India has recorded close to 11 million COVID cases so far and many of those who have recovered are complaining of fatigue, headaches, insomnia, shortness of breath, body pain, lack of appetite, sore throat and diarrhea.
But it is a little known fact that many patients have been coming back with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, psychosis, insomnia and impaired memory.
During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the lockdown and self imposed restrictions many people experienced stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. Till a few weeks back, the symptoms in post COVID cases were attributed to weakness and anxiety caused by isolation and were not taken seriously.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our lives, with altered daily routines, financial pressures, social isolation and worst of all the uncertainty about future. You may worry about getting sick , about losing their elderly family members to the disease ,you may worry how long the pandemic will last, whether you’ll lose your job, and what the future will bring !
The hourly news bulletins and the Information overload only made it worse.
It is only recently that researchers have started exploring the incidence and relationship between COVID 19 and mental health problems.
According to a research conducted at the University of Oxford, on more than 62,000 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 , it has been found that nearly 1 person in 5 diagnosed with COVID-19 is diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder like anxiety, depression or insomnia within three months of being affected with COVID -19 .
Psychiatrists are seeing three categories of Post-COVID patients
1.People who had no pre-existing mental health issue and the coronavirus directly affects the brain , giving rise to symptoms
2. People with existing mental health problems; which got aggravated after the infection
3. People who get mental health issues are a result of complications caused by the infection ,like developing a heart complication and that affects the quality of their life, isolation etc.
Probable causes of increased incidence of Mental health problems post COVID infection
1. The virus directly can impact the brain through the olfactory nerve, when people experience loss of smell . As a response to the infection , our body releases increased level of cytokines which in turn can affect the metabolism of neurotransmitters like Serotonin, Dopamine and Glutamate. The neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine are responsible for general feeling of well being and feeling well –adjusted. Glutamate is key to learning and memory and a disruption of these mood regulators can lead to depression, anxiety and poor memory etc.
2.According to Dr. Rajesh Parikh, Director of Medical Research at Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital ,”Patients with existing mental health problems already have lower immunity. Once infected, their illness is aggravated by the virus. Patients may also struggle with survivor’s guilt if they lose a family member to COVID.”
What can you do if you are suffering from post-COVID Mental issues ?
Taking care of your physical health can improve the mental health too
1.Get Enough Sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Do not let your sleep hours shift more than 30 minutes from your regular time Try to get 8 hours of sleep. Stick close to your sleep routine even if you are working from home. Switch off electronic devices like television, tablet, computer and phone. at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
2. Participate in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood by boosting serotonin levels and increasing endorphins. Find an activity that includes movement, and causes the heart rate to increase such as dance or brisk walk. Choose a well lit and airy indoor area or maintain social distance from people if you are choosing outdoors.
3. Eat healthy. Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine and alcohol as it can aggravate stress and anxiety and sleeplessness . Include berries, citrus fruits and greens in your diet.
4. Avoid tobacco .If you smoke tobacco or if you vape, you’re already at higher risk of lung disease. Because COVID-19 affects the lungs, your risk increases even more.
5. Relax and recharge. Set aside some me- time for yourself. Even a few minutes of quiet time can be refreshing and helps to bring peace to your mind and reduce anxiety. Many people benefit from practices such as deep breathing, tai chi, yoga or meditation. Soak in a bubble bath, listen to soothing music, read or listen to an audio book — whatever helps you relax. Select a technique that works for you and practice it regularly.
How to Take care of your Mental Well being ?
You can bring more peace of mind by reducing stress triggers :
1.Keep a regular routine. Maintaining a regular schedule is important to your mental health. In addition to sticking to a regular bedtime routine, keep consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, work or study schedules, and exercise. Also set aside time for activities you enjoy. This predictability can make you feel more in control and life may feel less chaotic.
2. Focus on positive thoughts. Choose to focus on the positive things in your life, instead of dwelling on how bad you feel. Consider starting each day on a positive note by counting things you are grateful for. Maintain a sense of hope, work to accept changes as they occur and try to keep problems in perspective.
3.Set priorities. Don’t become overwhelmed by creating a life-changing list of things to achieve while you’re home. Set reasonable goals each day and outline steps you can take to reach those goals – be it weight loss, quitting a habit or gaining a new skill
4.Practice being kind to yourself. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. And recognize that some days will be better than others.
5. Connect with Others. If you need to stay at home and distance yourself from others, avoid social isolation. You can stay connected virtually through email, texts, phone, or FaceTime or similar apps. If you’re working remotely from home, ask your co-workers how they’re doing and share coping tips. Share your experience with others and that may help in not feeling left out, Seeing others cope also makes coping easier.
6. See your Doctor. Last but not the least , in case you still face any of the above problems , do not ignore and check with your physician. Mental disease is not a taboo anymore and more and more people are seeking treatment rather than suffering in silence.
Homeopathy too is a good alternative for treatment of post-COVID psychological problems because it is effective, non-habit forming and has no side effects .
‘This post is a part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter‘