Emotional Health During COVID-19
With the continued spread of COVID-19, or Coronavirus, there has been a lot of focus on physical health but very little on emotional health. At first glance it may not seem like a big deal since COVID-19 is not as deadly as some diseases and the symptoms are kind of like the flu. But with an average transmission rate 2-3 times higher than the flu and a mortality rate in confirmed cases that is 35 times higher than the flu, it is no wonder that our communities have taken big measures to manage the outbreak.
The most vulnerable of our population are at the greatest risk, so it is part of our public responsibility to help protect them. As we try to follow the current guidelines in place like social distancing, quarantine, and isolation for the public good, it is important to think about making sure personally we can stay healthy as well, and not just physically.
There is a lot to worry and stress about in the current circumstances. Businesses are closing, schools are closed, people are out of work, supplies are running low, not to mention not being able to go places, do things, or see people to help ease that stress. Below are some stressors you may face and some ideas you can use to help you, and your loved ones, emotionally cope.
One of the biggest concerns an individual, especially a single individual, might have with social distance is loneliness. There have been studies to suggest that social isolation and loneliness impact health in “the same order and magnitude as such risk factors as high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking.” It can also mean slipping into bad habits, like eating or drinking too much, impede sleep, and can increase anxiety and depression. While we are currently facing temporary, short-term circumstances, the reality is that loneliness can be problematic for our health and well-being. Loneliness is not just about being alone, it’s about feeling alone and emotionally disconnected from those around you. You can be lonely in a room full of people.
Connecting with others is crucial, especially if you are living alone. Social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat may not be the only or even best ways to connect because they are more superficial. Apps like Marco Polo, texting, FaceTime, Skype, and the classic phone call are going to be the best way to go. Netflix Party and online gaming (think with headset and microphone so you can talk), are some other ideas to connect from a distance.
Another factor you may have to personally manage is boredom, anxiety, or stress.
Boredom because you can’t go out and do the same things, obviously. Anxiety because of the uncertainty of the situation and worrying about the health of yourself or others, among other things. And stress because of being out of work or working from home, finances, and supplies.
I lump these together because coping with these feelings is pretty similar. Finding things that occupy your time and help you express your feelings will help with all of these. Try simply a Google search for “things to do at home”, and you will find many, many results, so I won’t bother to replicate those here. But the point being an engaging, fun activity will do wonders for your nerves and mood.
And I’m not just talking streaming binges, but actual engaging activities. Learn something new; universities like Yale, Harvard, and MIT have courses available online for free. Find a new hobby. Puzzles may help brain functioning, and knitting has a whole host of health benefits, not to mention it’s engaging and there are plenty of online tutorials. The point is, think outside the box and try to keep life interesting, and calm, for yourself.
A final stressor I’ll mention is working from home. For many of us, this is brand new, uncharted territory. And depending on your attention levels and work style, this may be extremely difficult. Feeling like you are constantly in work mode, feeling unmotivated to work at all, or distracting yourself every few minutes are some of the problems that can come up.
Here are some tips to manage:
Being stuck together at home most of the time is not always ideal. While some couples may love the togetherness, others may find they are getting irritated easily and fights are becoming more common. This is especially true if you were already having relationship issues to begin with.
This one is primarily for the couples that live together. The simple solution to too much togetherness is to take some time apart. You might be stuck home together but that does not mean you have to be together. Talk with your partner about scheduling some separate time so you can each have some space to breathe. Watch a movie on your own, take a bath, go for a walk, read a book, play a game, on your own. Try to make your time physically apart so you have some room to just breathe.
Keeping the romance and fun alive is important for every relationship. With so many places closed, it may feel like the fun is closed too. A little planning and thinking outside the box can help you keep the spark alive. Here are some ideas ranging from full-blown romance to silly fun.
You are stuck in the same place so you are obviously going to talk, but be intentional with what you are talking about. These are unprecedented times and there are new stressors with that, including a whole host of complicated feelings like worry and frustration. Make agreements on things like time together and time apart, as mentioned, but also talk about the bigger worries and stresses you have. Stressors outside your relationship can negatively impact your emotional closeness and sabotage your ability to communicate well. Talking about your concerns will help you both feel heard and reduce your stress, and thus the relationship stress. Some tips to help this conversation go well:
Being confined together or isolated from each other plus all of the additional stress of the circumstances are bound to cause some friction at times. When you are dealing with conflict, there are some important things you can do to help you avoid or manage it:
If you are unable to be together during this social distancing time, find new ways to connect. See the above section about Loneliness. Think outside the box. Finding a book about relationships you can each read separately at the same time is another way to pass time and gain some benefit out of your time apart.
And of course, take the time to focus on yourself and your own health and happiness. A relationship always benefits from two individuals bringing their best selves forward.
Social distancing with kids is a whole different challenge because not only do you have to worry about your own sanity, maybe your relationship, but also your kids’ activities and learning. Here are some ideas to help you manage:
We are in unprecedented territory with the social distancing, quarantine, and isolation required for this pandemic. Emotional health is key for our well-being, so don’t forget it in this most crucial time. Best wishes to stay safe, healthy, and happy! Comment below with ideas you have for keeping yourself or your loved ones emotionally healthy during this time!