Covid-19

Surprisingly, Coronavirus Pandemic Offers These Opportunities To Improve Mental Health

The coronavirus pandemic has caused millions around the world to stay home for weeks. Whether at home or on the "frontlines," it affects us not just physically, but mentally as well, causing us to be anxious and worried 24/7.

One issue when it comes to situations like this is that we focus so much on the dangers that we end up overlooking at least a few positive effects, especially on our overall well-being. In this case, the pandemic offers a great number of surprising opportunities to improve our mental health:

Research New Treatments And Treatment Processes

Now is the opportunity to research on outcomes to compare to tried-and-true processes when it comes to mental health. For example, among many innovations, online treatments have become the predominant form of therapy in dealing with various mental issues, which pose a problem for patients without phones or computers. 

Reduce Burnout, Reignite Passions

For psychiatrists and other mental healthcare givers, burnout had escalated to catastrophic levels before the pandemic, caused by systems that discouraged them from bringing out their healing potential. The current need for system flexibility may encourage these clinicians to become excited and inspired once again for them to reach their highest potential. 

Self-Help

Typically seen as punishment for misbehavior in childhood, "staying in the room" can be used as an opportunity for us to self-reflect and foster interpersonal closeness. Since couples and families need to stay together at home for longer periods of time and some children come home from studies or work, it is a good opportunity to teach them self-help in the face of reemerging or developing tensions or conflicts. 

Community Involvement

The public is still searching for information that will help manage fear and anxiety in a sudden collective withdrawal from the usual pleasures of life. By sharing realistic information and reassurance, we can help prevent fear from turning into panic. Reassurance causes our brains to release dopamine, which amps up pleasure. Realistic information, on the other hand, enhances oxytocin release, and thus reinforcing trust. 

Cooperation And Compassion

We humans shine best only after a disaster or a catastrophic event. However, in its aftermath, we often revert back to treating others as usual or worse. In most cases, these can lead to more stagnant weeks of coping, which may have unforeseen benefits and can also reduce suicide risk.

Reality And Virtual Reality 

Prior to the outbreak, concerns were mounting about overuse of social media and technology, which include its effects in our brains. For example, research confirmed that screen-based media causes reduced brain comprehension in children aged 3 to 5 years old. This pandemic poses a dilemma: While social distancing and home quarantine make us rely on social media and tech more than ever to interact with loved ones, we also miss live, physical human interaction more.

Climate Change 

Climate change affects human health. On the other hand, staying at home as a result of the pandemic does reduce carbon emissions significantly. Once the pandemic is over (and hopefully sooner), can we sustain some of that momentum even in our practices and personal lives?

Touch 

Physical touch is something that we have craved since infancy. Can physically touching uninfected loved ones more, along with touching one another psychologically and spiritually, do the trick?

Mourn Losses 

The pandemic causes normal mourning events such as live funerals and shivas to be curtailed. Since grieving needs to progress before moving on after a major loss or death, can we find other ways to produce adequate grieving-aiding rituals?

Be Our Brothers' And Sisters' Keepers

There is no doubt that stress is mounting among mental health caregivers and administrators. Though not at risk as far as inadequate supplies of protective gear are concerned, they are still going to make a lot of difficult decisions. While the public needs them, they need help from us too.

Brain New study finds that spaceflight can change our brains. Aban Nesta / Flickr

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