Mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are not only seen in our physical health, but also our mental health. Studies show large numbers of students suffering from mental health problems the past year. The so-called Dutch ‘Monitor Mentale Gezondheid en Middelengebruik van Studenten’ shows that 51 percent of the students experience psychological problems. 12 Percent of these students have more serious problems. Most of these are caused by exhaustion, loneliness and pressure to perform (1). This article discusses the meaning of mental health and gives three pieces of advice on managing your mental health. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (2). The question that arises is if this definition is not a little bit outdated. S. Galderisi recognized problems in the definition of the WHO and therefore proposes an updated definition: “Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express and modulate one’s own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind represent important components of mental health which contribute, to varying degrees, to the state of internal equilibrium.” Mental health will be experienced differently for each individual. One should consider what definition fits him/her best.

Managing your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic is not as easy for everyone. It has been shown that maintaining personal connections proved to be beneficial for mental health (3). During this time, we are in a social isolation and we should not feel alone. Seek for connections, especially the people who might be particularly isolated. A suggestion is to search for online connections, for example online escape rooms. 

Studies also showed that staying in the present proved to be beneficial (3).You can use mindfulness or meditation for this but also focusing on the things you can control and taking each day as it comes can help.

The last advice for managing your mental health is to get a routine (3). This will help you to manage anxiety. Also working with short breaks will help maintain your clarity of thought.

In conclusion, if you are struggling with your mental health, remember you are not the only one, especially during this pandemic. Mental health is a complex subject that consists of many factors. However, small lifestyle changes can help and contribute to a better mental health. Maintaining connections, staying in the presents and getting a routine can help you with that.

Literature

  1. NOS. (2021, 11 november). Veel studenten ervaren psychische problemen, ook door corona. Geraadpleegd op 17 januari 2022, van https://nos.nl/artikel/2405226-veel-studenten-ervaren-psychische-problemen-ook-door-corona
  2. Galderisi, S., Heinz, A., Kastrup, M., Beezhold, J., & Sartorius, N. (2015). Toward a new definition of mental health. World Psychiatry, 14(2), 231–233. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20231
  3. Dickerson, D. (2020). Seven tips to manage your mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak. Nature. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-00933-5