Maintaining Mental Health with Dr Rukudzo.

By Dr Rukudzo Mwamuka – Tsungu

How can one identify if their family is slipping into stress?

Stress is an uncontrollable physiological response and usually immediate. This response is usually due to a perceived threat and in our current case , the COVID-19. Stress can be identified through psychological, physical or behavioral symptoms.
Psychological symptoms can present as:

  • anxiety- excessive worry or fear, failing to put one’s thoughts together, feeling like you are losing control
  • depression- constantly feeling low or sad on most days, reduced interest in normally pleasurable activities such as socialising or work
  • obsessions- uncontrollable intrusive thoughts that lead to an irrestible impulse to act. For example, the constant thought that you or loved one will die from COVID19 due to contamination can be so uncontrollable and therefore lead to excessive handwashing

  Physical can include:

  • Headaches, light-headedness
  • Chest pains ,difficulty breathing
  • Stomach aches, heartburn
  • Generalised body aches
  • Acne or break outs on the face

Behavioural symptoms can include:

  • Social withdrawal,  preferring one’s own company
  • Sleep problems especially insomnia were one finds it hard to fall or maintain sleep or exxcessive sleeping
  • Eating problems which can be eating little than usually or excessive eating
  • Alcohol and substance abuse. this can be a new behaviour or ne will increase from their usually intake.

What psychological effect does covid -19 have on children and the elderly?

Children of all age groups of go through the same emotions and feelings that adults do. The constant streaming of COVID19 can also stress them, more so because they can not comprehend as well as adults do. Although they suffer from similiar stress they tend to show it differently from adults. Children can start being cling and needing more attention and affection than they usually do as a sign of being stressed.

The elderly are at higher risk of dying if they contract the COVID19 virus. Knowing this makes them more stressed and fearful than the rest of the population. In an effort to protect themselves, the elderly are being encouraged to self isolate even from their own families. This puts them at a higher risk of feeling lonely and eventually depressed.   

How best can we all cope with the impact Covid-19 has had on our lives?

The first step is acceptance. Accepting the fact that the COVID 19 virus is a huge threat not only to European or Asian countries but to us as Zimbabweans.Secondly recognising that it is okay not to be okay. We are all going to have some level of psychological scarring after all this is over. It will take time to heal and everyone heals at their own pace.Lastly some things might be changed forever. The idea of working from home or having your doctor’s appointment over the phone might become a norm even when the pandemic is over. It might also become difficult to start interacting physically with friends and relatives as people become more used to interacting via social media platforms.

How can we maintain a healthy mindset whilst in lockdown?

Maintaining a routine of your activities for you and your family. Simple things like scheduling time to wake up, making your bed and exerciseIt is also important to keep in touch with your friends, famliy and work colleagues through various social media platforms. 

How can one be sensitive and not cause others stress during the pandemic ?

Knowing that the threat of the COVID19 virus has affected everyone psychologically helps one to be sensitive to other people’s stress. Some people are going to be infected while others are actually going to loose loved ones due to this pandemic. It is very good to be sensitive and supportive to everyone around us. 

How important is it to filter information on social media i.e myths and false information?

Almost every news channel and media house is releasing news about the COVID19 virus every minute. Trying to keep up with all this news will definitely worsen one’s stress levels leading to anxiety.It is recommended that one sets aside a specific number of times a day for watching the news only from reliable sources like the World Health Organisation or Mininstry of Health. Focusing on some positive stories   of people who have recovered will also help to reduce one’s anxiety.

What is the best remedy for stress ?( i skipped this question as it is vague and answered in part  by the other coping skills above)

If affected by the virus, how best can you cope with the stress considering you will be in complete isolation ,away from family and friends?

Self isolation can evoke a spectrum of emotions including loneliness, worry ,fear and anger.
Keeping in touch with your friends and family through socia media platforms is a very helpful way to cope with the stress.

Given that you have an underlying health issue and social media is abuzz with false information how can you remain calm at such a time?

People who have underlying medical condition or an impaired immune system are likely to suffer more from the physical effects of the COVID19 virus.That being said putting in place the recommended safety measures such as self isolation, good hand washing hygiene and coughing on your elbow will help them feel safe thus reducing the stress.

What would you recommend as a daily routine or tips to stay mentally healthy?

I would say start by writing it down. Every night before going to bed write a schedule of the things you want to do the next day. Schedule time for waking up, bathing, watching news, playing ,watching a movie, connecting with friends, doing work or exercises. Maintain a consistent routine everyday especially bedtime and time to wake up.  

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