is a lot of false information going viral. So, always remember to check the source of your information.
Stay Connected with Friends
During this pandemic, set up some video calls with your friends or relatives. Else, you can join an online support program or pick up your mobile and reach out to your friends instead of texting or emailing them or scrolling social media feeds. Hearing the voice of another human being is not similar to reading texts.
Reach out to a Mental Health Expert
Most individuals across the globe are dealing with consequences of this pandemic in several forms, whether health-wise, economic, or other. Everyone responds distinctively as per our external and internal resources, our flexibility and psychological health. So, do not hesitate to take support.
Find activities that bring happiness
Make sure to be involved in the activities or projects that can bring you joy or happiness. This is the right time to indulge yourself in some hobby or learn some new things which you always wanted to.
Remember that you are not alone
Every individual across the globe is affected due to this pandemic, and most of the individuals are experiencing the level of stress. Thus, knowing that we are not alone in this can minimise the feeling of loneliness.
— By Dr Anuneet Sabharwal, MBBS, MD Psychiatrist