Pandemic mental health: the urgency of self-care

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(Melanie Wasser, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Leigh Nathalie da Silva and Ms. Maria Catarina de Cassia Quirino, two medical students at the State University of Londrina (UEL), located in Londrina, Paraná, Brazil. They are 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


A health crisis has never been more globalized than the new coronavirus pandemic. With today’s globalization, Covid-19’s frightening transmission potential is faced. Isolating oneself as a preventive measure, however, influences both the subjective precariousness of life, be it in the increase of fear, anxiety or family interpersonal conflicts, or in the development of existential self-knowledge, namely, in the intimate encounter of the self. Mental health, in this unprecedented case, becomes a potentially reducible burden with self-care strategies.

Many measures to improve the quality of life have been published in different social media, and of these, the need for routine sleep maintenance is highlighted. Deregulation of the circadian cycle can cause episodes of insomnia and drowsiness, both complex and difficult to quantify. Insomnia can cause functional damage and significant suffering, while drowsiness, accidents resulting from naps at inopportune hours. The consequences of lack of sleep act on at least three levels: 1) biological variables (tiredness, memory and attention deficit); 2) medial variables (increased risk of accidents that may be related to naps at the wheel) and 3) extensive variables (loss of employment, sequeals of accidents, worsening health problems) ².

The zeal for quality of sleep, combined with a balanced diet and the practice of physical exercises, corroborate with the Self-Care Theory. This theory, proposed by Nurse Dorothea E. Orem, deals with “[…] the practice of activities that individuals personally initiate and perform for their own benefit to maintain life, health and well-being” ³. All of these behaviors have a significant influence mental and physical health of the individual, and acquire greater relevance in times of pandemic, as they contribute to the willingness to carry out activities and to the construction of a new routine.

Another issue that deserves attention is the excess and inaccuracy of information about the pandemic and its implications. It is a true “infodemia”, as the director-general of the World Health Organization has described: a rapid and numerous dispersion of news and rumors, overloading the mental health of the population and generating anxiety, uncertainty and confusion about what is true or not4. To combat this reality, the main suggestions address the reduction of time devoted to viewing news and the reliability of information sources5. However, even if little time is spent searching for updates on the current situation, social networks do not allow total control over the quantity and quality of information. In order to minimize this misinformation, it is recommended to seek reliable sources, prioritizing newspapers and reference sites and, on social networks, profiles of government and health authorities.

In short, in the context of the pandemic, mental health is severely affected, making it a burden for many. Self-care practices, such as preserving the sleep routine, eating in a balanced way and exercising physically, can minimize the negative effects of this scenario and reduce this burden. Furthermore, maintaining balance in the search for information and valuing reliable information sources are measures recommended by specialists and have a positive impact on the quality of mental health.

References

[1] Martinez D, Lenz MCS, Menna-Barreto L. Diagnóstico dos transtornos do sono relacionados ao ritmo circadiano. J Bras Pneumol. 2008; 34:173–80. doi: 10.1590/S1806-37132008000300008.

[2] Müller MR, Guimarães SS. Impacto dos transtornos do sono sobre o funcionamento diário e a qualidade de vida. Estud Psicol (Campinas). 2007; 24:519–28. doi: 10.1590/S0103-166X2007000400011.

[3] Remor A, Brito IS, Petters VR, Santos EKA. A teoria do autocuidado e sua aplicabilidade no sistema de alojamento conjunto. Rev Bras Enferm 1986;39:6–11. doi: 10.1590/S0034-71671986000300002.

[4] Moraes RF. Nota Técnica n. 27: Prevenindo conflitos sociais violentos em tempos de pandemia: garantia de renda, manutenção da saúde mental e comunicação efetiva. Diretoria de Estudos e Políticas do Estado, das Instituições e da Democracia, Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada. 2020 apr. [cited 2020 apr 21]. Available from: https://newpaltz.edu/media/idmh/covid-19/IDMH%20COVID19%20Community%20Stress%20Management%20Tip%20Sheet%202020%20Final.pdf.

[5] Institute for Disaster Mental Health. Tips for Community Members. COVID-19: Managing Stress in this Anxious Time. New York;  2020 [cited 2020 apr 21]. Available from: https://newpaltz.edu/media/idmh/covid-19/IDMH%20COVID19%20Community%20Stress%20Management%20Tip%20Sheet%202020%20Final.pdf.

About the author

Leigh Nathalie da Silva is a third-time medical student at the State University of
Londrina (UEL), located in Londrina, Paraná, Brazil. She has been a member of IFMSA
Brasil since 2019 and is part of the Standing Committee on Public Health (SCOPH).
Passionate about literature and admirer of medicine, mainly pediatrics and cardiology.

Maria Catarina de Cassia Quirino is a student in the 5th period of Medicine at the State
University of Londrina (UEL). Member of IFMSA Brazil UEL since 2018, she has been
the local director of communication and media (LCMD) and is currently the Local
Financial Director (LDF) of the UEL committee. She is studying medicine for the sake
of her future profession, especially in the field of pediatrics and hopes that one day she
will be able to collaborate with her community.

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