Covid-19: Safeguard your mental health
Every day we get more information on the Covid-19 pandemic ranging from frightening death tolls and alarming numbers of new cases to estimates on what to expect on a global scale. Fast-rising statistics on fatalities and even more strict measures by governments in efforts to contain the spread of the virus, including cessation of movement in and out of hotspot counties, is contributing to lots of unhealthy pressure.
Talking to a few people, you can sense the fear and assumptions of worst case scenarios. To some, there is a bigger scare than coronavirus; dying of starvation in the case of a total lockdown. Many, dependent on a daily hand to mouth model of survival, are forced to worry about these two disasters. Fast spreading rumours, mostly based on ignorance, are not making the situation any better but causing more tension and buildup of stress levels.
When we worry, we get stressed releasing stress hormones that shut the immune system to prepare the body for “fight or flight”. This, apart from leaving you in a depressed state, leaves you more susceptible to contracting illnesses.
Kevin Kinge is a mental health enthusiast and runs a blog which focuses on developing the mind, body, spirit and general personal development so as to experience a more fulfilled life. He is passionate about mental health awareness and is keen on alerting others to the necessity of safeguarding one’s mental health now, during this pandemic, and later in life.
Mental health has always been a sensitive topic. There is a lot of stigma associated with it mostly due to a widespread misunderstanding of the topic. In Kenya, we rely on our cultural practices and still maintain many of the past beliefs on the matter of mental health. Sadly, many tend to associate what they do not understand with curses and witchcraft, hence the belief that those with mental issues were deemed to be under spells or cursed in the past by ancestors.
Early this year I attended a forum on mental health: the task force aims were to assess the prevailing mental health status in Kenya, the social determinants and other contributing factors; to assess the mental health systems including the legal and policy framework, and report on the recommendations; and to outline legal, policy and administrative reform proposals aimed at transforming mental health systems for improved mental health and quality of life. This was a good sign that the government recognizes that this is an area of concern and that there is a need for plans on how to address the issues that are already there and put preventive measures in place.
Some of the recommendations from this task force were: Promotion of sensitization efforts on mental issues to help address issues of stigma on mental health cases both mild and severe, to make people aware of the policies and support framework for the affected, and improve acceptance in society and the community at large; and, early detection including screening especially from early ages such as primary school level to avoid an outbreak in later years.
We need to be deliberate about safeguarding mental health during this pandemic. Most of us, if not everyone, are feeling the effects of the movement restrictions and bans on social gatherings. We may be worried about our finances; will we get a salary at the end of April? How will I survive financially if this persists for another one or two months? We can be affected by the burn-out from staying indoors for long stretches of time, cancellation of intimate occasions such as weddings, and restrictions of communal gatherings at funerals.
I am passionate about mental health because I discovered the unlimited potential of the mind which we all have access to but which many of us don’t realize and don’t utilize. A healthy mind supports a fulfilling life. By continuously developing the mind, you secure a peaceful life with less struggle. We are taught to focus on our external environment such as our education, career progression and material possessions, all the while ignoring our inner self. This leads to a feeling of non-fulfillment and a high probability of confusion later in life despite outward successes.
Be aware of triggers; anticipate and try to prevent them through acceptance and constant communication; seek professional health advice when necessary. Creating new activities to keep us distracted such as indoor games for kids, find a book to read as a family, watch lots of movies together, snuggle and relax. Doing this while being mindful of self and others.
Let’s create awareness on the powers of the mind and its potential to shape our life outcomes. Let us focus more on mind, body, and soul, through consultants and other professionals. Finally, let us rediscover the importance of family and that a stable family structure contributes considerably to mental health.
This article was written by Kevin Kinge, a Masters of Management in Agribusiness student at the Strathmore University Business School.
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