How to maintain mental health in times of pandemic

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(Nick Fewings, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Mariana Bussaneli Martins and Ana Flávia Cury Ivantes, two fourth-year medical students at a university in southern 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.


The World Health Organization defines health as a situation of perfect physical, mental and social well-being. In times of pandemic, this concept is more important, not only because of the daily care against the risk of infection, but also for the psychological well-being of the population. Currently, COVID-19 shows this importance, with the implementation of Quarantine as a way to fight the pandemic, the population has shown difficulty in dealing with distance and fear. Studies show that people in isolation can manifest general psychological symptoms, emotional disturbances, depression, stress, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, exhaustion and post-traumatic stress symptoms. These manifestations are directly linked to quarantine time, the fear of acquiring the disease or infecting others, frustration or boredom due to the loss of routine and restrictions on common activities, as well as the recurring concern of running out of basic supplies. The information shared by the press can also be a trigger for psychological changes and the dissemination of news always linked to the uncertainty of ending the quarantine or death, causes greater anxiety and fear.

Given these circumstances and the need for isolation, the population must seek daily measures to take care of mental health. Even with distance, it is important to stay connected with friends or family, a situation facilitated by current technological means, such as cell phones with video calls. In addition, it is necessary to establish a new routine, seeking relaxing, creative and interactive activities helps to work the mind and keep it busy. Many companies, schools and colleges have implemented remote activities, this situation makes it possible to create this routine on top of these commitments, especially in the case of children. The creation of playful and educational games for children is an important option for parents, providing physical and mental stimulation even away from schools.

Maintaining a healthy routine is also relevant, highlighting physical activity as a preventive factor for physical and mental health. During home confinement, people are more likely to adopt a sedentary routine, favoring weight gain and the appearance or worsening of comorbidities and psychosocial disorders. The home environment is conducive to carrying out activities, doing exercises with the aid of online video lessons, training on social networks or paid packages, using household items is a way to put this habit into practice, as well as cleaning or daily organization of the environment, play with children or pets and take time to meditate, relax and stretch. Food should also be regulated, not overdoing fatty or sweet foods and giving preference to a balanced diet helps in strengthening the immune system.

The psychological impact in the quarantine is evident, and therefore self-care measures are essential. Thus, acquiring healthy habits in addition to providing a better quality of life to the individual also contributes to minimize the risks of acquiring any disease.

References

1.Segre, M.; Ferraz, F. C.; The health’s concept. Rev. Saúde Pública, 31 (5): 538-42, 1997. [Accessed on 20 april 2020]. Available in: http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rsp/v31n5/2334.pdf

2.Brooks, S. K.; Webster, R. K; Smith, L. E.; Woodland, L.; Wessley, S.; Greenberg, N.; et al.; The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 2020 [Accessed on: 21 april 2020]. Available in: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30460-8/fulltext

3.Ferreira, M. J.; Irigoyen, M. C.; Colombo, F. C.; Saraiva, J. F. K.; Angelis, K.; Physically Active Lifestyle as an Approach to Confronting COVID-19. Arq. Bras. Cardiol., ahead of print  Epub Apr 09, 2020. [Accessed on 20 april 2020]. Available in: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0066-782X2020005006201&script=sci_arttext&tlng=pt

4.Universidade Federal de São Paulo UNIFESP. Quais os principais efeitos da pandemia na saúde mental? [Accessed on: 23 april 2020]. Available in:https://www.unifesp.br/reitoria/dci/noticias-anteriores-dci/item/4395-quais-os-principais-efeitos-da-pandemia-na-saude-mental

About the authors

Mariana Bussaneli Martins and Ana Flávia Cury Ivantes are fourth-year medical students at a university in southern Brazil. Mariana is a member of the academic league of Geriatrics and Gerontology and of the league of Angiology and Vascular Surgery. Ana is a member of the academic league of Gastroenterology, Maternal and Child Health and Oncology and Hematology. Both academics believe in a quality medical future, based on the growth of research and on person-centered medical care.

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