COVID-19: Mental balance in pandemic times

pandemic mental

(Jonathan Rados, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Jade Lingiardi Altoé, a second-year medical student. Affiliated to IFMSA Brazil UniCesumar, and member of the Academic League of Family and Community Medicine (LAMFaC). She 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.


The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), is a mental health crisis as well as a physical one. This relationship can be understood based on theories of impact and physiological reaction of fight or flight of the organism, in which changes in the environment subjectively influence how people react and decide situations. Thus, a pandemic, as a stressor, changes as applicable relationships in society and requires adaptation of mental health. But how to have balanced mental health in chaotic times?

Even though it is a way to prevent and reduce the harm caused by viruses, social isolation can cause depressive, anxious impacts, regret, sleep disturbances, fear of being infected (can cause phobias and panic), use of harmful substances, and suicide. Such psychic disorders affect individuals and their social, family and economic relationships, requiring clarifying possible ways to avoid them.

Governments and health professionals are essential to minimize them with immediate actions. Clear and objective communication on: what happens, facing the prospects for the duration of restrictive measures, highlighting isolation as an act of altruism, the importance of physical and mental health care, and the psychological supports adopted. Creation of a protocol to guide the performance of health networks in the area of ​​mental health in times of crisis, and adoption of new technologies to provide diagnostic and therapeutic services, like video-conferencing psychotherapy and tele-mental health.

 

However, effective actions to cultivate balanced physical and mental health depends on each individual. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and sleeping well are very important, including improving immunity. Conduct practices to calm yourself like mindfulness, yoga, and meditation. Reading and learning allows you to divert attention and occupy your mind. As a family, it is a good time to strengthen ties and appreciate the company, enjoying movies, series, games, and music. Professionally, adjust work activities to the situation, whether with home office, delivery, or e-commerce.

 

The internet and social media can help these activities and maintain relationships, since dialogue and interaction are fundamental in these periods of crisis. After all, physical distance, not social distance is necessary. Many institutions have provided online access to courses, videos, books, films. Digital platforms offer ways to operationalize business models that reduce physical contact. However, they must be handled properly, avoiding false and disparaging news that encourages such disorders. Turning off the news, when necessary, can lighten that burden.

Crisis makes it possible to question oneself and socially and scientifically established models and practices. It is a complex and challenging process, which leads to evolution. They require each individual to reflect and reframe their understanding as a social being, and thus reinvent themselves and their surroundings.

Anyway, what most reflects on mental health is the individuals’ unique emotional structure. Although reactions to stressors are involuntary, decisions made from them can be resilient. Therefore, there is no standard to be followed to achieve mental balance. It is up to each one to find their personal limits and the humanly possible way of dealing with this situation.

References:

  1. Altena E, Baglioni C, Espie CA, Ellis J, Gavriloff D, Holzinger B, Schlarb A, Frase L, Jernelov S, Riemann D. Dealing with sleep problems during home confinement due to the COVID‐19 outbreak: practical recommendations from a task force of the European CBT‐I Academy. Journal of Sleep Research. April 04 2020. doi:10.1111/jsr.13052
  2. Kelly BD. Covid-19 (Coronavirus): Challenges for Psychiatry. The British Journal of Psychiatry. Cambridge University Press; 2020;:1–6.
  3. Levin A. COVID-19: Psychiatrists in Battle Mode to Help Patients, Public During Crisis. American Journal of Psychiatry. Published online March 25, 2020. doi: 10.1176/appi.pn.2020.4a22
  4. Reger MA, Stanley IH, Joiner TE. Suicide Mortality and Coronavirus Disease 2019—A Perfect Storm? JAMA Psychiatry. Published online April 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.1060
  5. Silva AG, Miranda DM, Diaz PA, Teles ANS, Fernandes MD, Palha AP. Mental Health: why it still matters in the midst of a pandemic. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry. 2020. doi: 10.1590/1516-4446-2020-0009.
  6. Xiang Y, Jin Y, Cheung T. Joint International Collaboration to Combat Mental Health Challenges During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online April 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.1057
  7. Wind TR, Rijkeboer M, Andersson G, Riper H. The COVID-19 pandemic: The ‘black swan’ for mental health care and turning point for e-health. Elsevier Mar 2020. 20.

About the author

Jade Lingiardi Altoé is a second-year medical student. Affiliated to IFMSA Brazil UniCesumar, and member of the Academic League of Family and Community Medicine (LAMFaC). Marcelle Lupi Gasparini, 18 years old, is a second-year medical student. Member of the Academic League of Mental Health of Unicesumar (LASMUC). Both perceive the importance of discussions about mental health and its great impact on society, especially in the training of qualified and human health professionals, capable of assessing the human being in its entirety. They believe that resilience is a way to overcome mental discomfort, and to lead a lighter life.

 

 

 

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