The most argued topic nowadays, all over the world, is how coronavirus is spreading quickly and how people can prevent it. Governments, doctors, nurses, and scientists said that the only way to avoid others from getting infected is staying safe at home without having contact with outsiders. But, are we prepared to stay in lockdown for who knows how long?
The MentalHealth.gov describes Mental Health as a chain of emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act, and it also helps to determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. It is extremely important in every stage of life. Most of the people know that achieving the total plenitude of Mental Health is nearly impossible, but even so, some think that can happen.
During quarantine, there are lots of things that we have to let go to stay safe, and that affects directly our emotions. All the routine that people once had is gone: they cannot go out, some of them are doing home office, schools and fitness centers are not working till the unknown time, shopping centers and night clubs are closed. In the beginning, it is easy to realize what we should do to keep our minds busy. You can finish the tv series that you have for so long ignored, clean the house, rearrange your furniture, sleep for a little longer or even do nothing. But it comes a time when our minds simply get tired of not having a routine. In that case, what can we do?
There is a help guide with six keys that helps to maintain mental health: social connection, staying active, managing stress, brain healthy-diet, quality sleep and meaning and purpose.
Social connection: Usually it is important to connect from people outside the internet, interact with someone in your job or school. In today’s scenario, we don’t have a choice other than connect with people using social media. Call your friends from work, video-chat your family or look for updates on Facebook or Instagram;
Staying active: When your body comes under stress or experiences pain, neurochemicals called endorphins are produced in the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Endorphins, which are structurally similar to the drug morphine, are considered natural painkillers because they activate opioid receptors in the brain that help minimize discomfort. They can also help bring about feelings of euphoria and general well-being. (CNN Health) And how can we produce endorphins? That are lots of activities that help you to release endorphins, such as laughing and meditation, but especially when you do exercises. That happens because endorphins don’t work alone: serotonin and norphenylephrine, two other feel-good neurotransmitters, are also released during workouts.
Managing stress: It is important to understand that there is nothing we can do right now other than staying at home. This will stress you at some point because you will be limited to do your activities. So, to manage your stress, it is important to create a routine while you in quarantine. You can manage your schedule by setting time to wake up, go to sleep, work out, do your work and do something you like;
Brain healthy-diet: The brain controls everything that the body does. For example, oily fish is known as a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Eating it will improve the structure of neurons. For those who love chocolate, dark chocolate contains cacao, which contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants are especially important for brain health, as the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases. Flavonoids are also related to encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning;
Quality of sleep: people spend about a third of their lives sleeping. Sleep is as important to our bodies as eating, drinking or breathing. Sleeping helps us to recover from mental. With that in mind, it is important to understand that quarantine is not like a vacation, we have to maintain our quality of sleep to be healthy, that means not sleeping late and waking up early;
Meaning and purpose: The book Man’s Search for Meaning, written by Swiss Psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl is not only a story about one man’s experience inside a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, but it’s also a story about Frankl’s theories about what helped some survive while many others perished. No doubt, the physical and environmental conditions were horrible, with lack of food and the threat of disease. However, the emotional state of the prisoners was also a factor in whether they lived or died. In fact, Frankl believed that our thoughts and beliefs about a situation are something we can always choose, regardless of our circumstances (theravive, 2014). Having a purpose and sticking to it may help us to lead our mental health through quarantine.
As can be seen, it is important to understand that even though many are showing in social media that they are okay, doing yoga to release their stress, having language classes and doing a great performance at the home office, that’s not the reality for most people. Some are struggling with anxiety and, for those, all we can do is give all the support we have, showing them that we are going to face this together and, faithfully, this pandemic will cease to exist.
Por Camilla Schettino