During this time of social distancing and limited contact with others, social media has become an important place for many forms of interaction. Social media platforms that are meant to connect people have had a largely increasing usage during the pandemic. Since many people have been asked to stay home, they have turned to social media to maintain relationships and access entertainment which helps to pass the time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the usage of social media by the world’s general population, celebrities, world leaders, and professionals alike. Social networking services have been used for spreading information, and to find humour and distraction from the pandemic via Internet memes. However, social distancing has forced lifestyle changes for many people, which has put a strain on mental health. Many online counselling services that use social media were created and began to rise in popularity, as they could safely connect mental health workers with those who need them.
In addition to being a global threat, COVID-19 is referred to as an infodemic. The direct access to content through platforms such as Twitter and YouTube leave users susceptible to rumors and questionable information. This information can strongly influence individual behaviors, limiting group cohesion and therefore the effectiveness of government countermeasures to the virus. Platforms were additionally used by politicians, political movements, and national and state level health organizations to share information quickly and reach a lot of people.
There is extensive psychological research proving that connectivity with others develops a sense of belonging and psychosocial wellbeing, which enhances mental health and reduces the risk of anxiety and depression. The overload of information and the constant use of social media has been shown to positively correlate with an increase of depression and anxiety. The impact of following social distancing measures can cause the feeling of loneliness and isolation in people, increasing the feeling of anxiety and can be very overwhelming. “Many adults are also reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.” While being part of a global pandemic, it can be stressful and cause anxiety amongst yourself and family but there are ways you can support yourself and your family.
Negative thoughts and worrying about the future is not going to help solve problems. We make the best use of the present situation, as it is. Using the present well leads to a better future and avoids unhelpful stress.
Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health experts recommend various ways to combat stress.
Gyms are closed due to social distancing while taking a walk outside in your favourite neighbourhood area is not often possible. But exercising at home, on the terrace of your residential building or within the residential complex is an option – with aerobics, walking, and exercises we learned in the school physical education class!
You can practice yoga, take online yoga lessons for beginners. Even cleaning the house is a form of exercise. Physical activity releases endorphins, keeps us feeling “good” and helps keeps the stress away without negative thoughts.
Stress and anxiety can affect eating habits and vice versa. There can be a tendency to overeat or not eat enough. Have a balanced meal. Avoid excess snacking. As we are spending more time indoors, eating moderately is necessary to avoid becoming overweight. Care has to be taken that continuous eating (gorging) does not become unhealthy escapism. It will increase stress and anxiety. Eating right helps keep the mind alert and healthy.
Maintain social connectivity
Social distance has to be maintained, so also social connectivity. In these uncertain times, connecting with others through phone, email, online chat, Facebook and other social media becomes important to reduce one’s own stress – as well as help others to not feel isolated.
Avoid overexposure to news media
At the same time, avoid overexposure to media. Too much of bad news can worsen stress. Sitting all day in front of the TV and being exposed to Coronavirus news increases anxiety and causes depression.
Limit exposure to news media, particularly for children since many news channels tend to exaggerate and repeatedly play disturbing images. Stay connected to social media sites that promote positive thinking and helpful information. Play board games with children. Read them stories. This can be a time to catch up reading on all those great classics and books for which earlier you had little time.
Learn a new language, start a new hobby
Start a new hobby. Learn a new foreign language like German, Spanish or French through excellent online classes available online for free, including on YouTube. So when the time soon comes when we can travel again, you can talk to people in your favourite foreign country in their own language! Keeping the mind busy with productive activity keeps stress and anxiety away.
Get sufficient sleep and rest
Ensure you get the right amount of sleep, particularly in these times when people tend to stay glued to the news. Avoid spending very late nights on Netflix and other sources of online entertainment. Try and follow the age-old maxim for good physical and mental health: early to bed, early to rise keeps us healthy and wise!
Meditation is an excellent stress buster. You have more time for the meditation practice you know. Or you can learn any simple meditation technique online. Avoid attempting intricate meditation practices that need a teacher or a residential course. But any simple meditation exercise can help the mind be stress-free.
Mental well-being is real health that keeps the stress away and helps us to cope better in difficult times.