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What does covid-19 mean for your mental health?

Over the last few months we have seen a substantial change in the behaviours and habits of millions of people around the globe as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our daily lives have been disrupted with many new routines for hygiene, social distancing, communication work, recreation and a constant overwhelming stream of information, misinformation.

Changes in human behaviours at any scale come with internal resistance in the form of increased anxiety especially under duress. It’s not surprising that COVID-19 has played a role in people’s increased anxiety and mental health globally.

The virus spreads systemically through two key channels of human contact both physically and emotionally through fear. COVID-19 continues to trigger many of our primal fear responses every day as we start to face the implications of this new disease and its role within our society. We have to be addressing the anxiety as much as we are dealing with the anxiety just as much as the virus itself.

While still hard to quantify right now, the psychological knock-on effects of COVID-19, we can experientially see that even people who have survived directly or indirectly still have to contend with the toll it plays on their psyche.

For some people that may be short lived and for others it may continue for an indefinite time if left untreated can and do experience the associated trauma.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended a number of avenues for people struggling with trauma associated with chronic and life threatening COVID-19 infections and created a number of free guides for people having to deal with the elevated stress created by COVID-19 pandemic (download the WHO PDF files here).

Addressing the psychological trauma created by the pandemic has subsequently been supported by a number of professional institutions as a public service necessity UK National Health Service (NHS), Oxford University, King’s College in London and the University of Haifa in Israel have all called for a “coordinated screen and treat” profor PTSD treatment programme to be initiated across the United Kingdom to circumvent the fallout of COVID-19 trauma.

In the past when treating mental health trauma it was an occurrence of the past but what we find with COVID patients is that even after the infection or traumatic encounter with the virus they are still in the residual memories.

The pervasive active presence of this virus still poses a very realistic threat not by it’s ubiquitous infection rate but due to mainstream media and many potentially distorted opinions of people that we know in our social circles, conspiracy theories on the pandemic topic continually invading our conscious and subconscious day.

Doug Kemp (co-Founder) of Recovery Direct Rehab (Cape Town, South Africa) says:

“COVID-19 has forced us as a society to re-examine how we interact with each other and become mindful of what we read and share on the internet.”

“The problem is that there is no precedent for us to cognitively reference this virus as we have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime.”

“The uncertainty Corona creates is distressing as much as the virus is a personal threat it is also a societal threat.”

“We have to acknowledge that we don’t know what we don’t know and while we should follow due precautions, playing into the mass hysteria is not going to be good for your emotional wellbeing. Certainly what we have proven as a society is that stressed human beings are six times more likely to get sick or need to seek medical care.”

“Your emotional states are governed by what you permit your subconscious to integrate and the thoughts that ruminate in unsettled limbo states are what force many people to seek psychological relief through coping or self soothing behaviours.” says Kemp.

“Our immune systems are intrinsically connected to both our physical and mental states. If there is an imbalance such as an ongoing stressor (COVID-19) the rest of the system takes a knock. By simply being conscious that your mind is a direct part of your physiological ecosystem is the first step towards being mentally prepared for this virus.”

“In lockdown you should be doing a few things to support yourself now and into the future of this virus. Work on ensuring you get enough sleep, sleep is one of the most incredible things you can do for yourself. Even if is feels unnatural go to bed an hour earlier and try to ensure that your rest is not disturbed as much as possible as well as your walking routine is as natural as possible.”

“Make exercise a priority. Many people don’t know that they can replace short bursts of exercise throughout the day with a full gym session and get the same results. The point being that exercise ensures that your cardiovascular systems are working the way they should.”

“Spend some time on personal reflection and psychoeducation. We have developed a wonderful free course you are able to access online that enables you to understand the many causes and effects of stress, anxiety, depression and substance use issues. We also host and support the mental health content via free live stream events on Facebook which are well worth signing up for.”

“I cannot express how important diet is! You literally are what you eat. One needs to recognise that all the good vitamins and minerals that our minds, bodies and organs need to flourish cannot materialise through thin air. They can ONLY be introduced to your body through food that is nutritionally valuable and introduced in quantities that promote equilibrium. Unfortunately that quick and easy junk food is a disaster to your physical and emotional wellbeing. Eating food healthy is not an artifact of your conscious choice, it is an inherited trait and thus is a skill of making whole food selections naturally for your immunity and wellbeing. I have written a full guide on gut health here.”

As a society we have to adapt to becoming mindful of how we interact with ourselves and each other now and into the future of this disease. Being supportive and caring of our fellow human beings in these uncertain times is what makes us members of humanity.

Stay safe, wear a mask

Doug Kemp (Recovery Direct Treatment Centres in Cape Town, South Africa) care for people struggling with substance use disorders like alcohol and drug addictions as a result of unresolved traumatic experiences. The centre has pioneered evidence based recovery in South Africa and been on the forefront of eating disorders and treating executive stress and burnout.


https://www.traumatreatment.co.za/ (Trauma Treatment Project)

https://www.recoverydirect.co.za/psychiatric/chronic-stress/ (Recovery Direct Trauma Care)

https://www.sargf.co.za/ (South African Recovery Group Forum)

https://www.anxiety.co.za/ (Anxiety Care South Africa)

https://psychiatric.co.za/ (Psychiatric Disorder Care South Africa)

https://www.edsa.co.za/ (National Eating Disorder Group)

https://www.alcoholaddiction.co.za/ (Alcohol Addiction and Recovery Forum)

https://www.drugrehabcapetown.co.za/ (Drug Recovery Cape Town)


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