Now that it’s been over a year since the first COVID-19 case, we’re now all too familiar with wearing a mask outside, social distancing, and stocking up on supplies. While the physical effects are apparent when one searches for ‘COVID-19 ’, what’s hidden is the psychological effects COVID-19 has had on the public.
Psychological disadvantages of quarantining are apparent — examples include an increase in stress and an unhealthy lifestyle, both of which can lead to an increase in acne.
This is because stress can be caused by economic and health concerns, and with more time on our hands, more people have been touching or picking at their faces. Wearing a mask for extended periods of time isn’t helping people’s acne care either — it can cause chafing on areas where the mask touches the face, and rashes or itchiness can occur. Lifestyle choices are also a trigger. People are either trying out new skincare routines or simply not doing any skincare at all.
I personally am guilty of both — the increase in time made me think it was a good idea to try new skincare products, and online shopping is a good way to pass time. However, as I’m just staying at home, on some days I just think, “why bother when nobody will look at me anyway?” and I will not do any skincare at all.
Our eating, sleeping and exercise habits are affected by our psychological health — the Healthline states that there has been an increase in weight gain during the pandemic. As there are no regulating factors such as school or work, I also found myself straying away from my usual sleeping schedule, and exercising at home proved to be more difficult than expected despite having more time for myself.
Lifestyle habits aren’t limited to just eating, sleeping and exercising — it includes simple things like hygiene, scheduling, and challenging yourself. However with the pandemic, some are forced to change their routine while others may not have one at all, and the absence of a daily can be psychologically harmful. I’ve noticed this in a phone call with my extended family, where my younger cousin expressed how she is stressed because she can’t go outside and play; her parents also found it stressful to take care of their children 24/7 as schools are closed.
Along the same lines, a study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology reports that COVID-19 can severely affect psychological health. This is due to the famous ‘flight or fight’ response, where people are concerned about having COVID-19 after experiencing some symptoms of the virus, even though many are similar to the common cold/flu. Others are paranoid that they have COVID-19 even if they aren’t feeling sick.
One example of this is from the famous American YouTuber iJustine who has posted a video on Facebook of herself getting tested for COVID-19 because she was certain that she had symptoms of COVID-19 with the caption, “Now I’m at the point where every single thing makes me terrified I have COVID… which can’t be very healthy either… this is me about every 3 days… [this is] what goes through my mind and then I panic and go get a test for myself [to be] at ease for a few days”.
In the video, she mentions how her symptoms (tightness in chest, tiredness) can’t be just anxiety and is certain that she has COVID-19. Later, she shows her test results which turned out to be negative. She ends the video with, “I guess I’m just tired”. This shows that COVID-19 can make us feel wary about our own selves.
This paranoia and anxiety can also trigger depressive symptoms such as a negative view of oneself and the current state of the world, alongside loneliness from isolation. It is an ongoing cycle, where the increase in negative emotions from loneliness can develop into anxiety, which can cause even more negative emotions.
Despite all of this, there are some psychological benefits. This includes spending more time with our family, or with ourselves. CBC News reported that people are using the excess time to find new hobbies to “carry them through the second wave”. These can include arts and crafts such as painting and drawing. Personally, I have taken the extra time to get back to playing online games and reading. Due to the cancellation of in-person classes, I certainly enjoyed being able to wake up 15 minutes before class and still having enough time to make and eat breakfast.
Along the same lines, the good news is that higher esteem had a “buffer effect” against anxiety and depressive symptoms triggered by COVID19. This is similar to previous studies that found that “self-esteem can be a mediator in the relationship between loneliness, anxiety, and depression”. Using the extra time to do what we want, when we want without time constraints can be helpful.
However, when our psychological health affects us physically, (such as causing an increase in acne and weight gain), it can hamper one’s self-esteem and cause a vicious cycle that continues to get worse. It is important to realize that COVID-19 has many similarities to other illnesses (such as the common cold and flu), and being excessively worried about having COVID-19 and getting frequently tested can do more harm than good, such as an increase in anxiety and potentially exposing yourself to COVID-19 with frequent testing. Finally, one potential suggestion to bring light onto social and psychological symptoms from COVID-19 is to place more importance on mental health — when one searches for COVID-19 symptoms, only physical symptoms are listed.
Regardless of what we’re experiencing, what’s also important to know is that it is a difficult time for everyone and that we all react to change differently. While some might find it difficult to just stay at home, others (like myself) might actually enjoy having more time to themselves. As such, we shouldn’t feel bad about ourselves not reacting similarly to others.