Psychological impacts of Covid-19 on Students
From last year i.e 2020 till now - has been a long ride for all of us. Whether you had your learning experience disrupted, holiday or internship plans cancelled, or you had to go through the hassle of taking precautionary measures to travel on planes to be with your loved ones - the outbreak has definitely impacted all of us in one way or another.
It is important to acknowledge that the pandemic that we are living in is not only an epidemiological crisis but also a psychological one. While fear about Covid-19 can trigger emotional distress and extreme paranoia in individuals, mass quarantine or restricted movement order imposed through nationwide lockdown programs has also led to a myriad of consequences on one’s mental health. As students, it has been a challenging period to stay sane while having to stay indoors especially when you’re living alone, yet it is also a challenge to focus on your online task when you are back home with a less conducive environment to work remotely.
This is indeed an unprecedented time for all of us, especially for children who face an enormous disruption to their lives. Children are likely to be experiencing worry, anxiety, and fear, and this can include the types of fears that are very similar to those experienced by adults, such as a fear of dying, a fear of their relatives dying, or a fear of what it means to receive medical treatment. If schools have closed as part of necessary measures, then children may no longer have that sense of structure and stimulation that is provided by that environment, and now they have less opportunity to be with their friends and get that social support that is essential for good mental well-being.
Being at home can place some children at increased risk of, or increased exposure to, child protection incidents or make them witness to interpersonal violence if their home is not a safe place. This is very concerning.
Although all children are perceptive to change, young children may find the changes that have taken place difficult to understand, and both young and older children may express irritability and anger. Children may find that they want to be closer to their parents, make more demands on them, and, in turn, some parents or caregivers may be under undue pressure themselves.
Simple strategies that can address this can include giving young people the love and attention that they need to resolve their fears, and being honest with children, explaining what is happening in a way that they can understand, even if they are young. Children are very perceptive and will model how to respond to their careers. Parents also need to be supported in managing their stressors so that they can be models for their children. Helping children to find ways to express themselves through creative activities, and providing structure in the day – if that is possible – through establishing routines, particularly if they are not going to school anymore, can be beneficial.
Mental health and psychosocial support services should be in place, and child protection services need to adapt to ensure that the care is still available for the children of families who need it.
To endure this challenging time, we need to cope with the unprecedented situation by prioritising self-care. Despite the undesirable outcomes of the pandemic – sudden suspension of face-to-face teaching, closure of shops and international borders, novel health and safety consideration; on the bright side, Covid-19 has prompted the global community to look more closely at mental health. In fact, the outbreak had heightened the impact of mental health awareness like never before.
Here are some simple tips to live by while adapting to the ‘new norm’:
Walk away when things get overwhelming
Social media is good in terms of keeping us up to date with local and global news. However, such news can be overwhelming to keep up with every single day. When you feel like things get a bit too much, it is advisable to ‘switch off’ from the outside world and focus on things that can render you some form of inner peace. If you still want to keep yourself updated with the breaking news (which can be inevitable as everyone is ‘posting’ about it), try to limit the amount of time you spend scrolling through the updates, especially when you find them a bit unsettling.
"Work is the best antidote to sorrow,
While some people can get distracted from work with the ceaseless Covid-19 news, work can in turn be a form of distraction from the worrying updates. Concentrating on a task can be the most effective way to divert one’s attention from the overwhelming news and updates. Isolation can keep you sane when there are things you can look forward to. Apart from spending time on coursework and projects, look forward to simple pleasures in life to keep your mind engaged like reading novels or short stories, watching movies or series, listening to podcasts, mindfulness activities or light exercises. Being occupied can keep you away from having the time to think about things that would worry you!
"You're not alone"
Stay connected! Since everyone is generally experiencing ‘lockdown’ or some form of quarantine worldwide, it is a great opportunity to keep in touch with your friends online. Schedule virtual hangouts to keep yourself away from being haunted by loneliness – spending time alone for a long time is not good for your mind. In addition, some departments also provide incredible support throughout this trying time where you can reach out to your personal tutor or year tutor for any form of support or inquiries.
As more and more countries are starting to ease off lockdown orders, it is highly recommended to comply with advice on breaking the Covid-19 chain. While you’re practicing social distancing and good personal hygiene, don’t forget to put your mental health on top of your priority list!