It is an ambiguous term, where the concept of mental health is generally accepted as a state of well-being that includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being (About Mental Health, 2021). The state of our mental health impacts the way we think, feel and act.
Several factors contribute to our mental health, such as biological factors, family history, everyday life experiences, major stress, and significant life changes (About Mental Health, 2021).
It's safe to say that COVID-19 has contributed significantly to the last three factors!
Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to the pandemic (Mental Health and COVID-19, 2021). Faced with the new reality of inconsistency and uncertainty, managing your mental health has become vital more than ever.
Globally, governments have used isolation, quarantines and lockdowns to manage COVID-19. These methods have their risks, including self-isolation and decreased mental health (Diamond, 2020). While these have successfully flattened the curve and contained the virus, it has burdened our mental health and led to increased stress (Cheema et al., 2020).
Stress affects our mental health. Stress is how the brain and body respond to external or internal demand, challenge or threat, and activate the fight or flight responses (AIHW, 2020).
Coping Strategies for Stress
As the pandemic continues, a social media post isn't too far away with things and side hustles for you. The hustle culture as a means of being productive during the pandemic can be harmful. Being positive and maintaining good mental health is important. Yet, toxic positivity is toxic for a reason: it contributes to stress.
Especially during the pandemic, getting through the day is an accomplishment.
Whether solo or with a group of people, isolation, quarantine and lockdowns increase self-isolation, which increases stress (Xie et al., 2020). To manage mental health, strategies must prevent and reduce stress.
Fast Facts: Stress
13% of Australians aged 18 and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress (AIHW, 2020).
In a life-threatening situation, stress prompts your body to prepare you to face a threat or to flee (fight or flight response).
Stress causes physical health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and poor healing (USDH, 2021).
Stress can be managed with exercise, relaxation techniques, speaking to a professional, and staying connected.
Three Stress Strategies for Home
1. Create a Positive Home Environment with Designated Spaces
Having clear-cut spaces can create better functionality for the home. The more functions of a home, the friendlier the home becomes (Khachaturova & Nartova-Bochaver, 2017). Before the pandemic, there were definite lines drawn between home and everything else. Now, home is everything.
Organising certain areas for school and work can set adequate boundaries. Using these areas during set school or work hours can make it easier to switch off.
Functional spaces reduce our levels of stress by helping us switch between work and play while in the same environment.
2. Exergames as exercise
Exergames are active videogames that mix physical exercise and dance, appearing suitable as nonpharmacological treatments for stress (Viana & de Lira, 2020). Previous studies show Exergames interventions can improve physical activity levels, heart rate, performance in daily activities, oxygen consumption and improvement in behaviour and cognitive function (Viana & de Lira, 2020).
Examples of Exergames include iDANCE, iSTEP, Ring Fit Adventure, and Jump Rope Challenge.
While Exergames should not replace physical activity, they are a good alternative for the home during lockdown periods. This alternate exercise encourages cognitive function in participation while being fun and it is beneficial to reducing stress.
3. Facetime: the new Social
It is important to remain in communication with others. Texting is an effective form of communication. However, it is easy to lie and for context to be lost in translation. We can text when we're doing one or two things, and so our concentration is divided.
Scheduling a time to do a Facetime call reduces our distraction. It also mimics meeting up with friends.
Taking the time to schedule and participate in social interactions reduces our stress levels (MentalHealth.Net, n.d.). It helps us feel confident about handling our stress and directs our energy outward rather than inward.
Home is where the heart is, and it is also the only consistent during the pandemic. The most important thing is to manage your stress and mental health suitable for your context. As long as you're doing what's best for you, you're doing all that you can.
We've got this!
Give these strategies a try if you haven't already!
If you're unable to cope or manage your stress, it is essential to reach out to your mental health professional or contact a helpline.
- About mental health. (2021, March 17). Australian Government Department of Health. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/mental-health-and-suicide-prevention/about-mental-health#what-mental-health-is
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). (2020). Stress and Trauma. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/stress-and-trauma
- Australian Psychological Society (APS). (2015). Stress and Wellbeing Report. https://www.psychology.org.au/getmedia/ae32e645-a4f0-4f7c-b3ce-dfd83237c281/stress-wellbei ng-survey.pdf
- Cheema, U. N., Manzoor, I., Rizwan, A. R., Farrukh, U., Masood, A., & Kalyani, G. H. S. (2020). Psychosocial Changes and Coping Strategies in Home Quarantined University Students of Pakistan During COVID-19 Pandemic. Esculapio, 16 (Supplement 01), 98–102. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344545482_Psychosocial_Changes_and_Coping_Strategies_in_Home_Quarantined_University_Students_of_Pakistan_During_COVID-19_Pandemic
- Diamond, R. (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019: achieving good mental health during social isolation | The British Journal of Psychiatry. Cambridge Core. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/achieving-good-mental-health-during-covid19-social-isolation/BD00D7F2ABBCFF444D806676885EC26B
- Khachaturova, M. R., & Nartova-Bochaver, S. (2017). The Home Environment as a Resource of Coping Behaviour in Youth. Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics, 14(3), 555–566. https://doi.org/10.17323/1813-8918-2017-3-555-566
- Mental health and COVID-19. (2021, June 1). World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/covid-19
- MentalHealth.Net. (n.d.). Socialization and Altruistic Acts as Stress Relief. Retrieved 19 July 2021, from https://www.mentalhelp.net/stress/socialization-and-altruistic-acts-as-stress-relief/
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health (USDH). (2021, July 19). NIMH » 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/
- Viana, R. B., & de Lira, C. A. B. (2020). Exergames as Coping Strategies for Anxiety Disorders During the COVID-19 Quarantine Period. Games for Health Journal, 9(3), 147–149. https://doi.org/10.1089/g4h.2020.0060
- Xie, B., Qiu, J., Shen, B., Zhao, M., Wang, Z., & Xu, Y. (2020). A nationwide survey of psychological distress among Chinese people in the COVID-19 epidemic: implications and policy recommendations. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7061893