How can you keep well and healthy during a pandemic - or despite one? And apart from the obvious illness due to the pandmic, which health issues quickly become disrupted and widen the damage? This article was originally presented at the first annual conference of the Foundation for Women's Health Promotion and Welfare Initiative, FWHPWI on 12th December 2020.
On This Page
- Pandemic Health and Wellness Upsets
- The Value of Being Prepared
- What Are The Challenges To Your Health and Wellness In A Pandemic?
- What Can You Do Now To Keep Well and Healthy During A Pandemic?
First, do you feel you're in a better place healthwise now than in December 2019? I think most of us will say, No!
And this is because the nature of pandemics is to disrupt and cause change.
Since we humans are mainly reactionary most of the time - we have to adapt ourselves to change in the world around us - like wear masks, self-isolate or wash hands more often than we are used to.
But there are other disruptions a pandemic creates.
And I don't just mean by getting sick which is, of course, the most significant impact.
Pandemic Health and Wellness Upsets
Our usual routines get flung aside, and we feel as if we going along for the ride - waiting till things get back to 'normal'.
But how much other damage happens during that time if we are not careful?
And like other disruptions, is it possible to overcome them and adapt ourselves in a way that we emerge better than when we started?
And why is it essential to think about how to maintain our health and wellness in a pandemic?
To explore this, I have another question and would love your answers in the comments section below:
"Outside actual Covid-19 sickness, which of these was your biggest challenge to be well and healthy during a pandemic?"
A - A health problem developed that was more difficult to solve (weight gain or loss/ mental health problem/ sexual health problem/ other health condition)
B - You couldn't see a doctor or nurse when you needed one for advice or treatment for yourself or a family member, or it was a lot harder to do so
C - No health challenges
The Value of Being Prepared
Okay, so we can see how things could go during a pandemic even if you are fortunate not to be ill from the infection.
According to Barak Obama, former US President in a speech in 2014:
"There may, and likely will come a time in which we have an airborne disease that is deadly.
And in order for us to deal with that effectively, we have to put in place an infrastructure not just here at home but globally that allows us to see it quickly, isolate it quickly and respond to it quickly.
So that if and when a new strain of Flu-like the Spanish Flu crops up, five years from now or a decade from now, we've made the investment and we are further along to be able to catch it."
What Are The Challenges To Your Health and Wellness In A Pandemic?
These are some areas doctors observe as the critical impacts on people during the time of pandemic - and understanding them will help us stay well.
- Impact on your mental health
- Effects of isolation and changes to routine
- Delay in routine care
Impact on Your Mental Health
- Developing a new mental health condition as a result of the changes caused by the pandemic.
- Conditions like anxiety, low mood, can begin from business and financial worries or other stresses like personal illness and illness of relatives.
- Worsening an existing mental problem from the lonleiness of being isolated, or unable to access medical care when it's needed.
- But - don't just take my word for it - a Dutch study published in the Lancet journal (December 8th 2020) explores the pandemic effects on mental health.
- It looks at symptoms of mental illness developing in people with and without pre-existing mental health conditions.
- There are some interesting findings:
- individuals with more severe or chronic mental health disorders reported a greater impact on their mental health, more fear of COVID-19, and less positive coping with the pandemic
- those with a higher disorder burden had more sleep problems, sad emotions, unhealthy lifestyles (eg, snacking, drinking, smoking, or inactivity), and fear of infection, and less connection and confidence with society and ability to enjoy being at home
- The study confirms that symptoms of depression, worry and loneliness increased during the pandemic - but surprisingly, not for anxiety.
- Specifically, it was people without severe or chronic mental health disorders who tended to show more of these symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effects Of Isolation and Unplanned Routine Change
Going suddenly into isolation or quarantine has many significant results few of us prepare for.
But just like Obama advised in 2014; and after the experience of Ebola, our mindset now should be to prepare for the impacts a global pandemic could mean to us personally.
Isolation and routine change could lead to different situations closely related to how we were before the beginning of the pandemic.
It could be things as ordinary as eating or overeating; being unable to exercise or visit the gym as you would typically do; keeping children at home usefully busy; problems in a relationship with a partner that becomes obvious in close confines.
Of course, there are financial implications which we have seen, and the results this could have on a person's mental health and their families.
Delay In Routine Care
Here is another vital issue that affects health and wellness in a pandemic. People choose not to visit a hospital or clinic to get care of non-pandemic related health problems.
When you are generally fit, and well, this may not be so much of a problem.
However, when it affects babies and young children, pregnant women, older adults, it takes on a dangerous dimension.
We must have access to health care that is safe during these times.
But even a 'fit and well' person could develop appendicitis or some other infection that demands care. In such instances, we should not allow fear from preventing us seek the care we need; and we should have the confidence that the care is available to us.
What Can You Do Now To Keep Well and Healthy During A Pandemic?
It's making the right choices to maintain your health despite (and because of) the disruption around you:
- Protect your mental health - anxiety, stress, depression, or other mental health conditions can be controlled.
- We can use both non-medicine and medicine therapies for these conditions to remain well.
- Create a routine around yourself and in your home.
- This is not as hard as it might sound. The basics you need to establish are around what you eat, when you sleep, keeping active, working and around your family responsibilities.
- Don't ignore health problems that develop and choose to be health-aware:
- Subscribe to a reputable health information resource like askawayhealth.org
- Ask about health problems from trusted sources - Google is NOT a reliable source for diagnosing health conditions simply because it cannot be specific for an individual's health problem.
- Get health insurance to avoid high out of pocket payments.
- Partake in the benefits of safely using online health consultations and medical solutions. Not every medical consultation can be performed online, but many can - watch our video here for tips to learn the Tips for Effective Online Health Consultations.
Making the necessary health investments NOW to keep you well and healthy during a pandemic can make the big difference to how you cope succesfully now and in the next one.
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
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