Throughout social media, news outlets, and even conversations with friends, the current pandemic – COVID-19 – is on everyone’s mind. Small businesses and families are feeling the impact of reduced income, school closures and social distancing. The coronavirus’s insidious onset has left many in a surreal state of confusion, anxiety, and unpreparedness. Just as this virus could impact our physical health, it also affects our mental health.
Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, many are unsure of the potential impacts regarding the production of goods such as food, cleaning supplies and toiletries, or even the future opportunity to leave one’s home to purchase such goods. Such fears have turned into a reality as individuals turn to stockpile toilet paper, cleaning supplies and nonperishable foods. Grocery stores today have empty shelves where products had once been, and seeing such empty shelves raises concerns for those who had not begun to stockpile supplies. “Mob mentality”, people adopting behaviors based on emotions and perceived reality shown through social media, impacts society’s response to this pandemic.
Social media and news outlets can be both a useful source of information and a distraction during this time of social distancing. However, constant monitoring of confirmed cases, economic impacts, and speculation of the future can also cause anxiety. Although we rely on news to stay informed about the epidemic, it is crucial to monitor one’s media consumption to avoid the associated increase in stress levels. Research intended to ease anxieties borne from the uncertainties may, in fact, worsen them, as we are exposed to speculations and catastrophic thinking. Additionally, misleading information and false treatments have surfaced through social media – such information can be dangerous as readers may base their beliefs about the virus on unscientific popular press articles and spread incorrect information.
The sudden change to our way of life can cause an increase in feelings of depression and anxiety. Our daily routines have been interrupted and many feel lonely or jaded due to self-isolation. While we cannot control the situation we are in, we can adjust what we will do with our time spent in quarantine. Use this time to work on a hobby you always wanted to try, experiment with new cooking, exercise, catch up on a television series, learn a new language, and reflect on who you are and how you will grow during this time.
In these uncertain times, it is crucial to maintain our physical and mental health to help us better handle the difficulties brought on by the global pandemic. Instead of focusing on news that emphasize its severity, try to focus on what we can control – most importantly, our own actions to prevent the spread of the virus by limiting social contact, disinfecting commonly used surfaces and getting about 7-8 hours of sleep each night. When we collectively make an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining our mental health, we will be stronger as a society at the end of this hardship.
Written by SPEAR intern Madelyn Estrella