With the worldwide pandemic, we are seeing more and more reports of preliminary evidence that suggests that symptoms of anxiety and depression are common psychological reactions in the population and among certain groups such as older adults and medical care providers. Because May is mental health awareness month, we thought it best to shed some light on the issues related to mental health and lockdown’s effects on mental health in South Africa.
There has also been reports of self-reported stress as well as sleep disturbance that can be linked to anxiety and depression. With the whole medical sector focused on fighting the disease, we have put other medical issues such as mental health aside to solely focus on the task at hand. not only do we have to endure the stresses of the unknown, we now are facing challenges of coping with the lockdown measures that have been put in place. The effects of self-isolation and the sudden changes in our daily routines have increased symptoms of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug abuse. It can be expected that suicidal thoughts and behaviours will rise due to the total compounding effect of a worldwide pandemic.
Dealing with the sudden loss of income or with the death of a loved one might also add additional amounts of stress on individuals and households alike. And patients with a history of mental health disorders who previously had frequent visits to their mental health clinic are now prohibited from seeing their respective medical practitioners which affect not only them but the loved ones who have now taken over the role of caring for them. The sad reality is that these family members are not equipped with the right medical knowledge to take care of loved ones suffering from mental health disorders, which could have detrimental effects on the patient and his or her recovery.
We are all too familiar with the physical benefits of exercise such as increased energy, reduced risk of heart diseases and lowering of blood pressure. But sometimes we forget that there are numerous mental health benefits attached to exercise to keep your state of mind happy and healthy and your memory sharp. Let’s look at the 5 psychological benefits of being physically active, below and we will briefly discuss each benefit.1. Anxiety and Depression
With the President announcing level 4 restrictions, we have some freedom to exercise outdoors. Although it should be done within a 5km radius of your home, we should not be looking a gift horse in the mouth. When the human body is physically active the brain releases “feel good” endorphins that are produced by the brain and spinal cord leaving you with a sense of euphoria and feelings of happiness. It’s been scientifically proven that exercise is a tried and tested mood booster, and it decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety dramatically over some time. Start by following a moderate exercise routine throughout the week.2. Reduces stress levels
Stress will silently take its toll if nothing is done to reduce stress levels. Something we can all benefit from at this point. Exercising increases your heart rate which minimizes the stress-induced damage by stimulating and releasing healthy chemicals in the body. The other benefit of exercise is that it forces your central-nervous system to communicate with one another which ultimately improves your ability to respond to stress.3. Improved self-confidence
From getting that summer body that you’ve always wanted to improve your endurance ability, all of these achievements leads to a boost of self-esteem and the natural confidence that comes with it. Setting personal goals and reaching them improves the body, mind and soul. The way you feel about yourself will have a huge impact on your mental health.4. Improves sleep cycles
If you are constantly stressed or anxious chances are that you are struggling to fall asleep at night too. Sleeplessness and stress go hand in hand in some cases but by following a well-structured exercise routine your body develops and regulates your circadian rhythm which serves as the bodies built-in alarm clock that controls when we feel tired and when we don’t.5. Improves Brainpower and memory
Research has proven that cardiovascular exercise stimulates and creates new brain cells which are advantageous in several ways such as improving memory and intelligence. The process is called neurogenesis which improves overall brain functioning and performance. Studies have proven that physical exercise boosts creativity and mental energy too.
There are plenty of ways of taking care of your mental health. Physical Exercises is not the only option that’s available to you. Sometimes making small and subtle changes to your overall habits and routines can alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety. The old proverb goes “You are what you eat’ and when it comes to mental health the same applies. Psychonutrition is a new field of study that’s focused on the effects one’s diet has on one’s mental health and is sometimes called nutritional psychiatry. An article in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society suggests that people following a western diet are more prone to depression and anxiety to those who consume a Mediterranean diet. This could be attributed to the high number of processed foods and artificial sweeteners that can be found in many westernised diets.
Healthy foods that promote and stimulate new brain cells are diets that include polyunsaturated fatty acids, curcumin, and polyphenols. A well-structured calorie diet without over or under eating also helps with the neurogenesis process that takes place within the brain. As mentioned earlier, Mediterranean diets can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and are highly recommended by dieticians, but what are the compounds that link your diet to lower rates of depression? Let’s discuss them below and highlight the food types that make up a Mediterranean diet.Compounds in the Mediterranean include:
Other factors that assist in maintaining a healthy state of mind, are our habits and routines. Especially since all of our daily routines have been turned upside down. Our brains are conditioned by nature to follow patterns and structure and by adopting a healthy routine you decrease potential anxiety triggers and depressive states or moods. Not only do you need one for yourself, if you have children at home they would need a constructive and balanced routine as well. Well, what does a balanced routine look like, you ask?
Let’s discuss what the do’s and don’ts are for establishing a balanced routine that assists in keeping everyone happy and mentally resilient.Familiarity is key
Not everyone adapts to change quickly and not everyone embraces it. Some might find it a breath of fresh air when they don’t have to follow their daily routine, others might find it extremely difficult to adapt to the sudden changes. To maintain a sense of everyday familiarity, we recommend that you try and keep your routine similar to your normal routine. For example, if you normally wake up at 6 am to go to the gym, you can do the same at your house. If your day starts by you listening to a positive audiobook or podcast, you can still follow the same routine which will give you back your sense of normality.Keep being productive
When lockdown started it’s safe to say that you took a couple of days off and that’s great. You don’t need to be productive ALL THE TIME. That being said, your productivity might fluctuate during isolation but you still have duties and responsibilities to take care of. So when you do decide to be a little bit productive follow these tips below to make the most of your time.Getting started with your day
Tough times call for tough people and not everyone was created equal. So what can you do to build and strengthen your resilience? Well, a good place to start would be by avoiding negative thought patterns, negative news articles and triggers that lead to an unhealthy state of mind and cause anxiety or unnecessary panic. Worrying about the future won’t change it, and as much as we like to control our destiny, some things are just not in our control and shouldn’t leave you with sleepless nights. Remember, your Mental health is important to focus on the things you can control and leave the rest to take its natural course. By identifying your anxiety or depressive triggers, you will safeguard that you are well equipped to deal with them when they arise. And while you’ve got the chance, make time to rest and relax because before we know it, things will return to normal. If you feel overly anxious or highly depressed, a bit of reading might do you wonders. If you feel like reading interesting articles related to your mental health, click here to be redirected to our blog articles. Here we have covered a variety of subjects that’s sure to be very helpful and insightful. If you don’t feel like reading, take our mental health quiz online and who knows, you might discover something new about yourself.