The Agenda explainer: How is lockdown affecting mental health?
The Agenda

The COVID-19 pandemic has stirred feelings of fear, anxiety and stress for millions of people - but what can people do to protect their mental health?

A degree of stress can be a good thing; it forces us to think about how to be safer, motivates us to keep our distance, wash our hands and follow government guidelines.

But prolonged periods of stress can have a negative impact on physical and mental wellbeing and healthcare professionals have been offering advice on how to stay mentally strong.

Some of the key advice issued by experts has been to maintain an exercise routine, avoid consuming too much negative news, while minimizing alcohol intake and time spent on social media.

Studies have shown that people are turning to their screens more than ever, with time spent on Twitter, Instagram and Twitter up by a staggering 82 percent since lockdown began.

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Mental health experts have warned that spending too much time on social media can contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety and trauma. Human beings are social animals by nature and isolation has proved to be a big problem for many people.

Once the pandemic is over, humans will also be faced with a new form of anxiety about returning to the world we left behind when the lockdown began. 

When faced with trauma, there is a peak and valley response inside the body. Currently, we're at our peak as we engage with the immediate threat of the pandemic. Our bodies go into survival mode, which can be taxing on our mental health. The nervous system can't process everything we're dealing with and focuses instead on keeping us alive.

Humans have an incredible ability to survive prolonged periods of stress. and once the pandemic and lockdowns are over, there will be a steep valley where we recover.

But that doesn't mean the mental health risk is over and some people will suffer trauma and depression. The big question is, how do we get back to that healthy baseline and what kind of support will people need to get there?