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Part of taking care of yourself in this pandemic is tending to your mental health. COVID-19 has affected our work, studies, and lives and it inevitably led to unprecedented amounts of stress and anxiety to everyone, including our medical practitioners. Despite the country’s effective management of the virus, general practitioners working on the frontline said that the generalised anxiety is putting a strain on the country’s mental health services. According to Dr. Bryan Betty of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, there’s been a 15%-20% rise in the need for psychiatric help.
“Mental health has been an ongoing issue for years now, so this pandemic has really come in over the top and exacerbated these long-standing issues,” says Dr. Betty in an interview with the Guardian. People are really distressed.
There may be a long waitlist for most specialist services right now, but remember that it’s possible to take care of your mental health, even while at home.
Fortunately, technology has allowed us to easily reach out to our relatives and friends even back during our strictest lockdown. Social media, email, and video calls have really helped us stay connected with our work and our loved ones. Now that things have relaxed a bit, it’s even more important to build a “support bubble” to keep our health and social connections going. The term originated in New Zealand and was then adopted in the UK and other parts of the world after being introduced in the BBC health news.
Staying connected with the people important to us can help us regularly check in on them and find the support we need from each other.
Caring for your body can do wonders for your mental health! During this period of recovery, it’s essential to stick to good routines we’ve built regarding food, exercise, and regular sleep. The Ministry of Health also recommends aiming for at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity throughout the week. Sit up less and move around more when taking a short break from meetings.
Regular physical activity can really break the stress-feedback loop in the brain, helping both mind and body relax. It reduces tension, which eases the feelings of aggression and frustration that we may be feeling in these troubling times.
It’s important to keep ourselves informed of what's going on in our community, sure, but it’s also crucial to not let ourselves be overwhelmed with negative information coming in. Ohio State University psychologist John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D., explains that the brain works with a ‘negative bias’, as it’s simply built with a greater sensitivity to the bad news we hear.
Of course, this isn’t meant as a hit against the act of reporting negative news. After all, bringing up the bad things going on in our community can inspire action leading to positive changes. However, it is also essential to remind people that if you find yourself feeling too stressed out that it’s affecting your mindset, it’s okay to unplug for a bit. It always helps to put your mental health first, even if it means not being updated with the news all the time.
At the end of the day, these problems can just feel too difficult to handle just by ourselves. In that case, there’s no harm in seeking help from a professional that truly understands what you’re going through. And yes, the primary health care system may be burdened right now which makes finding mental health support a little difficult, but that doesn’t mean you should just ignore it either.
Health insurance providers out there have now included provisions that can help you receive the urgent mental health care you need. Remember that there’s always room to help a person suffering so you don’t have to feel alone. Don’t delay. Don’t be afraid to seek help today.
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