In her speech before being crowned Miss SA, Shudufhadzo Musida said she wants to change the narrative about mental health in our society and for any changes to happen in our communities, we need to tackle the mind and the powerhouse.

A recent survey released by the International Red Cross revealed that the mental health of 62% of South Africans has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we near the end of what has been an incredibly challenging year, now more than ever we need to prioritise our mental health.

Mental health and the pandemic

Mental health conditions were already a concern before the pandemic and, while the country has dealt with the immediate effects of COVID-19, the long-lasting negative effects have yet to surface, explains Dr. Yusrah Parker, Medical Advisor at Sanlam Individual Life.

Conditions with long-lasting negative effects include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, irritability, anger, and anxiety, all of which may be brought on by fears of getting infected, isolation, inadequate supplies, and information, as well as financial loss.

Symptoms

If you experience any of the following, Dr. Parker advises that you seek professional help immediately:

  • Constant fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones;
  • Constant fear and worry about your financial situation and job status;
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Worsening health issues;
  • Worsening mental health issues; and
  • Increased use of tobacco and related products, alcohol, and other harmful substances.

You can also contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 0800 456 789 to speak to a professional.

Taking care of yourself

To ensure you are prioritising your mental health during and post COVID-19, follow these tips by Dr Parker:

Check in with yourself

Ask yourself how you are doing, determine what you need, and acknowledge your feelings.

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Establish a routine

Continue your usual daily routine, such as waking early and getting dressed for work, even if you are not going into the office. If you are a parent, incorporate a schedule for your children. Break up the monotony.

Exercise

Exercise benefits mental health by reducing adrenaline and cortisol, both of which are stress hormones. You can incorporate active time into your day by walking, light stretching, and doing yoga practice.

Find a healthy balance of information

Ditch the COVID overload! Avoid checking updated information constantly and minimize your chances of receiving constant updates by keeping to a 15-minute limit when checking the news.

Stay connected

As we continue to socialize, do not forget to connect with family, friends, and co-workers. This will minimize feelings of isolation and protect your mental health. You can call, text, email, video chat, or participate in online activities such as classes.

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Spend free time on meaningful activities

Activities such as reading or taking a walk on the beach to unwind also allow your mind to relax.

Speak to someone

If you are not coping, a listening ear may help in allowing you to express your feelings and provide support.

Take a break from work

Consider taking a few days of annual leave to help you disconnect and relax.

Maintain a balanced diet

Do not skip meals. This happens when we become too busy with tasks during the day or are feeling stressed. Limit high-sugar and high-caffeine drinks and drink plenty of water instead. Ensure you have three meals at regular intervals during the day.

Conclusion

Mental health receives only 5% of the public health expenditure, making access to mental healthcare inadequate or inaccessible for most South Africans.

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“While you cannot predict whether you will ever be a part of the current 62% of South Africans that are negatively affected by COVID-19, you can ensure you have income protection cover to safeguard you financially while you get the treatment you need,” concludes Dr. Parker.

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Guest Writer

This post has been curated by a Longevity Live editor for the website.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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