How has COVID-19 affected our mental health in 2020?

How has COVID-19 affected our mental health in 2020?

How has COVID-19 affected our mental health in 2020? 3240 3240 Max Berendsen

It is a sad reality, but nonetheless a reality for the vast majority of us: the lockdowns due to COVID-19 have become the new standard setting for our lives and not without its consequences.  At first a lockdown seemed to be a romantic, new setting for our lives in which we were enabled to exchange banana bread recipes, binge watch Joe Exotic’s shenanigans in Tiger King or learn to speak Korean on Duolingo. It has, however, become all to clear that an increased amount of (sudden) isolation has had largely negative effects upon our health. Mental as well as physical. 

There are different ways in which COVID-19 has impacted mental health. First of all, there is the fear of contracting the virus and all the serious consequences which it can have upon oneself and one’s surroundings. Next to that, many of us have and are still finding it difficult to adapt to the setting of working and/or studying from home. Things are stimulating us during the day, which weren’t stimulating us before due to the fact that we were at school and our books, gaming consoles, etcetera, were not in our surroundings. Now that they are, these things can lure us away from certain responsibilities. Let’s face it: when we find ourselves at home all day, it becomes increasingly more difficult to resist the urge to play one more game, read just a few more pages in that great novel, or have another sandwich. 

All these elements result in us being distracted by the things that we would be normally doing. The more they sneak into our daily behavioural routines, the more they replace our routine tasks like studying, cleaning up, or cooking a decent meal for ourselves. Many of us live by a certain schedule and the disruption of this has resulted in many of us getting uprooted in our daily lives ourselves.

But perhaps the most uprooting factor for our mental health since the outbreak of COVID-19 has been the loss of social contact. Again, this uprooting factor can also be divided in the mental and physical fields and in some cases these fields overlap as well. A good example can be found in the decrease of sexual activity among singles and couples which are living (far) apart. This decrease of sexual activity is a two-edged sword: many of us can’t experience physical intimacy and in its turn this has, does, and likely will continue to cause mental issues due to an innate element falling away from people’s lives.

Also, not being able to meet our friends, have a drink with them or organise a party has been a heavy burden on many of us and has led to many of us experiencing a greater degree of isolation. Of course, we live in a digital age in which we are never “truly” alone, but one can’t really deny that the coronavirus has exposed the strange paradox of the digital world having a more isolating effect upon us then bringing us closer together like it was perhaps supposed to do.

Nonetheless, I shouldn’t be all doom and gloom with you. Covid has also brought forward beautiful initiatives to combat loneliness. Zoom has come to the rescue of many, and we have seen an increase in mental health awareness. Something this article is also contributing to. If you have been experiencing setbacks in your mental health, be sure to get help. It is not something you should be ashamed of. Be sure to keep talking to friends and family as much as possible or to a professional if you feel there is a need for that. Be sure to get enough fresh air and take some time for yourself to get yourself organised. If you need any help regarding your mental health you can visit the website of the Dutch Ministry of Health where you can find tips on where to find the kind of help which suits you the most: https://www.government.nl/topics/mental-health-services/question-and-answer/help-for-mental-health-problemsn 

At last, I would like to end this article with an issue that has been a bit overlooked until now: our physical health. Due to the increased isolation we have been experiencing, many of us don’t get enough exercise. This combined with the fact that there has been an uptick in the consumption of comfort food has led to many of us putting on some extra weight and/or getting out of shape. According to research conducted by the company Happy Weight, about half of all people in the Netherlands increased their body weight in quarantine. No stress here either: there are enough exercises which you can do at home and which are interactive as well. When it comes to a healthy diet there are millions of amazing recipes which are only one click away. Take good care of yourself and stay safe! 

Max Berendsen

This article is the first in a series of articles in which the effects of Covid-19 on a range of societal aspects and groups will be explored.