The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has affected the nation's mental health adversely as people suffer isolation, stress, anxiety, depression and grief through bereavement, finanicial instability, health concerns and lockdown. Reported cases of depression in June 2020 were twice that of 2019 and as the year has passed, anxiety is becoming an increasing problem. The ever changing landscape and rules affecting people's work, relationships and economic situations has created uncertainly, a breeding ground for anxiety and fear. So much of our daily lives is beyond our control and confused messaging has created anger an resentment between groups who interpret rules differently.
All the things we usually do to proactively look after our mental health are much more difficult when we are supposed to be isolating and keeping physical distance, but during peiods of lockdown or high tier restrictions, this can be a particular challenge.
The 8 steps to better mental health still apply, but we have to be more creative in finding ways to practice them.
Through technology and incresed effort, it is still possible to connect with others, learn, be active, get out into nature, give back, eat well relax and sleep but we need to find new routines and the motivation to stick with them.
Why is it worse in the winter?
Vitamins and hormones
Seasonal affective disorder is already prevalent in any usual winter, as dismal weather and shorter days affect the mood of many people. Darkness and reduced exposure to sunlight result in a lack of vitamin D and seratonin, which can affect immunity and mood. We are more likely to contract irritating bugs and sniffled as well as more serious conditions and less likely to feel upbeat in the winter.
After nine months or more of lockdown, people are weary of the 'new normal'. They have had enough of feeling restricted, perhaps confined to a small space or unable to work. We must also remember that for some, home is not a safe space and incidences of domestic violence have increased of lockdown periods.
They miss their normal lives and routines and are longing to see friends and family again. Many people have not seen their loved ones for nearly a year, and for people at either end of theirlives, this can mean great change has occured in the meantime.
Of course people have suffered bereavement, but there are also other kinds of loss experienced this year. People feel the loss of missed occasions, perhaps a special birthday, wedding celebration, birth or religious festival, all of which we have had to celebrate with restrictions or cancel altogether.
We do not yet fully understand the long term implications of having contracted this virus but we are seeing reports of even young healthy people with long lasting health issues after they have recovered from the virus itsself. Covid can affect all of the body's organs, so even conditions which don't immediately seem Covid-related, could actually be caused by the virus. We need to be vigilant with new complaints and sympathetic to those who have taken longer to recover. Physical health and mental health are closely linked, problems in one area are likely to affect the other,
There are many conditions that people suffer from on an ongoing basis, which are agravated by cold or damp weather. Complaints such as arthritis, rhumatism, fibromyalgia, asthma, COPD and other lung conditions may be manageable in the summer but in winter are more serious. We may need to increase medication or adjust routines to accommodate increased levels of pain or reduced mobility.
What should we do?
Check in with others. Ensure they are feeling OK and assess their risk. Be supportive and empathetic to anyone who is struggling
There is a wealth of information available for how to manage certain conditions and operate in a Covid-safe way. Use reputable sources, not sociel media for your information and think about what adjustments you can make for the benefit of yourself and others.
Encourage others to be aware of and responsile for their own physical and mental health. Follow the advice given and be proactive so as not to reach crisis point.
Talk to someone who has the skills to respond in the right way. Friends are a good first port of call, but if they are not sympathetic of you feel they don't understand, seek other help. Lifeline Plus is a listening ear helpline service if you live in Cambridgehire and need to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Call 0808 8082121 between 2pm and 11pm. If you feel you need to talk to a counselling professional on a weekly basis for a few weeks, contact CCC. We subsidise help for anyone on a low income, or your employer may choose to fund your sesisons.
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