The coronavirus pandemic induces an extensive degree of concern, worry, and fear across the world. Older adults, people with comorbidities, and healthcare workers are suffering from its psychological impact with increased rates of anxiety or stress.
Suicidal behavior, harmful drug and alcohol use, depression, and loneliness are prevalent among people who undergo quarantine. Their livelihoods, routines, or activities change. Some populations also experience issues of continuity and service access. People, especially frontline workers, develop or experience heightened mental health conditions.
How Fear Affects Humans
Fear is an innate survival mechanism that signals the body to respond through a fight or flight from danger. A perceived threat triggers it, and most of the time, fear keeps a person safe. However, chronic fear from perceived threats or physical threats can affect everyone’s life and even lead to incapacitation.
Fear is a reaction to potential danger. The body releases hormones to shut or slow down functions irrelevant for survival and sharpen capacities that help a person survive. For instance, a person runs faster because of increased heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. The increased flow of hormones to the amygdala, a brain area, helps the body focus on the oncoming danger and keeps it in the memory.
The brain reacts predictably by:
- Short-circuiting more rational processing paths
- Immediate signaling from the amygdala
- Perceiving events as negative
- Storing all details about the danger
- Bringing back the memories of previous danger and triggering fear
- Reacting to cues may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD)
Effects of Fear
Fear can have adverse health effects:
- Physical Health – Fear can weaken the immune system and cause gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular damage, accelerated aging, decreased fertility, and premature death.
- Memory – Fear can damage some brain parts, such as the hippocampus, and affect the formation of long-term memories. It may hinder the regulation of fear and leave an individual anxious.
- Brain Reactivity and Processing – Fear can interfere with brain processes, especially emotion regulation, ethical acting, reflection before acting, and reading non-verbal cues and other information that negatively affect decision-making and thinking.
- Mental Health – Chronic fear can cause clinical depression, fatigue, and PSTD.
Ways to Care for Your Mental Health
People like stability because they are hard-wired to want to have information on what is happening. You notice things that make you feel threatened. Feeling uncertain or unsafe makes you feel stressed. It is normal to experience stress because it can protect you. However, it can also wreak havoc on your life, especially if you have conflicting information and a sense of uncertainty.
Your anxiety is a result of losing control of what you think you can. Today, you worry about the coronavirus pandemic. You feel helpless because you do not know what will happen or what you can do. This uncertainty may also remind you of past experiences when you did not feel safe.
Your mental health suffers because you feel sad, helpless, angry, or edgy. Your frustration with others also heightens. Sometimes, you even want to avoid any cues about the pandemic. If you are currently struggling with your mental health, you become less motivated or more depressed to continue your daily activities.
However, you are not helpless because you can choose how you respond. A college paper writer shares some ways to take care of your mental health in times of instability:
Search for accurate information.
To maintain a sense of control, you can read reports from official sources only. You can check government websites and the World Health Organization (WHO). Misinformation can cause panic and fear but, it is avoidable if you subscribe to credible sources of information.
Limit time to media coverage.
Constant updates from social media feeds and news about the coronavirus pandemic can heighten your feelings of distress and worry. You may turn off automatic notifications to take a break from them. You can set boundaries on the news you listen to, watch or read and focus on your actions and life. Reading factual information can help you plan and protect yourself and your family.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, self-care can help your focus on what you can control. You cannot stop the spread of the virus, but you can practice excellent hygiene. Maintaining your daily activities and routine can develop positive mental and physical health. You may prefer to exercise, meditate, or take a walk to help you relax. If you are a healthcare worker, you must ensure a restful sleep between your shifts.
Reach out and support other people.
Talking to friends and family can help ease the pandemic-caused stress. You may speak with them about your feelings and concerns to help you search for ways to deal with the challenges you are facing. Other people can provide care and support that will bring comfort and stability. You may also assist other individuals and reach out to those who feel alone. Self-isolation may feel daunting, but you have to remember that it is temporary. You can always connect with people by digital means.
Focus on positive things.
The World Health Organization suggests finding opportunities to intensify positive stories, images, and voices of local individuals who had COVID but have recovered. You may also read stories of people who supported a patient through recovery.
Recognize your feelings.
You may feel upset, stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious in times of instability. You can give yourself time to express your feelings. You may write them down in your journal, do something creative, talk to others, or meditate.
Talk to your kids about the coronavirus pandemic.
If you have children, you must protect them from hysteria and help them cope with stress. You can share facts about the pandemic and reply to their questions. You may support them and listen to their concerns. Reassuring them that they are safe and that you are ready to give them extra support, attention, and care also helps. You may also share with them how you are dealing with stress to help them learn how to cope.
Seek professional help.
A qualified health professional can offer protection and prevention recommendations. If you feel that you need help, you may reach out to a professional counselor instead. You may also avail of peer support in your area.
Avoid crowds but commune with nature.
You may take your morning walk around your neighborhood to experience the sun and get your dose of vitamin D. You will feel good, especially if you do it with a loved one. Walking is an excellent bonding activity as you breathe some fresh air. You may also exercise to strengthen your physical and mental health.
You will notice your worries are compounding because you also project them into the future. If you realize that you worry about something that has not happened, you can pull yourself back to the present. You may acknowledge the sounds, sights, tastes, and other sensory experiences and name them. You can also engage in mindful activities to stay grounded when you feel you are losing control.
Your mental health suffers during the pandemic or other times of instability. However, you can do something about it. The ten ways cited in this article can help you care for your mental health. Practice them to notice the difference.
About the Author
Charles Normandin writes for ninjaessays.com and can speak three languages fluently. He is a professional writer who dabbles in rock climbing, drawing and volunteering at the local animal shelter. You can follow him on Twitter: @Charles60104524.
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