Mental health is one of those things that we hear about more and more, but don’t really stop and think about it until it’s on our doorstep. We carry on through life doing what we need to do. Looking after family, working, socialising, paying the bills. We often don’t think about the stresses and strains our brains go through, to deal with everything we ask it to do. Yet, in this current time, where the impact of coronavirus is having such a massive impact on our lives, it’s important and necessary to take care of our mental health. The virus potentially could be having indirect as well as direct consequences on you.
We ask ourselves to deal with so many different things that can be difficult, stressful, emotional and for most of the time we get on with them without any concern. This is because we develop mental tools as we grow up, to cope with life. These tools are often enough to help us happily move through life each day, managing difficult times as they come.
Sometimes though the thoughts and feelings we have, can begin to get out of control. We may be struggling with work, or the relationships in our life. We may be unhappy with who we are and how we are living our life. There may be trauma from the past or addictions to deal with. Money, health, homes, kids, cars, the future, essentially anything can begin to cause problems.
The energy from the issues we have, builds up to the point where it may begin to affect how we think, feel and behave each day. This is where the pressure on our mental health can really start to increase.
Then something like coronavirus comes along and you don’t stop to think about the effects of the virus on your mental health, because the focus is on what it does to our physical bodies. However, the fear of contracting the virus, the anxiety of getting provisions, being alone from self-isolation, not being outside in the social world can cause indirect problems. This can cause your already full capacity bucket to overflow.
This is the point where it would be useful to talk to someone, but that’s not easy at the best of times. We can often feel embarrassed about talking intimately about our personal life. We might feel some shame about doing something that’s got us into a particular situation. We might feel that no one will really understand us, or we might feel that what we have to say isn’t that important. People can therefore potentially be locked away in their heads, trying to deal with very powerful negative thoughts and this can be very dangerous.
Now with the impact of self-isolation or quarantine from coronavirus for weeks or months, talking and interacting with people has got even more difficult. This creates issues that a lot of people have never had to think about.
It's important to be mindful of the impact social isolation can have, and if you can, guard against it. Take action, to interact in a safe way, with the people in your life. For most people, the effects of the virus are temporary, and life will get back to normal in due time.
Working as a listening volunteer for the charity Samaritans, I came up close with the impact social-isolation can have. I spoke to people who had no one in their life, were never visited or spoke to others. What I was often left with from speaking to these lonely people, was the coldness, fear and hopelessness of their situation. What we are all going through right now, being isolated and alone, is what some people live with every day of their life. This kind of isolation can have massive detrimental effects on a person's mental health. Hopefully, the experience of self-isolation or quarantine which many are now going through, may create some change in attitudes to support and understand people who live isolated all the time.
It is absolutely essential as social beings that we have social interaction; we have developed over thousands of years to be sociable. A study in 2004 showed that socialising is good for brain health, helping to improve memory and cognition. Talking to people helps with wellbeing and decreases feelings of depression.
So, it’s important where possible, to call or start online video chats with family, friends and neighbours. Conversations like this are important to help people talk about what they are going through and unload some of the negative thoughts and feelings that they are experiencing.
So, communicate, as it can prove helpful to your mental health and the ones you love, during this difficult period in our lives.