Maintaining Mental Health During COVID-19

by Lucy Sokol ’21

Losing jobs. Losing loved ones. Lack of food. Lack of medical care. You name it and people during this pandemic have fears about it. While we cannot help but keep our eyes glued to new announcements, we must be aware of the dangers this pandemic has on mental health. Whether you have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or none of the above, everyone is experiencing some sort of impact on their mental health. 

A poll published by the Kaiser Family Foundation states that 45 percent of adults (53% of women and 37% of men) say the pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19 percent say it has had a “major impact.” But those statistics only apply to adults in the United States. What about adolescents? While there is no direct data on this pandemic’s mental impact on American teenagers, it can be inferred from social media that teenagers have been hitten hard mentally.  

Everyone has experienced some form of isolation as it can intensify depression, anxiety,  and posttraumatic stress disorder as well as increase domestic violence and drug consumption. Looking a little bit closer, statistics show that anxiety has taken the biggest toll of people’s mental health. 

 “Anxiety feeds Anxiety,” states the Australian Academy of Science. That is exactly right; people’s anxiety has worsened due to other people’s worry over COVD-19. It makes sense; the world is changing drastically as many people become more in danger. People worry over their health, their financial losses, long isolation periods, etc. 

 In a recent dream survey conducted by Deirdre Leigh Barrett, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, many people during quarantine have been receiving  very weird and vivid dreams. People have noted their dreams consisted of dead bodies, watching friends or themselves die, as well as other terrifying yet surreal events. Research has explained this dream trend was very similar to people’s dreams after 9/11 due to major stress and anxiety. 

This general anxiety eventually leads to panic. We all know if you go down the cleaning and toilet paper aisle in every grocery store, it will be empty or close to it. But why? Enrico Quarantelli, a sociologist who wrote an article titled, “The Nature and Conditions of Panic,” dives deeper into human behavior during disasters. “Panic, rather than being antisocial, is a nonsocial behavior,” Quarantelli said. “This disintegration of social norms … sometimes results in the shattering of the strongest primary group ties.” During COVID-19, people fear of not having enough resources for their household turns so they start grabbing everything they can their hands on. This is dangerous. Having a massive inventory might feel reassuring, but what about the people who were not able to get any of it? 

The most effective coping mechanism for anxiety and panic is staying active. Staying in bed and doing nothing is horrible for your anxiety as your mind wanders off to the darkest thoughts. Working out, reorganizing your room or your house, solving a puzzle, or even playing with your pets can help take your mind away from the stressful outside world. 

Mental health is incredibly crucial these past few weeks. Check in on your friends, your family, and most definitely yourself.