Does Social Distancing Affect Mental Health?
The pandemic has sure left us with various reasons to adjust, and social distancing is one of the ways we are responding to these tough times. As necessary as it is for our physical health, it sure has its downsides on our mental health if not well managed. So let`s discuss some of the effects of social distancing on mental health.
5 Ways Social Distancing Affects Mental Health
Risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Distressing events such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, sexual assault, accidents, mass shootings, and of course, a global pandemic put people at risk of PTSD. The coronavirus pandemic is particularly traumatic because of the fear that many have for it. It`s also not surprising to find many people struggle with social distancing because it’s relatively new to us. A number of people are at risk of PTSD for a number of reasons such as loss of loved ones, collapsed business, a suddenly modified lifestyle, among other reasons. There also many cases of burnout from a long period of lockdown with family, some of whom are abusive.
Risk of Agoraphobia
It is not unlikely to find many develop anxiety towards going out as a result of the pandemic. A number of people are worried about their health and safety at this time, so the idea of going out again makes them anxious.
Risk of Depression
A number of people have experienced a sharp decline in social support as a result of social distancing. This has exposed them to the risk of various mental health problems, including depression. Not many people have got used to getting social support virtually, however, that seems to be our only medium for social support and other life engagements. Even for those who have got used to it, they testify that virtual support doesn`t feel the same as physical connections. Poor social connections have led to depression, loneliness, alcohol, and drug abuse.
Risk of Suicide
There has been a rise in suicide attempts these past few months of the coronavirus. This is as a result of the loss of family and friends, economic recessions, and business downturns.
Risk of Mental Health Decline for Children
Social distancing has come with its challenges for children too. The difference in schooling, the new form of social interactions, and, for some, exposure to domestic violence has been detrimental to their mental health.
Symptoms of Mental Health Decline
Symptoms of mental health decline vary among people, however, here are the common ones:
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Excessive or extremely food intake
- Persistent ugly thoughts and memories
- Constantly low energy
- Inability to do or complete simple tasks
How to Protect your Mental Health While Maintaining Social Distance
Start your Day with a Cup of Tea or Coffee
Did you know that moderate coffee consumption lowers the risk of depression? Wake up to a cup of hot coffee to set your mood right for the day. If caffeine isn`t safe for you, then you may drink some green tea instead.
Engage in Creative Activities
Do you write, draw, cook, paint, sing? Just get engaged in some creative task to keep your self busy and improve your mood. Creative expressions have a way of boosting mental health and overall well-being.
Be Deliberately Grateful
It`s quite easy to notice how many things are going wrong at this time, however, that doesn`t take away the fact that good things are still happening. By all means, notice these good things and celebrate them. One of the ways to be deliberately grateful is documenting your successes, no matter how little. Keep a gratitude journal and write your wins as they come. This will make you see fewer losses and make you grateful.
Eat Dark Chocolate
Eat dark chocolate once in a while to boost your mood and brainpower. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, theobromine, and caffeine that improve mental skills, alertness, and ward off mental health issues.
Well, it’s true that you may not find many things funny anymore, however, you still need to make yourself happy somehow. Find reasons or content that will make you laugh. See comic videos, video call your friends or just have a good time with your immediate family.
Eat the Right Food
You probably didn`t know that the food you eat has some effects on your mental health. People who eat more carbohydrates release serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone. Of course, moderate consumption is key because carbs in high amounts can cause excessive energy levels, and that has its side effects.
Debunking Mental Health Myths
Myth: Children Don’t Experience Mental Health Problems
Fact: Mental health conditions are not restricted to people of certain ages. In fact, half of all mental health disorders show their first signs before a person turns 14, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24. The challennge many have is that they don`t pay attention to these signs, or don`t see help early.
Myth: People with Mental Illnesses Are Violent
Fact: Actually, majority of people with mental health problems are not likely to be more violent than anyone else. Studies show that only 3% to 5% of violent acts can be attributed to people living with a severe mental illness. What`s more, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than others. So ironically, people who thinkn they have a phobia for mental illness patients actually don`t because they know some of these patients without knowing their conditions; and the reson is simple: these patients don`t exhibit the stereotypical symptoms people ascribe to mental health patients.
Myth: People with Mental Health Issues Can`t Keep a Job
Fact: Well, contrary to popular opinion, people with mental health problems can be as productive as others. They too can have records of excellent work, good attendance, punctuality, just like their others.
Some Mental Health Facts
- One in five Americans has experienced some form of mental illness.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world and accounts for over 800,000 deaths globally every year.
- The rate of mental health disorders doubles for people who have lived through a major disaster.
- Contrary to popular belief, mental illness patients are rarely violent; only 3-5% of violent acts are attributed to people with severe mental illness.
- Genetics, illness, injury, and traumatic life experiences are common causes of mental illness.
- Only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental illnesses receive treatment.
- Treatment for mental health problems can include OTC medication, meditation, therapy, yoga, among other diverse options.
- Paying quick attention to trauma can prevent mental health disorders, especially in children and adolescents.
- 50% of adults in the U.S. who have had a problem with substance abuse also suffer from mental illness.
- One in 10 young people has experienced major depression.
- Members of the LGBTQ community are twice as likely as straight people to suffer mental illnesses.
- Mental illnesses can affect people of any race, religion, age, or social class.
Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
Now that you Know…
So while we keep maintaining social distance, you can safeguard your mental health and make the best of the new normal. Practice the tips you just read and watch your mental health improve.