Structuring Your Perception: The Key to a Good Mental Health during COVID-19

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Enis Hikmet Özmert, a second year medical student at Baskent University Faculty of Medicine in Ankara, Turkey. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


“Positive mental health is not the absence of mental disorder, but rather the presence of certain mental goods…” (1) Accordingly, one can have poor mental health without presenting a diagnosable mental disorder (1) .

The current pandemic and the changes in routine accompanying it, is one where an individual’s mental state may be tested to its limits and where individual action can dramatically increase “mental wellbeing”.

Economic and social strains have an effect, yet in an individual level, the key action required has to do with “perception”. How we approach certain situations in our lives determine the amount of anxiety and stress we feel over them, the “situation” being COVID-19. How we understand and adjust to the pandemic is also dependent on how we perceive different components of it. By adjusting how we approach different aspects of this pandemic on an individual level, we can reduce the mental burden it bears.

Areas where changes in perception, evaluation and reception can make a great difference are;

  • Dealing with the available news and information

Constant stream of COVID-19 coverage, and its sensationalized nature may put you in a false sense of impending doom, whether it is the case or not. So, try to be mindful about how stories and numbers are portrayed and from which source you receive information. Receiving news from international organizations’ as WHO can drastically reduce your stress and anxiety by portraying the actuality.

  • Responsibilities felt towards one’s self and community

You can easily get overwhelmed trying to adjust to an entirely new method of learning and/or working i.e. for assignments. There may be a lot to take in at once. Try to pinpoint what is essential for you to do to keep up, and what you can perhaps do another time. If you perceive the workload as a combination of integrated parts, instead of one big piece, it will be easier for you to manage, instead of stressing over a seemingly impossible task. Furthermore, you may be inclined to feel a sense of duty towards your community. You may think you have to be productive, and “keep up”. Yet, if you are not harming yourself or others in anyway, feel free to divert from the mainstream. That is where you will find your safe space.

  • Breaking down a day

It is critical to discern between this down time due to current circumstances and a prolonged vacation. As such, adjusting to a healthy routine, consisting of dedicated meal times, down times and “productive” times is essential. Having different “chunks” of time will let you organize with ease. Furthermore, even though finding your safe space is important, trying to push yourself in reasonable limits to keep up a routine will act as a constant in this developing situation.

Structuring how you perceive the world around you and breaking it down to manageable pieces is key in keeping a healthy mental wellbeing as an individual. By doing so, you will be the best version of yourself, and get through this pandemic, scot-free.

References

(1) Keller S. What does mental health have to do with well-being?. Bioethics. 2020;34(3):228–234. doi:10.1111/bioe.12702

About the author

Enis Hikmet Özmert is a second year medical student at Baskent University Faculty of Medicine in Ankara, Turkey. He has been a part of TurkMSIC and consequently IFMSA for the past two years, and is currently the local exchange officer (LEO) of his medical school. He is interested in global health policy and its applications to clinical research. He has previously written a few articles concerning international politics in magazines.

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