The Psychological, Behavioural and Interpersonal Effects of COVID-19
At this point, we have all been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another. Whether you were directly affected by the virus or your lifestyle has been altered to fit the “new normal,” it has taken a toll on us all. Physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally. It has impacted our relationships, behaviours, the way we think, and how we approach situations. Our reliance on technology has increased tremendously, and platforms such as zoom and skype are used daily to maintain interpersonal connections. This article will discuss the many ways COVID-19 has impacted our behaviours, our interpersonal connections, and our overall mental health.
Image is courtesy of CCP
With mental health being an important topic of discussion, it is important to recognize that everyone reacts differently to change. Some people become accustomed to new things quite easily, while others take longer to cope. COVID-19 has brought major changes to the way we live, work and think. As a result, it impacts our mental health in the form of stress, anxiety and depression. This was shown most evidently at the beginning of the pandemic when news of the virus first reached major media outlets. Common reactions observed among the public included generalized fear and pervasive anxiety that was provoked by several factors. Factors include the media's inaccurate information, the unpredicted mass quarantine, and closure of most to all small businesses and public spaces.
It is also important to realize that some people are more vulnerable to the virus, and in terms of mental health, these groups can react differently. Those who are more likely to contract the virus, such as seniors, those with pre-existing health issues, health care providers, and other front line workers, may be more vulnerable to feelings of anguish, fear, and apprehension. The general public, who are quarantining at home, may experience notions of frustration and boredom. Additionally, those experiencing mild symptoms or have tested positive while staying at home may experience the additional fear of exposing the virus to their loved ones. While this does not mean that these parties always experience those respective emotions, the level of risk to exposure does play a crucial role in the psychological impacts of COVID-19.
Image Credits: Garry Burchell/Getty Images
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, governments worldwide enforced strict guidelines for citizens to abide by to limit the spread of the virus and for the general safety of the public. These guidelines included social distancing (at a distance of at least 2 metres), wearing face masks in all public spaces, and continuously keeping good hygiene through handwashing and constant sanitizing. While these rules admittedly restricted personal freedom, they were all necessary measures taken to keep everyone safe. The pandemic resulted in the closure of all public spaces, including schools and workplaces, which meant that most of the population spent much of their time at home. While this was all for a good reason, civilians had to develop new ways to keep active and maintain a somewhat normal lifestyle. With gyms and parks closed, it was difficult to keep up with physical exercises, and many had to improvise by following workouts on online platforms such as youtube or by building at-home gyms. Some even went to the extent of hosting online workout and yoga sessions on zoom, which people could sign up for. However, these behaviours were most commonly seen amongst teenagers and adults, and less from children.
It is well known that healthy childhood development is fostered through sufficient physical activity, which children get most commonly from school or playing outdoors. The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the lives of youth and has compromised the ability to play and meet physical activity recommendations. Only around a combined total of 5.4% of children and youth met these expectations during the quarantine period, while the rest spent most of their time on screens, either watching television or playing video games, and sleeping. While some normalcy has returned, many children still don’t get their recommended amount of physical activity per day, which could potentially result in unhealthy physical development.
Social Distancing Circles in Domino Park, Brooklyn, New York
Image Credits: Noam Galai
Debatably, one of the most challenging parts of quarantining at home, was staying in constant contact with loved ones, including friends and family. With the closure of all schools and non-essential businesses, online video-calling platforms such as zoom, skype and facetime were used daily to maintain these interpersonal connections. These forums were also necessary for work and school since everything was moved online, and most of the population started working from home. Additionally, the usage of social media platforms increased significantly, to an approximate average of 8 hours spent on social media per day for adults and 10 hours for youth. Although these actions were necessary to stay in touch with peers, it is also unhealthy.
Our reliance on technology has increased tremendously, which takes away from our independence and can pose potential health threats, especially to our eyes. However, as the year progressed and some restrictions were lifted, people started to get creative. Domino Park, in Brooklyn, New York, circles were painted, with each being 6 feet away from the other, so families could enjoy time outside (within their circle) while staying safe at the same time. Similar actions were seen by many other parks and beaches around the world. Restaurants and cafes only permitted outdoor seating, and malls limited the number of people allowed in a store at a time. But as they say, health comes first, so even with these creative strategies put in place, if you are feeling unwell, it is important to stay at home to keep yourself and those around you safe.
COVID-19 has brought one of the most serious health threats our world has ever seen, so even if you were not directly exposed to the virus, you have most likely had to alter your life in some ways to keep safe during these unprecedented times. It is normal to experience feelings of anxiety and frustration. Still, as mentioned before, health and safety are always a priority, so ensure that you are abiding by the laws enforced to keep you safe when going outside. Try to get at least an hour of exercise per day, seek out new hobbies and try new things to make up for the time spent on technology.
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Article Author : Risheena Banerji
Article Editors : Edie Whittington, Stephanie Sahadeo