Mental Health During the Pandemic

Mental+Health+During+the+Pandemic

Kasen Christensen

Since the initial shutdown of world’s societies in 2020 caused by the virally infectious Coronavirus, students across the world have been placed in a learning situation like no other in history. Due to the lack of technology and adequate resources during previous school shutdowns, students never had to experience what students today have been put through. Learning remotely through Zoom and Google meetings, online submissions of assignments and tests, and a required grasp of educational independence all struck students abruptly within a matter of months. Some students took this drastic change better than others, but some have knowingly or unknowingly been suffering from dangerous side effects of this new learning style. 

The most damaging of these side effects is the stress. When a person’s routine or way of life suddenly changes direction, many people experience an increase of anxiety and other forms of stress. Along with the Covid guidelines posted, the CDC has released information on the stress and mental trauma that may have arisen. In an update posted last summer, the CDC addressed the potential feelings of loneliness, stress, and anxiety people may be experiencing. Some of the official tips released by the CDC to help deal with these feelings include practicing breathing control and meditation techniques, frequent exercise, healthy eating, connecting with others in whatever ways one feels comfortable with.

Meditation and breathing techniques have been scientifically proven to help calm the mind and reduce stress. In an article published by Harvard Health Publishing, the researchers recommended practicing deep breathing so as to fully fill the lungs with oxygen. “Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion,” the researchers say. “The lowest part of the lungs doesn’t get a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.” The article concluded that simply by practicing proper breathing or forms of meditation, stress and anxiety can be reduced which can, in turn, protect the immune system, help maintain a stable blood pressure, and increase the quality of experiencing day to day events.

Just as the CDC recommended, healthy eating and exercising habits are one of the best ways to combat feelings of stress. Consistent exercise is essential for reducing stress, and it is best supported by a properly balanced diet. According to the American Heart Association, it is important to try and complete at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activities 5 times a week for a weekly total of 150 minutes. Anything from simple cardio like walking or swimming, to muscle strengthening activities like weight lifting can dramatically increase a person’s performance and fitness and therefore reduces stress.

Finally, the CDC recommends safely connecting with people as much as possible (depending on what the individual experiencing stress is comfortable with, of course). Studies have shown that simple, daily interactions with other people can provide a social support system that changes the hormonal balances in a person’s brain. According to an article titled “Socialization and Altruistic Acts as Stress Relief” published by the website MentalHelp.net, “adequate amounts of social support are associated with increases in levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which functions to decrease anxiety levels and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system calming down responses.” Essentially, even the simplest of social support systems are crucial to the chemical stability of the brain. If a person loses connection with their social support system, anxiety and stress levels can skyrocket at an extreme rate.

In conclusion, students are experiencing an all time high risk rate for dangerous mental complications derived from stress. It is imperative that measures are taken to help students manage the potentially negative effects of this stress and work towards having a healthy and positive experience in the current state of the education system.

Poster on stress prevention during the coronavirus pandemic, From CDC official website