Long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain are still being studied, but recent data shows that at least a third of infected patients have also developed neurological symptoms. Harvard Health reported that the pandemic has “resulted in worsening mental health outcomes due to the psychological toll of isolation, loneliness, unemployment, financial stressors and the loss of loved ones.
“The prescription of antidepressants has spiked, intimate partner violence has increased, and suicidal thoughts are on the rise.”
Even with alarming statistics – including that people with psychiatric disorders are 65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and that COVID-19 actually increases the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder – the long-term mental health effects of COVID-19 infection still remains an unknown.
The truth is that during the pandemic, you could be undergoing a lot of stress. A lot of anxiety. A lot of fear. You could be feeling very sad and very lonely. If you already have a mental health disorder, it could get worse during this time.
Even if you don’t have a mental health disorder, the uncertainty and the changes to daily or regular routine could certainly get to you. You may feel pressured financially, or you might be scared that you or someone you love could get sick. Someone you know, including you, may have already gotten sick, or you may have the virus now. Information overload can be scary, frustrating, overwhelming – especially if you no longer know what to believe, what to think.
Because of this, taking care of your mental health as the pandemic goes on is so important. Self-care must always be a priority, no matter what – meaning that you must do your best to ensure that your body and your mind are being protected as much as possible.
Some of the things you can do to take care of yourself are the following:
- Eat well
- Sleep regularly
- Avoid drugs or alcohol
- Limit screen time and media time
- Refuel, relax and recharge
- Do the things you love
- Keep a routine
All of the above will go a long way to taking care of yourself. It’s so important to stay away from negative thoughts and behaviors that can feed anxiety and fuel depression. By focusing on positive thoughts and reframing the negative ones, you’ll be actively ensuring that you’re staying emotionally and mentally healthy – as much as possible.
Another tip to protect your mental health is to avoid stigma surrounding COVID-19. In the era of social media, stigma is just that much more harmful. Stigma causes people to feel isolated, rejected and hurt. If you have COVID-19, or have had COVID-19, or are simply doing your part to stop the spread, you may feel stigmatized or treated differently, and for that reason, you could find yourself withdrawing from friends and family and the outside world. But you can certainly reduce stigma, and here’s how:
When you get your facts from reputable sources, when reach out to others who feel stigmatized too, when you show support for those who have been on the frontlines and those who have been hit with the virus, you’re doing your part.
COVID-19 may not be the reason for your depression. It may exacerbate your symptoms, or your symptoms may have nothing to do with it at all. Regardless of whether or not your depression is associated with COVID-19, if you’re experience signs and symptoms of depression for at least two weeks, please ask for help, either through your employee assistance program, primary care provider, or national organizations like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.