As of April 30, 2020, the state of Nevada had reported more than 5000 coronavirus cases, with more than 250 deaths. That said, residents of Las Vegas have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many individuals and families have been isolated in their homes as they observe and follow the stay at home orders. More importantly, many Las Vegas residents have been affected by corona-virus related job losses, more so the ones who worked in the tourism, or leisure and hospitality industries.
Many Las Vegas residents are grappling with many issues including physical isolation, anxiety, depression, fear of an unknown future, financial stress, and domestic violence.
These problems have been worsened by the many coronavirus pandemic disruptions including quarantine, travel restrictions, social distancing, stay-at-home orders, negative news coverage, job losses, loss of financial stability, and strained relationships.
This article aims to give you insights into the effects of COVID-19, and tips on how to stay mentally healthy. You will gain insights on how to cope with anxiety and how to cultivate healthy relationships.
Psychosocial and Behavioral Impact of COVID-19
Isolation (including self-quarantine) and social distancing can have a significant impact on your mental health, behavior, and relationships including:
Some of the things that might make you anxious include watching news coverage, financial instability, fear of getting sick, worrying about the welfare of your significant others, death of a loved one, unemployment, personal relationships, social distancing and the lengthy periods of isolation.
More specifically, social distancing is likely to increase your anxiety because you are not able to maintain contact with family and friends who live far from you.
Additionally, staying together with your family and spouse for an extended period can increase anxiety and mixed emotions.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Trauma occurs when one is subjected to highly stressful and shocking events. Although not everyone will develop PTSD, your risk may increase if you are unable to cope with the trauma emanating from the shocking and stressful events of the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the psychological effects of quarantine is PTSD. Furthermore, the fear of experiencing moderate, severe, and even deadly symptoms of COVID-19 may increase your risk of developing post-trauma symptoms.
If you are a health care worker, having to make life or death decisions regarding the patients you take care of, or even going to work every day despite the risk of catching the virus and exposing your significant others, may subject you to post-trauma symptoms.
During times of stress and illness, a lack of social connection can aggravate stress and illness. When you’re lonely, the stress hormone cortisol is more likely to be higher.
Isolation and quarantine can increase the risk of depression, suicidal ideations, and other mental health conditions.
You may have noticed that people are blaming and stigmatizing each other as the source of the disease. This has become more evident due to travel restrictions.
People who are joining the community after having spent several days in quarantine are facing a lot of stigma due to the fear of transmission. Stigmatization has increased incidences of xenophobia, as well as marginalization, which has contributed widely to psychological distress.
- Sleep disturbance
Sleep is highly important during these times of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the COVID-19 pandemic can affect your sleep patterns because you are likely to spend more time watching news updates, socializing with friends online, or even educating yourself about the virus.
With that in mind, stress arising from an overload of information tends to keep your mind racing, thus affecting your ability to fall asleep.
What’s more, spending too much time on your screen can affect your ability to fall asleep because the blue light on your screen hinders your brain from developing melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
Also, you’re likely to develop insomnia due to inconsistent bedtimes and disrupted wakeup times.
The stressors of COVID-19 can increase your risk of developing depression. Some of the risk factors for depression include irritability, loneliness, stress, prolonged social isolation, exhaustion, sadness, anger financial difficulties, emptiness, and loss of loved ones.
These experiences can have significant effects on your motivation, sleep, attention, and even appetite. What’s more, depression can affect your ability to solve problems, pursue your goals, and function optimally.
Other consequences of COVID-19 include:
- Domestic violence
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Phobia: Fear of leaving your home
- Eating disorders: changes in eating patterns
- Inability to concentrate on things
What can you do to mitigate the consequences?
- Reach out and talk about your emotions and thoughts
Getting support from friends and significant others is a great way of overcoming depression, anxiety, stress, and any other overwhelming emotion associated with COVID-19.
Therefore, be sure to talk about your thoughts and feelings with friends and significant others. Being open promotes self-awareness, and you will not only be able to gain insights about what is happening to you but also get the encouragement you need to follow through with your self-care objectives.
It is important to note that talking about your thoughts and emotions does not make you a weak person. Victims of domestic violence are also encouraged to confide in a close friend, relative, or neighbor.
- Reduce boredom and stay connected
You must work on making your time in quarantine less stressful. You can use that time as an opportunity for personal growth and mindfulness activities. The idea is to engage in activities that will build your resilience and improve your mental well-being.
Additionally, during isolation and quarantine, activating your social network can go a long way in decreasing your symptoms of anxiety, as well as psychological distress. That said, be sure to communicate more with friends, family, and significant others.
- Focus on building your resilience
Protective and resilient activities such as improving hygiene, eating a healthy diet, learning new instruments, knitting, reading books, dancing, cooking, listening to music, watching movies, meditation, sleeping, exercising, and even journaling are all great ways of coping with stress, anxiety, and the panic during these times of COVID-19.
- Seek therapy
Counseling is an effective way of managing the psychological, social, behavioral, and emotional risks of coronavirus. That said, talking to a qualified therapist or mental health practitioner can help you cope effectively with anxiety, financial stress, job loss, panic, and marriage and family issues, among other problems that you might be facing.
Your mental health practitioner can successfully treat your symptoms of anxiety using therapeutic interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy in combination with some medications. Also, debriefing for job separation, as well as alcohol and drug abuse counseling is highly critical.
- Practice self-care
Strengthening your self-care is highly critical during this anxiety-provoking period of coronavirus pandemic. That said, keeping a gratitude journal, eating well, exercising regularly, practicing mindfulness, getting adequate sleep, taking walks on the beach, and spending more time in parks are great ways of easing and preventing symptoms of anxiety and stress.
In essence, these activities are critical because they take your mind away from the troubles of coronavirus, thus promoting your overall mental health and wellbeing.
- Acknowledge your emotions and thoughts
Being able to recognize the emotions and thought that are contributing to your anxiety is highly critical. This allows you to gain a deeper understanding of what is causing the anxiety, as well as triggers.
That way, you cannot only handle them but also develop new coping mechanisms. In essence, validating your emotions helps to ensure that they dissipate much faster.
- Minimize your time on social media
Constantly watching harrowing news can be detrimental to your physical and psychological well-being. Therefore, you must spend less time on social media. You may consider limiting your screen time to mealtimes only.
Banerjee, D. (2020). The COVID-19 outbreak: Crucial role the psychiatrists can play. Asian J. Psychiatr. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajp.2020.102014.
Brooks, S.K., Webster, R.K., Smith, L.E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., Gideon, JR. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395:10227.