According to the Department of Health (DOH), the impact of COVID-19 goes beyond the immediate physical health and economic concerns. The pandemic is also causing an equally worrisome and growing psychological crisis.
DOH says at least 3.6 million Filipinos are suffering from mental health illnesses, neurological concerns, and substance use disorders during the pandemic. Some researchers suggest that this figure could possibly be higher.
Araneta City joined the World Mental Health Day this year by campaigning #YouMatter. In one of its activities psychologist Riyan Portuguez (from the Psychological Association of the Philippines, LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group) discussed in an online forum that the quarantine period and lifestyle changes have implications for our mental health and well-being.
We attentively jot down some of the implications of the pandemic to our mental health that she discussed. Hopefully, this can help you assess yourself and determine the possible implications that unconsciously affecting you.
According to Portuguez, one psychologist – Dr. Carol Lawrence – said that we are experiencing collective grief in this pandemic. This kind of phenomenon has created different kinds of losses to everyone – may it be financial losses, death of a loved one, a break-up, a job loss, name it.
This grievance increases the chances of our susceptibility to having mental health concerns. Now, most people can experience a lot of stress during this pandemic imposing a possibility to mismanage our distresses affecting our productivity.
The stress we are currently experiencing is also exacerbated by extended online exposure. The new working environment and work from home set-up now prolong our exposure to computers and gadgets causing online fatigue. Adults are only prescribed to be exposed to technological devices for four to five hours only per day.
Online fatigue can be marked by the withdrawal from social media platforms due to being burned out and exhausted. You will also feel tired of prolonged online communications and interactions. This is evident when even a little delay with the internet connection can agitate you.
The restriction of mass gathering has forced live entertainment venues, cinemas, and theaters to close making people resort to online streaming services for entertainment. Exposure to mobile devices is extended because of this adding to what might cause online fatigue.
We might also be experiencing adjustment problems because of the shift to remote work setting from the structured work routine we had before. Some people may find it difficult to determine now their personal life apart from their work life. This difficulty in having work-life integration can affect our relationships as well as our productivity.
Another implication of the pandemic is unhelpful thoughts brought by uncertainty. This health crisis bombards us with negative views, misconceptions, and misbelieves that affect our peace of mind. The earlier discussed collective grieving also induces negative ideas that can cause anxiety. These losses may affect our self-esteem and motivation.
We also experience fear and worry in a pandemic. Fear is a basic human emotion, a basic response to a certain situation, and is present-oriented. But once your fear is intensified and prolonged then it could be diagnosed as an anxiety symptom. A fear that has transgressed to being future-oriented, or being fearful of what might still happen and is not yet happening is an indication of anxiety.
WHAT WE CAN DO
Portuguez explained that encountering these issues are normal in the kind of set-up that the pandemic has produced. These are part of the process of coping-up with the changing environment and the uncertainty of the future brought by the health crisis.
She advised that if we are experiencing any of the above-mentioned implications, don’t immediately panic and pathologize. Don’t deny the experience because the more we deny it, the more we’ll be stuck within a loop. Instead, use these problems to your advantage. Face the problem head-on, experience it because it can help us strengthen our resiliency, emotional competence, and adaptability.
Portuguez advised taking small breaks in between tasks away from technological devices to minimize the risk of online fatigue. Managing well your time and your exposure to media can also help you relieve from exhaustion and stress.
Anxiety can induce physical symptoms like headaches, pounding of the heart, dizziness, stomach upset and diarrhea. Portuguez recommends to immediately seek help once you feel anxious.
Lastly, she finds it important to talk to your loved ones and to your social support. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a medical professional so you can have an accurate diagnosis. It is important to have someone with you in this crisis.
The National Center for Medical Health (NCMH) offers its 24/7 crisis and suicide services for a free and confidential consultation. Callers are received by mental health crisis responders and are referred to a hospital’s licensed psychiatrist if needed. The NCMH Crisis Hotline may be reached at 0917-899-USAP (8727) or (02) 7-989-USAP.
The online forum is in partnership with Bininibining Pilipinas and Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran (SPARK!) with the aim to raise awareness on the importance of mental health in this pandemic. To watch the whole forum, click this link: https://www.facebook.com/118850004031/videos/371990740848 537