This is Al Waller, your host for ClearPath Radio – Your Roadmap to Health and Wealth. Experts indicate we are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, and it could lead to a new wave of mental health issues. Joining me is Mihaela Vincze, public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute, here to discuss how to prepare for this difficult time.
Al: Thank you for being here today. Mihaela: Thank you for having me. Al: So why are we at risk of a second wave of mental health issues? Mihaela: As we head into the winter months, experts are concerned about a second wave of COVID-19 infections because the virus is believed to be more transmissible in cold weather. This increased number of infections will likely lead to a prolonged period of sheltering in place or “lockdown” which, after many months into the pandemic, may cause “pandemic fatigue”. This may, in turn, make people more vulnerable to mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Al: What exactly is “pandemic fatigue”? Mihaela: The distinctive feature of “pandemic fatigue” is an overall tiredness and loss of motivation. Since lockdown is leading to high stress levels—the stress can have an adverse impact on both physical and mental health, particularly over an extended period of time. The best thing we can to prepare for this is to focus on managing our stress on a regular basis, through healthy coping habits. Al: The lockdown has really put a damper on healthy coping mechanisms that many people relied on pre-pandemic. What are some ways that people can reduce their stress? Mihaela: There are many ways to prioritize taking care of ourselves despite the restrictions. Something as simple as limiting our screen time can do wonders. Additionally, being present really helps— try to engage in hobbies that force you to use your mind—starting a meditation or mindfulness practice are especially effective. There are apps like Calm or Headspace which can help you get started. Al: How can people recognize that they have a problem? Mihaela: Look out for signs that your mental health may be declining— these include changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits, activity levels, and extreme fatigue or restlessness, as well as a reliance on alcohol or drugs. By recognizing the signs, you can get to the root of your mental health conditions and start to work on more healthful thought patterns. Al: Are there any people who are particularly at risk? Mihaela: Older adults, especially those who are isolated, are at an increased risk of developing a mental health condition. Furthermore, young people, minorities, and those who have lived through trauma are also especially vulnerable. These groups should especially prepare for the second wave and be cautious of any signs of deteriorating mental health. Al: It is important to know if you are at risk! Any final thoughts you would like to share with the public? Mihaela: Many people are struggling right now, and you are not alone in your pain. Seek help if you need it—there are many online support groups, and even affordable online therapy through platforms like Betterhelp. If you are employed, check if your employer offers an employee assistance program or other benefits that include mental health-related services. The National Alliance for Mental Illness is also a good place to find resources. Al: Thank you again for joining us, Mihaela. Mihaela: It was good to be here! Al: This has been another episode of ClearPath Radio – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth. I’m your host Al Waller – thanks for listening.