Pandemics have proven to be triggers or threats to most people’s mental wellbeing as evidenced by the anxiety, confusion, depression, and loneliness that people suffer from during these dire times. It is easy to concentrate on physical health and neglect your mental health in times like these. As much as it is important to take precautions to avoid contracting the virus, it is also of paramount importance to take care of your mental health. As the spread of COVD-19 has been declared a pandemic after reaching at least 152 countries as of March 26, 2020, Zimbabwe has not been spared.
by Fadzai N. Mathabire
The local government, in support of relative international organizations and boards have been doing what they can to reduce the spread of the virus and try and curb the outbreak. To that effect, the President of Zimbabwe called for a 21-day total shutdown from Monday the 30th of March 2020. This means that all social activities which for some were the source of sanity are no longer available to fill up the social gap. For some, the daily work routines have not changed but the conditions have become somewhat stressful. This article aims to highlight a few ways to keep your mind healthy during these tough times whether at home or at work.
Staying at home?
It is hard enough to break a habit and start new routines, what more to be ordered to do so to save your life and help preserve the health of your loved ones? As the government declared a 21-day lockdown in Zimbabwe from the 30th of March 2020, it is common to feel anxious, not in control, uncertain about your job and the financial implications, bored, lonely or even depressed. If you have felt any of the above, you should know you are not alone as studies have proven that this is pretty common in such difficult situations and also during lockdowns. So don’t worry, ease up and make the best of your time at home. Here are a few ways you can try and adopt during the 21 days lockdown to manage your mental well being:
- Stay in touch with your support system
A social support system is important for mental wellbeing. Whether its friends, family, co-workers, professional mental health service providers, church members or pastors, your support system can have an influence on how you handle challenges like the COVD-19 lockdown. It is, however, important to maintain conversations that are positive and encourage each other through this tough time.
- Avoid overloading and overwhelming yourself with information on the outbreak
It is easy to obsess over COVD-19 news as it has become easy to access and you suddenly have plenty of time you had not planned for. Loading yourself with too much information can make you feel more anxious and all the tragic stories can make you feel like the pandemic is getting closer to your doorstep with each moment. It is also important that when you do take up the information you consume it from reliable sources like WHO, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Get yourself some entertainment
With all social events canceled, it is hard to figure out what to do with most of the time you would otherwise have been spending with your ‘circles’. Adding a bit of entertainment on your to-do list is not a bad idea. There is no reason to feel guilty about it, find time to enjoy your favorite film, theatre or music. Thanks to technology, we have virtual entertainment ready on various social media platforms. A lot of artists, such as John Cole and Pineapple have lined up some live events and have also prepared some interesting content so tune in. This could be your first time to appreciate and support local entertainment.
- Establish a daily routine
It may not sound important, but building a certain routine that you follow during the lockdown can help you feel in control and keep you grounded. Having to change your daily routines and stay at home against your own will may be tough on you emotionally. It would help to lay down how you will spend your days, make plans with set times to avoid feeling like you are wasting time. If possible find ways to incorporate your usual normal day activities into it, for example, wake up the time you normally would allow yourself to work for almost the same hours you would and set time to catch up with your people and add in more activities that you enjoy.
- Challenge yourself
If there is something you have always wanted to do like, for example, a language you always wanted to learn, a topic you always wanted to research on, a diet you wanted to try or the body you wanted to have, now is the time to go for it. You can set yourself up for a 21-day or 15-day or 3-day challenge and see the results. That way you will look back after this lockdown and be proud of yourself. You don’t have to do it alone, you can join others for support and motivation to reach the target. If you haven’t done so yet, you can start a campaign online or join the ones that are there. That can be a fun way to challenge yourself and others towards a good cause.
Do you still have to go to work?
Due to the nature of the job, some “essential employees” still have to keep going to work during the lockdown. From the health care providers, law enforcers, public service staff, energy industry employees, some transport employees, communication and information to waste management employees. They have to serve while others lock themselves up at home, their families wait up feeling like the virus could get to their doorstep at any time – to these brave men and women, just know you are appreciated!. We have heard tragic stories of infected patients and walking in the streets feels like you are one breath away from getting infected. It’s normal to feel scared, anxious, unappreciated and confused. The following practices may help you manage your daily stresses:
- Stay physically protected
Making sure that you are physically protected and taking all the prescribed precautionary measures we have been receiving like keeping your hands sanitized, avoiding to touch your face, doing respiratory exercises to check how you are doing and keeping that one-meter social distance among other things. Knowing you are doing all you can to safeguard your physical health helps to keep your mind relaxed.
- Try to minimize gossip and hearsay stories on the topic
It’s easy to find yourself stuck up in conversations about who has the virus and how tragic someone else’s story was with your co-workers. Tolerating and spreading rumors doesn’t help as it increases your panicking and may also trigger the same or worse emotions in your colleagues. Having regular conversations that you would have in a normal situation can help you keep a friendly work environment.
- Keep calm and don’t panic
This may not be easy but try to keep yourself calm at all times. It is important not to panic because if you do, it may challenge your physical health, for example, you may experience shortness of breath, collapse or start feeling like you have the COVD-19 symptoms too. Find whatever keeps you calm, be it Bible verses, affirmations, words of wisdom, music or calling someone to make sure that you get to a peaceful state. Prepare yourself for moments you may be afraid of like, for example, someone coming in who is showing symptoms. Consult your superiors on the best way to handle such a situation and rehearse it if you need to so that you can feel in control. Stay positive that you are fine and find solace in the fact that some people have survived it and it is not necessarily a death sentence.
- Stay in touch with your support system
This is necessary whether you are home or at work. It is necessary to keep in touch with people who get you going as you rely on them in monitoring your emotional state. During these tough times, don’t isolate yourselves totally but continue checking in with your friends, loved ones or whoever it is that is in your circle. If you don’t have a support system, start building one or find communities you can join online that resonate with your values. Remember not to compromise your values or let people change you negatively in the process. Be careful who you associate with.
In conclusion, whether you are staying home or going to work, try and guard your mental wellbeing in this tough time. Remember it is normal to feel stressed, depressed, anxious or scared and there are other people who feel exactly the same way. Guard your mental health and look out for those your care about too. If you have kids around, it’s important to give them information while filtering what they watch because you don’t want them panicking or feeling like it’s the end of the world. Help yourself where you can join online support groups if you feel like it and don’t hesitate to contact professional health service providers if you need professional help.
This information is courtesy of the Jibilika Ease-Up Campaign on mental health awareness. Feel free to share with us your mental health concerns and some copying skills which are working for you that could be helpful to others. The next article will be on “Managing Children’s Mental Health during a Lockdown” and we would love to have your contributions to it. If you feel the need to speak to a professional, contact us and we will direct you to one. You can contact us on Facebook: @jibilika, Instagram: @jibilika, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp: +263788951393. Let’s help each other Ease-Up. Stay safe, Stay healthy and Stay Creative.