Dubai Health Authority is offering tips to help people deal with stress and anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic.
While the measures to combat the contagion have become part of everyday life, some people need to cope with the changes. That prompted doctors to suggest that maintaining a daily routine and spending time outdoors can help improve mental health.
“The initial shock period is over, and we are clearly in the adjustment phase, which is extremely important as we need to learn to live with the current realities,” said Dr Khawla Ahmed Al Mir, consultant psychiatrist at Rashid Hospital.
“It is best to stick to a routine as much as possible, especially, when it involves regular exercise.
“Exercise is a proven stress buster and helps release endorphins, which are feel-good hormones.”
Dr Al Mir advised those who are not exercising to take up a daily activity.
“It could be simple exercises for 30 minutes on the mat, or a walk outside now that the weather is cooler,” she said.
“Connecting with nature is therapeutic in many ways, so combine spending time outdoors with exercise.”
Depression is on the rise worldwide. In the UK, a survey of 3,500 people by the Office of National Statistics found young people, women, those with disabilities and key workers were most likely to suffer depression during the pandemic.
The number of people in the UK with depression recorded in June was double those in March at the start of the outbreak.
A large majority (84.9 per cent) of adults experienced some form of depression or anxiety, and 42.2 per cent said personal relationships were affected, the survey findings showed.
Mandeep Jassal, a behavioural therapist at the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai, said the figures were consistent with trends seen in the UAE.
“Large numbers of people are now struggling to contend with financial insecurity as a result of a decrease in income or job loss,” she said.
“General feelings of isolation and loneliness are common due to various social restrictions.
“Our whole sense of purpose, identity and structure has been impacted, with many now struggling to manage an overwhelming and constant sense of panic not knowing when the situation will improve.”
The UAE may face a shift in mental health attitudes, data by health insurance provider Bupa suggested.
At the onset of the pandemic, the company began compiling the Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index. That assessed 2,000 people to see how the pandemic changed their outlook on life.
More than half of UAE respondents said they would not return to their fast-paced lifestyle after the pandemic.
More than a quarter (28 per cent) said they suffered burnout, while 21 per cent of UAE respondents said they experienced obsessive or compulsive thoughts – considerably higher than elsewhere.
Mental exhaustion, anxiety and mood swings were commonly reported, with 24 per cent admitting to feelings of hopelessness.
The global average for the same symptoms was 15 per cent.
One positive note from the survey was more acceptance of mental health issues in the emirates – 37 per cent of people now talk to a doctor about psychological issues, significantly more than the global average of 26 per cent.
“Some level of stress is normal in a situation like this,” said Dr Al Mir.
“But if the stress level reaches unmanageable levels for long periods of time or you are facing persistent negative thoughts, it is time to seek professional help and support.
“Women, in particular, should make sure they do not take on too much and find time for themselves.
“It is important to remember that we should focus only on the things that we can change and we should not stress about the things that are beyond our control.”
Stress management tips
Exercise: It is not only good for your physical health; it is great for your mental health, too.
Deep breathing and meditation: Breathing exercises can help you relax and keep calm.
Prioritise sleep: Lack of sleep increases stress hormones.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine: If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back.
Seek social support: Spend time with people who are positive and empowering.
Seek medical support: If you are suffering from persistent stress, anxiety, and are unable to manage your condition, seek professional help.