How can we beat the ‘lockdown blues’? The pandemic itself is a source of great anxiety for almost everyone and, coupled with being stuck at home for an indeterminate length of time, it can put an enormous strain on our mental health.
What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Jthk, arguing humans are naturally cooperative, social animals and that people need one another to survive. So, how will “social distancing” and self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak affect us? How can we best look after ourselves, physically and mentally?
To get a response, we spoke to Vytenis Andriukaitis, currently World Health Organization (WHO) Special Envoy for the European region and formerly European Commissioner for Health. How would he respond?
It was a mistake to call it ‘social distancing’. It should be called ‘security distancing’ or ‘physical distancing’, because the main goal of what we are doing is social. Why are we introducing distancing? Because we need to help protect ourselves and other people, we need to protect society. It is a real act of social solidarity, yet we call it ‘social distancing’. It’s an absolute mistake.
I am very disappointed with the term ‘social distancing’. Please change it. What we are doing means altruism, it means solidarity, and solidarity is the main cornerstone of all our actions. Of course, we need to keep in mind those people who are alone right now. Let’s send them messages, let’s call them, let’s help them.
Our lives are still socially interconnected. We need that social interconnection. We need to act in the spirit of social solidarity, and now is the time for all Europeans to forget the term ‘social distancing’ and please us ‘security distancing’ or ‘physical distancing’ instead. If we don’t remember to maintain our social interconnections, then alienation and social disconnection will be a real problem for all of us.
For another perspective, we also put the same question to Dr Sarita Robinson, Principal Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), whose research focus includes human responses to survival situations (and she includes five top tips for mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak on her website). What would she say?
It’s a really good question. Humans are really social animals, we do crave that connection with other people. It’s important to realise there’s a difference between ‘social isolation’ or ‘social distancing’, and loneliness.
Some people can be lonely in a crowd, some people can be quite happy with their own company at home. So, there will be a lot of individual differences; people are going to differ in how much they miss being able to go out to work or to go to social events.
I would say the important thing is that although we can’t have physical social contact, we can have non-physical social contact. So, using things like social media, or just picking up the phone and talking to people is going to be really important.
Next up, we had a comment from Nastasa, who says: “You work a lot at the computer, your work is highly intellectual. Your brain gets tired. In order to relax your brain, you need to do something DIFFERENT, preferably physical.”
To get a response to Nastasa’s comment, we spoke to Stacey McFadin, Lead Content Engineer at Down Dog App, a popular app that allows users to take online yoga or fitness classes. What would she say?
I absolutely agree with her. People are used to moving, we do need a break away from our desks. And if you were used to going to the gym or going to a yoga class, you have all of this excess energy that you need to burn off. So, yoga can be a really great way to burn off that physical energy. I would also say that yoga provides us with a great opportunity to have a break mentally. Right now, anxiety is very high. And when that happens, when we have a lot of anxiety or fear in our lives, we can start to become shallow breathers, meaning we’re breathing up into our chest.
So, yoga can help us start to slow down the breath and deepen the breath. We call that belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. And when we move into that diaphragmatic breath, we can start to shift ourselves out of this fight or flight response and more into a state of rest and digest, which is activating the parasympathetic nervous system. So, I see yoga as having a great benefit right now, not only for the physical body, allowing us to move and stretch and burn off some of that physical energy that we have, but also allowing us to decrease our anxiety level.
How can you look after your mental health during lockdown? Can we keep socially active online? Can physical exercise help? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!