Li Yen Ho
Tackling mental health has already been an uphill battle for decades. Adding on cases of seasonal affective disorder, most prominent in the winter, can make a person feel dark and gloomy, even in what would be considered a normal year. In general, young adults aged 18-25 are most susceptible to mental illness, though specifics depend on a person’s environment, family history, and cannot be blindly generalized. The stress, anxiety, and fear present in the COVID-19 pandemic only add to the brew of mental illnesses. A person can easily slide down the slope of depression or anxiety, protected from physical illness but thrust into an environment of mental ones.
With everyone at home and social distancing, regular routines and habits have deteriorated and fallen to the wayside. People go to sleep and wake up at unruly times. Sleep schedules splinter, then dissolve entirely, bolstering depression and unhappiness. Without the sense of schedule, a person’s sense of purpose wears down. Furthermore, without a person’s family and friends for support, they feel increasingly disconnected from the world and society.
A more direct result of coronavirus falls in the fear of susceptible friends and family contracting coronavirus and being hospitalized. With a constant influx of frightening statistics and news of death rates and virus mutation rates, a person can be consumed with fear for themselves and their loved ones.
The missing of life events, including birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, can also affect a person’s mental health. Family meetings during Thanksgiving and large gatherings during Christmas are traditional for many and missing out on these events that celebrate happiness and togetherness can make a person feel lonely and disconnected.
To help with attacks by mental illness in the short term, calm breathing is a technique to bring a person’s mind back to focus, probably the most basic technique at that. The “5-4-3-2-1” has also helped many people. Think of 5 things you can see, 4 things around you that you can touch, 3 things around you that you can hear, 2 things that you can smell, and 1 thing that you can taste.
Establishing a consistent schedule, keeping and modifying traditions, such as family gatherings, will help in the long term. Making time for socializing (while socially distanced) by going on walks or having a conversation can make everyone feel more comfortable and connected.