By Nico Strydom
A worldwide pandemic of a new, unknown virus can cause severe stress and anxiety, which can also be aggravated by regulations introduced in an effort to combat the virus.
According to Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communication manager of the security company Fidelity ADT, they are definitely seeing an increase in stress in households if you look at the comments on WhatsApp and social-media community groups where people are asking for help when they hear screaming or fighting in houses in their street.
“There are also angry and threatening messages against neighbours and those who do not comply with the lockdown period regulations. We are definitely getting more calls about quarrels in households.”
This can be explained on the basis of increased levels of anxiety and fear during this period. Dr Marshinee Naidoo, a psychiatrist at the Akeso Alberton mental health facility, says it is easy to become obsessed with Covid-19 in the midst of the constant reminders of the pandemic. People are feeling uneasy, anxious or frightened.
“The body’s reaction to tension and stress helped our ancestors to stay safe by preparing them to react to physical danger. Although this tension can be positive and lead us to action, it is not necessarily applicable or in proportion to the types of perceived threats that we face every day, such as the uncertainties of life during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
According to Naidoo the “fight-or-flee” reaction is common when danger is felt. Amongst other things, the body releases nutrients and hormones into the bloodstream, which cause the heart to beat faster so that more oxygen-bearing blood are available to the person’s muscles so that he or she is ready to fight the threat or run away from it. Dr Naidoo also emphasises that it can happen very fast and can be accompanied by rapid breathing, increased blood pressure and fear.
“When we are anxious, our body keeps us observant and prepared for any physical danger, which can be useful in some cases but not really helpful if we are constantly worried about something such as the pandemic and are uncertain about the future.”
According to Dr Naidoo there are a few things one can do to handle stress and anxiety. “It is important to acknowledge your anxiety and to understand that it is a natural but unhelpful reaction to some situations. Then make a conscious effort to focus on other things.”
Studies have also found that keeping in contact with other people can help one to handle stress and anxiety better. “Stay in contact with those for whom you care. Use technology such as phone calls, emails, video chats and messages.”
Naidoo also advises people to handle their stress throughout the day by, for instance, exercising, meditation and breathing techniques as it could help to lower the levels of stress hormones. “Laughing is a wonderful tension reliever. Replace worries with thankfulness by looking at all the blessings in your life and appreciating them.”
Covid-19 is a serious health issue and according to Naidoo it can exact a serious and unnecessary toll of your mental health and physical welfare if you allow worry about it to take over your life.
Fidelity ADT: https://www.adt.co.za/