Social distancing doesn’t mean psychological distancing

Social distancing doesn’t mean psychological distancing

From Sohail Ahmad

Covid-19 is already having a profound effect on our way of life, with many healthcare professionals, mental health charities, and researchers concerning themselves over the impact the pandemic is having on people’s me...

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Covid-19 is already having a profound effect on our way of life, with many healthcare professionals, mental health charities, and researchers concerning themselves over the impact the pandemic is having on people’s mental health. Data collected from two surveys of 2,198 people across the UK by research charities MQ: Transforming Mental and Ipsos MORI in late March 2020 has revealed a worsening of people’s mental health. The surveys illustrated widespread experiences of, and concerns about anxiety, loneliness, and depression, among other conditions, particularly for those already suffering from mental illness prior to lockdown.  These growing psychological problems are influenced by increased isolation, interrupted work-life routine, fear of getting the virus, bereavement, job insecurity and a lack of social contact.But while companies and charities alike are finding ways to tackle mental health, it poses the question: what can we do to help ourselves achieve a healthy mind and body whilst at home under lockdown? 

This article aims to provide some coping mechanisms to help mediate these daily challenges and lessen the mental health burden

. Connecting with others

Socialising is very important to maintain a healthy mind and reduce anxiety. That’s why it’s no surprise that under social distancing measures, the Mental Health Foundation found almost a quarter of adults (24%) living under lockdown in the UK have felt loneliness. We are social people so it’s hard to keep to ourselves for long periods of time. But even in the context of social distancing, there are still ways to socialise.We live in a digital era, and with the help of technology, the internet and social media, there are many ways to maintain and nurture relationships such as having a phone call, Zoom chat, or simply writing an email. For those working from home and don’t need to travel, there is now extra time to fit in this socialisation. 

Balance free time with work time

This brings us to the next point: make sure to balance work time with relaxation. For those working from your living room or bedroom, it can be difficult to separate personal life from work. This can have a negative effect on concentration and work-efficiency. Therefore, it’s important to regain some control over your routine and create a structured day. Try creating strict time schedules and spaces for work with regular breaks. It may help to go to separate rooms to work and relax to avoid confusing these spaces. 

Keep the brain active. Learn a new skill

For those not working, lockdown can be a valuable time to take up a hobby and learn a new skill. Studies have shown that engagement in arts-based activities such as reading, poetry, dance and music are an effective tool for enhancing mental health wellbeing. According to the survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, 24% of people have been using such activities to help their mental wellbeing, including reading (8%), DIY and crafts (4%) and listening to music (3%). 

CBD

In recent years, there has been increasing research on the use of CBD (Cannabidiol) to support mental health.CBD is a compound present in the cannabis plant, yet unlike its well-known cannabinoid cousin, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), responsible for those wacky psychoactive effects, studies have shown that CBD oil does not have this effect and in fact aids both physical health and in treating anxiety and depression. This is achieved by its ability to boost the endocannabinoid system’s (ECS) capacity in our brain to regulate our appetite, mood, sleep and immune system by acting on the cannabinoid receptors that make up part of it.While it’s easy to add CBD to your food or drink, with the growth of the CBD industry, many products have become readily available including CBD infused tea and coffee. These products make it easy to regulate your CBD intake without the hassle of monitoring each dose. So next time you’re on Zoom with your friends, or finding anxious feelings are keeping you up all night, why not try a cup of CBD tea to help relieve your stress! 

Exercise and practising self-care

To maintain and build up mental health, it's important to recognise the symbiotic relationship between physical and mental wellbeing - both are very closely connected, and neither one is more important than the other, especially during this pandemic.Whilst keeping in line with social distancing guidelines, going outside and getting daily exercise, even for a short 30-minute walk, has a tremendous impact on the body and mind.  Physical exercise increases the production of endorphins in the brain, stimulating happiness and lowering levels of stress and anxiety. Additionally, getting into the ‘zone’ when exercising can even be described as a form of meditation as it helps to regulate thought-patterns and stay calmer. Linking back to the previous point, CBD oil has been recommended as a post-workout supplement. Studies have reported its benefits in reducing pain and inflammation, prolonging runner's high, lowering cortisol levels and improving sleep patterns, which in turn increases muscle growth and recovery. 

Reach out to healthcare professionals

While it’s still important to try out the methods mentioned above to alleviate anxiety and stress, if you are concerned about, or are suffering from mental illness then seek help. Already reports show a decrease in the number of patients seeking mental health services. A survey of 1,369 psychiatrists carried out between 1st and 6th May by The Royal College of Psychiatrists highlighted ‘’45% of psychiatrists have seen a fall in their most routine appointments, leading to fears of a ‘tsunami’ of mental illness after the pandemic’’. By not seeking action, this can lead to an increased number of untreated mental health cases, and with that, a greater chance a mental health crisis will occur in the future, further overwhelming the NHS.  Therefore, it is crucial that those suffering from mental illness reach out to mental health professionals. For contact information of some mental health charity hotlines, please look below. 

Anxiety UK has extended it helpline hours to offer more assistance to those who need itWebsite: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

The Help Hub is a free online platform set up by professional therapists to support vulnerable individuals feeling isolated due to Covid-19. Website: https://www.thehelphub.co.uk/Young Minds is UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health. Click here to read up on tips, advice and guidance provided by the charity. 

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