COVID-19 is affecting all aspects of our lives. From buying groceries, visiting friends and family, and traveling there are a lot of visual ways we can perceive such changes. What about our mental health though? Last time we spoke about what mental wellness is and how it can be affected in general. But how can COVID-19 affect our mental health and wellness? Additionally, what aspects of it can make it difficult being alone and leave us feeling exhausted? Professor Ella from the Karls is here again to answer a few more questions in this second blog installment… Let’s dive in!
How can our mental health specifically be affected by a pandemic, like COVID-19? What factors about a pandemic can impact one’s mental health?
Those who participated in our mental wellbeing event in May, heard quite interesting reflections by our guest speaker, psychologist Thomas Ruettgers, on the challenges the lockdown brings to us, such as backlashes related to previous emotional traumas, fears related to the loss of control over our, at the end quite predictable, lives, and having to face ourselves in a manner that is not possible in the everyday hassle and bustle. The first one is probably something one could seek psychological support for, if it seems overwhelming. The latter two, loss of control and uncertainty about the future, worry for the loved ones, possible health and other personal concerns, relate to accepting what is and working on steering away from the anxiety and maintaining a positive mindset.
I know patience is not high in course when you are around 20, but trying to accept things as they are does bring emotional and consequently physical wellbeing, which are connected anyway. It’s not that easy when our minds are busy making trouble and resisting the turn of events, but there are various tools to create a calmer mind, that you can study by yourself or together with a professional. I will elaborate on this in the course of this interview, although I cannot give a great range of exact tools in this space.
Thanks for that. Why is it that even though most of us now do not go out as much as pre-COVID-19? Why do we sometimes feel more exhausted? Is there a reason for this?
Probably it is that emotional stress and the vicious cycle of inactivity. Again, this sounds boring and requires self-discipline, but cultivating a good routine when it comes to eating, working, exercising, and sleeping patterns has the best potential to shift you from the orbit of exhaustion to the positive track. When you feel physically better, you can also ‘fool’ your mind that you have control over the things that are happening in your life, and this again will bring more energy to you to keep going. Of course, it is also allowed to lazy around and feel miserable for some time, but I have noticed that sinking into that modus for too long just takes all juice out of me, and at the end brings little inner peace.
What can you recommend to students and faculty for staying mentally resilient in spite of COVID-19? Is there any specific mental health routine you can recommend?
In addition to the above, I have got a lot out of yoga, mindfulness and mediation practices. Yoga not as a sport activity, but rather as a meditative one, requiring concentration and mindfulness. If you are looking for lessons, pay attention to this. To me Sivananda and yin yoga practices work. There are also good calming recordings with or without narration, which I like to use especially if I cannot sleep. Personally I like those with a relaxation techniques and positive affirmations, but for someone else just music or sound may work. Apropos sleeping issues, another helpful way to get your mind out of those grave midnight worries is to listen to peacefully delivered podcasts – one learns new things too. When you have slept well you’re much more likely to take care of yourself during the daytime.
Spiritual practices may be helpful, too, to create a healthy and supportive daily routine in order to maintain a positive mindset. It’s pretty much whatever works best for you. There is something for everyone.
There’s a lot of information here. Take some time to really reflect on how you feel. Notice how your daily habits affect yourself mentally and see if you can build in some routine slowly if you feel like that’s right for you. In setting up a routine you can focus on aspects of your life you can control, e.g. going for a jog, meeting with friends, reading in the park, rather than focusing on all the things you do not have control over. This focus on how you can actively impact and thus influence your well-being can positively impact your mental wellness. In practicing mental wellness habits, you can build up your mental resilience.
In part three of this mental wellness blog series with Professor Ella, we’ll dive into what to do if you feel isolated, how to help others, and what the Karls can do to help you, so stay tuned!