I came home tired from the university, threw myself on the bed and took a deep breath. With so many pending tasks on my mind, I felt drained out of energy and was craving for a long break. But what was about to happen next (in the form of COVID-19 quarantine) was not something I desired or had imagined in my wildest dreams. I turned on the TV and found out about the closure of educational institutions due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Within a few days, the crisis spread panic in the country and everyone began to gather necessary items in their homes in order to prepare for the lockdown.
This was followed by the shortage of masks and sanitizers which further seemed to announce how life as we knew it was about to change.
News, full of scary stories as to how this virus was causing the collapse of world’s finest health systems, was all over TV. Economies were going down. The whole world had come to a halt. This all seemed like a scene from one of those Hollywood based World War movies where everything comes to a sudden stop. But unfortunately, unlike the enemies in movies, we were faced with an invisible one in real life.
At first it seemed that the only problem was the virus and the crumbling economies but there was a painful hidden effect waiting, which no one had predicted. The hidden effect was none other but the deteriorating mental health of the collective global population. Panic combined with lack of freedom to go out created an aura of stress and uncertainty.
The isolation imposed by quarantine left students like me feel that they had no control over the situation and they felt disconnected from the rest of the world. Time seemed to creep by much more slowly after being confined to the homes. Even if staying at home offered more time with our family members, the sense of isolation and cabin fever always remained very alive.
A review in The Lancet analyzed the results of past studies to get a better idea of how COVID-19 may impact those who are quarantined.
The review found that psychological distress is common both during and after the periods of quarantine. People commonly experienced:
- Post-traumatic stress symptoms
- Depressive symptoms
- Low mood
- Emotional disturbance
- Emotional exhaustion
The fear in the atmosphere combined with social distancing is proving detrimental for the mental health of many. The urge to get back to normal life and to live freely once again is creating restlessness. Quarantine is making me feel like being in a self-created prison.
Some of the stress of being quarantined stems from boredom and frustration. Finding ways to stay occupied is important, so try to maintain as many of your routines as you can. Keep working on projects or find new activities to fill your time, whether it’s organizing your closet or trying out a new creative hobby. Getting things done can provide a sense of purpose and competency.
Things to do to remain positive during the COVID-19 quarantine period
Eat regular meals and exercise
Make sure that you eat healthy and regular meals and do not forget to exercise because it will keep you active and will lighten up your mood.
Stay connected with loved ones
Check-in with friends and family each day by phone. Use different forms of communication including phone, text, email, messaging and video call. Try supporting others; reassure a friend who is feeling stressed out or worried.
Structure your day
Plan your day. Set a routine and work accordingly. Having a plan as to how to spend your day and then meeting your targets will make you feel accomplished and will keep you busy.
Not having a plan will lead to wasted time, which might lead to a sense of futility and despair.
If you have office work or online classes then do not perform these tasks from the comfort of your bed. Try to arrange a desk and chair so you can sit attentively and feel purposeful because performing these tasks while lying on bed will make you feel unproductive.
Have a reserved list of activities for days when you do not feel active and productive or are in a low mood. You then force yourself to perform these set activities and this will lighten up your mood. This therapy is called behavioral activation.
Things to avoid during the COVID-19 quarantine period
Do not use your mobile phone immediately after waking up
According to Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, an American Psychiatrist, “Immediately turning to your phone when you wake up can start your day off in a way that is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed.”
By checking social media, email or messaging right after waking up, you let other people’s opinions, requests, and advertising into your mind, which pollutes your thinking.
Your thoughts, ideas and focus are immediately hijacked by the new messages, emails and notifications that you’ve received. In other words, your mind will be occupied with other people’s agenda — not your own!
Instead of starting your day proactively focusing on your own goals, you’re being forced to react to other people’s stuff.
Think about it; you wouldn’t let hundreds of people into your house, blasting their requests and opinions at you. So why would you let them into your mind through a device?
According to Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, “The information overload that hits [you] before you’re fully awake interferes with your ability to prioritize tasks.”
Take a break from the media coverage of the pandemic
Seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried.
Do not use mobile phones before going to bed
Checking your phone stimulates the brain so we are more active and awake. The blue light from the screen suppresses melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle. So when your body runs low on it, you can experience insomnia, tiredness during the day and irritability. All these factors result in a lack of peaceful and relaxing sleep.
Undoubtedly this crisis is a big one but we will have to stabilize our emotions in order to protect our mental health. We are in this together and we will fight this together. In this increasingly challenging time we need to become each other’s strength.
How are you coping up with this COVID-19 quarantine routine? Tell us in the comments below!