The global spread of Coronavirus and its devastating impact is affecting all of us right now. No matter where you are, the contagious respiratory disease is raising health concerns as people try to prevent getting sick and take care of those who already are. The CDC describes it all as a “rapidly evolving situation,” but the situation goes beyond physical health. We’re starting to realize that there are many implications of this virus that relate to our mental health, too. It’s all connected. So taking care of your mental health during this pandemic is crucial. Knowing its potential impact on you is part of that.
Here are ten ways the coronavirus affects you mentally:
1. It can lead to mob mentality and panic buying
If you’ve read news headlines or have been to a supermarket recently, you already know what mob mentality is. It’s described as the way people can be influenced to behave in an overly emotional way by the people around them, and we’re seeing a lot of it happening as people try to prepare for quarantine. People are panicking. And it’s setting off a chain reaction of more people panicking. That alone affects us mentally, but it gets worse: people are buying more than what they need because there’s so much uncertainty about what the situation is and how long it’s going to last. Although preparedness might sound like a good thing, the actual result is that other people who need supplies can’t get them. So it’s particularly important to be aware of your mindset.
2. Adds additional stress that can complicate your life
We can all agree that life is stressful to begin with. Managing different responsibilities, working, going to school, taking care of ourselves, being a good friend, having a romantic relationship…it can be a lot in even the calmest of times. If you were having trouble managing stress before coronavirus became a pandemic, you’re probably having even more trouble now. But approaching stress from a calm and practical perspective, as difficult as it is to do, is essential. In fact, the Center for Disease Control’s coronavirus webpage includes a section about managing stress in order to help people prepare. It’s also essential to remember that this situation is temporary and that together, we’ll make it through this trying time.
3. Leads to overconsumption of news and media
As is it, we have constant access to news updates and other forms of media on our phones, computers, and televisions. While it has the potential to be a useful tool, becoming addicted is all too easy and only negatively impacts our mindsets. Worse than that, misinformation is spreading, and it’s become tricky to figure out what’s true and what’s not. The spread of inaccurate facts increases the fear that people already have too much of, making the pandemic that much more mentally draining. It’s important to be careful about how much time you spend online and consuming news. Set time limits for yourself if you have to, and don’t look at anything you know is going to trigger or upset you. It’s equally important to make sure your sources are credible and that the information you share is factual.
4. Worry about your physical health
It’s obvious to say that we’re all worried about our physical health. There are currently nearly 300,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide. And the CDC explains that it’s spreading so quickly because “there is little to no pre-existing immunity to the new virus” (CDC, 2020). We aren’t wrong to be worried. But the connection back to mental health can’t be understated. It’s obvious that when we’re sick it impacts our minds, but so does the act of worrying about being sick. In this time of difficulty, make your health a priority by taking the necessary precautions against the spread of the virus, make sure to eat healthily and move your body, and practice self-care as often as you can.
5. Worry about the world
It’s natural to feel empathetic as the disease spreads and threatens more and more lives. Our hearts go out to those affected by the coronavirus, so much so that our worry can be detrimental to our mental health. But the reality is that we can only control what we do ourselves. It’s easier said than done, but if something is outside of your circle of control, excessive worrying is a waste of energy. So wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, stay home, and remind yourself that by following those rules you’re doing your part to help everyone else.
6. Leads to feelings of emotional isolation
Social distancing means we have to keep physical distance between ourselves and other people, and it’s the reason that events like concerts and sports, which draw crowds of people, have been canceled. It’s the responsible thing to do to “flatten the curve,” stop the spread of the virus, and keep yourself and others safe. It’s also important in helping the government prevent the situation from becoming too much to handle; in the United States, social distancing is a way to keep there from being more sick people than there are hospital beds. In other words, it’s proactive. But being physically isolated can naturally lead to feeling emotionally isolated. Loneliness is the last thing anyone wants to feel in times of crisis, so be sure to reach out to friends and family via phone calls, texts, and video chats. Take advantage of technology that allows you to feel connected to loved ones across great distances.
7. Leads to boredom
Being quarantined inside your house can also mean that you have too much downtime. Even if you’re working from home, it’s easy to start to feel trapped, like you’re going stir crazy, because you have far less to do. This is especially true for people who are generally more extroverted and aren’t used to staying in. Having too much time can also potentially lead to rumination on negative thoughts, and if you already struggle with mental illness, it might lead to falling prey to risky or impulsive behavior. It’s important to know you’re able to conquer the boredom. Make a list of things you’ve been meaning to do, hobbies you want to either resume or start, books you want to read, games you want to play, and so on.
8. Worry about loved ones
Our concern for other people factors into our emotional wellbeing. In most cases, empathy is healthy because it strengthens our relationships with others and deepens the connections made. So our concern would be a good thing. It gets complicated in today’s world, however, because with coronavirus, we’re often far away from those we love. Additionally, we can quite literally worry ourselves sick because it increases the level of the stress hormone in our bodies, and that hormone can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (Simple Psychology). If you’re worried about elderly or immunocompromised people, who have a higher risk of getting sick, the best way to keep them healthy is to stay away. Utilize video calling to remain emotionally connected and make plans for when the quarantine is over.
9. Worry about finances
Huge numbers of people are currently out of work since all non-essential employees have been told to stay home. While some people have the ability to work from home, many jobs don’t have that as an option. Not working—and not making money— is the reason many are worried about their finances. The American Institute of Stress found that 76 percent of Americans cite money and work as their leading cause of stress, which speaks to how extreme the issue is. At this point, the best course of action is to stay calm and take things day by day.
10. Interrupts your normal schedule and routine
Even when we stray from our normal routines for good things like vacations it can impact us mentally; change is always an adjustment. Now we’re all facing interruptions and changes for a very negative reason, and adjusting can be even more complicated. There are things you can do to cope, though. Create structure in your day wherever you can by utilizing to-do lists. Check the same things off the list every morning and night if you can in order to get used to this period of quarantine. Write down one or two goals each day and try to focus on getting them done. Make sure to eat at regular times throughout the day. It’s still hard to get used to new schedules, but doing what you can do gives you back some control, which is beneficial to mental health.
Mental health is something to be taken seriously at all times, but it’s particularly important during this pandemic. We all have to do what we can to survive this difficult period in history. So stay safe. Wash your hands, practice social distancing. Be responsible. Be kind to other people. And take care of yourself both physically and mentally.
“Daily Life.” The American Institute of Stress, 18 Dec. 2019, www.stress.org/daily-life.
Mcleod, Saul. “Stress, Illness and the Immune System.” Stress, Illness and the Immune System | Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 1970, www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html.
“Situation Summary.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Mar. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html.