By Daily Nation
The pandemic has made Charity Mbithe a habitual night owl. At two in the morning, you will find her updating her WhatsApp status with catchwords most night owls are fond of: Insomnia, is that you? Or, Mind sharing a bit of your sleep? Somewhere in between living, and hoping the pandemic would end soon, she is not the only one being haunted by such thoughts. People are anxious about the pandemic.
“I live alone and it is lonely, so I mostly chat. Some times I am actually imagining characters and talking to them in front of the mirror.” She adds: “I promise I am sober, and I don’t need a therapist.” Talking to the mirror for her is a form of therapy. “It reminds me that I have me and that I am amazing. I find stuff to make me happy. It is there that I ease my tension,” she adds.
The pandemic has put her in a box. If you are a meme enthusiast, you must have come across one that insinuates that introverts are having their best time during this stay-at-home period. Extroverts, like Charity, are having a tough new normal. No wonder the anxiety. Her thoughts on the prolonged new normal are almost predictable. “It is depressing. I stay up late to try to get that connection with people and sometimes it gets crazy,” says Charity.
The earliest she has retired to bed since the pandemic started is midnight. That also means that her screen time is a bit longer, and she knows the effect it has on her. “I have been having some headaches. I somewhat blame screen time,” she says, as though she is sorry about her actions.
Sherine Omondi, who is not a night owl per se, is panic stricken. Her kind of panic may not be as evident as the one that makes the heart beat so fast at the mention of the coronavirus, but, one that makes her increase her cautionary methods on public health by a tenfold. “I am very anxious, and I am so mad at every young person not taking the pandemic seriously,” she says.
The Covid-19 Millionaires expose by NTV makes her very mad about everything. “I am sick of what is happening. I cannot sleep. I wake up and wonder why they are stealing so much,” she says. “Why are young people clapping for a section of the failed government? Why?”
Emphasis on depression
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that: “Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.”
Some of the effects of stress disorders that could arise during a pandemic that have been listed by the CDC include fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, loss of support services you rely on, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions and increased use of drugs.
Loice Noo, a psychologist, emphasises on depression and the different levels that it could manifest especially during a pandemic. “What most people call depression is often a feeling of sadness or low mood as a result of a situation that they feel uncomfortable with, but cannot do much about because they do not have the power to take action, as in the case of most people now and the Covid-19 pandemic,” she says.
For people like Charity and Sherine, who now have sleeplessness and extra cautionary tendencies, Noo says it could be as a result of past fears that are yet to be processed. “Once the person begins to see such danger, then, naturally, the brain adopts a flight mode or a state of alertness to the perceived danger,” she says.
Consequently, Noo suggests ways in which they can get out of that feeling of anxiety. For Charity, and people that could be in a similar situation, adapting to the new normal is one way to be at ease and have the life they had before the pandemic. While doing that, she says, it is important to get information on the coronavirus only from reliable sources. “The challenge with such anxieties is that they often stem from feelings based on half-baked information,” she notes.
It is not a coincidence that Sherine is panic stricken because of what is going on. “Prolonged anxiety produces various disorders that can manifest in panic attacks, phobias, allergic reactions and paranoid responses, which renders individuals dysfunctional,” says the psychologist.
To lessen that, she suggests practical activities such as socialisation, doing fun activities, listening to music or discovering new talents.
Noo’s final recommendation to those who have been affected is: “Should anyone find difficulty in doing all these things, then they need to seek professional support from a psychologist or counsellor.”
Other suggestions that the CDC has emphasised on include taking care of your bodies, where you are advised to eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, meditation and avoidance of drugs and substance abuse.