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Be kind to your mind: How to take care of your mental health amid the pandemic?

COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on humankind, has shaken the world to its core and has brought the fast-moving life to a standstill. The pandemic, which began in early 2020, has affected all aspects of life in unprecedented ways. These aspects include health, finance, relationships and lifestyle. Many precious lives are lost, and those who survived have lost sources of income, loved ones and health. Such tough conditions put tremendous strain on the minds of the populace and affect their mental health. Isolation, a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy and irregular eating, change in daily routine, home-schooling of children, increased screen time and lack of physical activity affects our physical and mental health. 

One of the direct consequences of the pandemic is social isolation. As the pandemic spreads through human contact, people are forced to spend maximum time in the confines of their homes. Interaction with office colleagues, recreation with friends or a casual meet with relatives has been curtailed. The worst affected are the people who are already suffering from mental health conditions.  

Fortunately, there are many ways to improve our mental health and help others who need extra support. Let’s find out in this blog.

1. Healthy diet
The psychological effects of a pandemic influence our food habits in numerous ways. People who are already struggling with food disorders are the worst affected.  People tend to consume different foods, eat more or less than usual, and struggle with food insecurity.

Influence of food habits on our mental health.

Processed foods tend to adversely affect mental health and may lead to stress and depression. The way out is to replace unhealthy food with nutrient-rich and high-fibre foods, such as fruits and vegetables. These healthy foods increase healthy microbes in the gut and improve overall health. They may also shield you against depression, stress and anxiety. 

2. Sleep
A good night's sleep strengthens our body’s defences and heightens our brain functions. Disruption of daily life coupled with stress and anxiety experienced during pandemics has disturbed the sleep cycle of many. Those already struggling with sleep find their issues intensified.

How disrupted sleep cycles affect mental health?

Lack of sleep can cause or worsen feelings of depression, affects concentration, increases irritability and leads to fatigue. In some cases, it even reduces the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine. A sleep routine must be formed and followed strictly to prevent such a scenario. Wake-up time, bedtime and wind down time must be set and adhered to. 

3. Staying in touch   
Spending most of the time at home during the pandemic increases the feelings of loneliness. People directly affected by the pandemic i.e., people who have faced the loss of a loved one, financial loss and any form of illness including Covid 19 are at a greater risk of feeling isolated, lonely and helpless. Keeping in touch with your friends, family, and neighbours can reduce the feeling of loneliness and helplessness. Make use of technology and connect them through calls, video calls and social media. Interacting with your loved ones who show care and concern for you can uplift your mood and cheer you up. 

4. Exercise
The home quarantine has made our life sedentary and our bodies lethargic. Inactivity coupled with unhealthy food habits and lack of sleep can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. Physical activity and exercise can be effective treatment strategies to overcome these.

Physical activity improves mental health

Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and exercise elevates self-esteem, improves concentration, reduces depressive symptoms, and improves sleep. Coupling physical activity with pranayama, mindfulness and meditation add to the benefits.  

5. Do something you love
Indulging in creative hobbies, social work, and therapeutic activities (gardening, animal care, teaching etc.) can have a positive effect on our minds. Taking up activities we love can help us regain a sense of control and boosts our self-confidence.  

It might take some time, effort and experiment for an individual to adjust to the new norms of the pandemic. Taking things slowly, setting realistic goals, eating a nutrient-dense diet, working out can help better mental health. 

The psychiatry department of A. J. Hospital

The psychiatry department of A. J. Hospital is devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, study, and treatment of various mental disorders. These include various abnormalities related to mood, behaviour, cognition, and perceptions. 

Note: For emergencies related to mental health contact your nearest hospital.