Impact of COVID-19  |  Self-Care

Self-care, Short Breaks and Stay Active:Ways to Improve Mental Health During COVID-19

BY LEE YEE SHUAN

20 May 2020  |   4 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our daily routines, causing stress and anxiety in people worldwide. The resulting measures to tackle the virus such as staying home and the uncertainty of how long it will last may lead to mental health concerns, as people experience social isolation and worry for the health of their families.

Many also fear the loss in income, as many industries are hit and businesses halted. This leads to even more anxiety. If the COVID-19 lockdown is prolonged, continued disruption to routines may even trigger depressive episodes.

Here’s how various groups of people can uplift their mental well-being.

Working adults

The economic disruption drives uncertainty. For working adults who may also be part of the sandwich generation, loss of jobs and a drop in income can greatly impact mental health. Working at home also results in social isolation and loneliness, adding to apprehension and anxiety.

To maintain mental wellness, it is important to keep ourselves hydrated, adopt a healthy diet, sleep well and stay active. Taking short breaks in between to stretch, practise mindfulness and connect with your social network, also helps.

For frontline healthcare professionals facing increased workloads and potential exposure to the virus at work, as well as physical exhaustion from long shifts, the Mind Science Centre (MSC) has been working with the National University Health System to provide resources to manage their stress levels.

Parents, Children and Adolescents

As children adopt home-based learning and a large proportion of adults work from home, parents suddenly have to juggle daily work commitments with supervising their children. Establishing a regular schedule can help retain control to make time for meals, work-study timetable, as well as for self-care so as to relax and recharge.

The MSC Youth Epidemiology and Resilience study team has crafted a mental health-themed bingo to inspire youths staying at home. This encourages digital social interaction, and people can challenge themselves to engage in as many of these activities as possible for better mental health.

Seniors

Medical reports have indicated that seniors, especially those with underlying medical conditions, are more vulnerable and susceptible to the coronavirus. As such, seniors have been advised to stay at home and go out only if necessary. The prolonged social isolation of seniors, if not carefully monitored, may pose adverse effects to their psychological and physical health that may last beyond COVID-19.1

It is heartening that the community is reaching out to and engaging seniors through technology. In some situations, they conduct home visits to seniors living alone to render assistance2. To let seniors know that they are not alone in this pandemic, the MSC is reaching out to them through our Age Well Everyday community programme, which offers tips on staying active at home, as well as mindfulness videos done in collaboration with People’s Association Active Ageing programme.

Caregivers

As senior activity centres are temporarily closed and respite services limited, caregivers face increasing challenges in caring for their loved ones. The possibility of catching the virus while seeking treatment in a hospital or medical facility also causes added anxiety, especially when loved ones with dementia or mental health issues may not be fully cognisant of COVID-19 and the measures in place to combat the virus.

During this period, it is important to practise self-care, take regular breaks, and to be kind to yourself and your loved ones. Support to caregivers is available through the Agency for Integrated Care Hotline at 1800 650 6060.

The contributor is an Executive at the Mind Science Centre at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

References

  1. The Lancet, Covid-19 And The Consequences Of Isolating The Elderly, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(20)30061-X/fulltext
  2. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/covid-19-loneliness-isolation-among-elderly-safe-distancing-12611158