COVID-19 Measures and Mental Care

Hokesen Letter, No 207 (English ver.), May 26, 2020.
Health Care Center, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
Yasuhiro Yamauchi, MD, PhD.

The worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has been expanding, and now we are living with ‘self-restraint’ under the prolonged infection control measure in the world that nobody has experienced. So, many people feel exhausted and anxious these days and it is normal for people to feel discomfort, both physically and mentally.

Infection by novel coronavirus is suggested to cause three types of infectious disease; the first type is a “biological infection”, which is a virus-induced disease. The second type is a “psychological infection”, which is anxiety- and fear-induced mental status that is caused by characteristics that human beings fear unknown matters, because the virus is invisible and there is no sufficient information on medical treatment. And the third type is a “social infection”, which is social behavior problem, including abhorrence, discrimination, and prejudice, caused by anxiety and fear.

It is said that the situation requiring measures against COVID-19 will continue for a long time going forward, so it is important to continue living in good health both physically and mentally while dealing well with anxiety and stress.

Everyone is more or less aware of "stress", and it is important to "be aware of one's own stress" Changes of having stress are expressing as following; mentally, ‘depression’, ‘sadness’, ‘anxiety’, ‘moodiness’, ‘powerlessness’ and ‘lack of motivation’; physically, ‘exhausted’, ‘headache’, ‘palpitation’, ‘dizziness’, ‘sleeplessness’, appetite loss’, ‘diarrhea’, and ‘constipation’; and behaviorally, ‘getting negative’, ‘avoiding communication’, and ‘getting angry’, so these as mentioned above are signs of “stress”.

Next, if you feel having too much stress, it is important to find out the causes of your ‘stress’. Due to various causes such as “life rhythm, learning, changes in working environment”,“changes in communication”, “anxiety about the future”,“financial anxiety”, etc. However, there are a variety of causes that can cause some entanglement and influence. Also, how people feel stress varies from person to person, and their responsiveness also varies.

Then, it is important to find out the methods for “coping methods” in order to relieve stress. There are mainly three types of coping with stress; the first type is ‘problem-focused’ copings which are aimed at resolving stress situation; the second type is ‘emotion-focused’ copings which are aimed at regulating emotional reaction; the third type is ‘stress-releasing’ copings which are aimed at releasing stress after having stress.

The “problem-focused” coping method that tries to manage stress by resolving or controlling the causes or problems of your stress. Sometimes, the resolution or controls of the stress is too difficult, and the stress is not able to be managed by oneself. In those cases, there is a ‘social support-seeking’ coping which is to consult with and to acquire advices and supports from people around you. Furthermore, in case causes or problems of stress are not resolved, there is a ‘problem avoidance’ coping which is to avoid or to give up the resolution of stress or to become defiant to stress. The “emotion-focused” coping method that tries to manage emotion or recognition by enough hearing of ‘distress’, ‘sadness’ and ‘irritability’ at consultation. Furthermore, since it is too difficult to change the cause of stress, ‘cognitive reevaluation’ coping is to change previous value and perspective, to keep distance or to correct cognitive distortion. After having stress or keeping chronic stress, there is “stress-releasing” coping method, which is to do what you like or to make change by oneself. Recently, ‘relaxation’ coping method is more frequent to relax your body by relaxation, bathing, and stretching and to soften your emotion.

It is said that when you are under stress, it is difficult to make normal judgments, and even if you try to do coping within yourself, you may not be able to organize your mind well and it may be difficult for yourself to deal with it. Therefore, it is better to inform your stress and suffering to your families, good friends, colleagues, your boss, or specialists, including counselors and psychologists and listen carefully.

From now, COVID-19 will continue, it is important to keep measures for infection protection with ‘new life style’. So far, we have lived with having a greater or lesser stress, even without COVID-19, we are also going to live long time with some stress. We cannot avoid stress, but if we can cope with stress well, stress would lead to our growth, and if we can manage or control stress appropriately by getting supports and helps from many people surrounding us, we would be able to live enriched lives.

If you have any concerns, please contact the Health Care Center, TUFS.