The fears surrounding each cough, sneeze or bout of nausea during the COVID-19 outbreak has left much of the world focused on physical worries. However, experts fear too many are neglecting their mental health.
The importance of mental health is not just to make stay-at-home restrictions easier, but also for the direct role it plays on physical health.
SUNLIGHT & VITAMIN D
Exposure to sunlight, or lack thereof, can play a key role in how an individual’s mood is regulated, says Dr. Erik Fisher, a licensed psychologist based in Georgia.
“The sun is often necessary to help us regulate mood because when the sun hits our skin it helps our skin manufacture vitamin D, which is responsible for our mood. It also affects or impacts our immune systems,” Fisher said. He urged people to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight per day, even just sitting by a window.
People can also eat foods containing vitamin D, such as fatty fishes like salmon, herring or tuna along with egg yolks, milk and orange juice.
Experts also say that exercise can improve mental health and reduce stress, and with gyms closed amid the pandemic, people can take their routines outdoors for an added boost with a dose of sunlight.
UV RAYS MAY SLOW VIRUS
Findings point to sunlight as a saving grace through the pandemic. Not only has it been argued to positively affect moods amid quarantine, but some experts believe sunlight may inactivate the virus by way of UV rays.
Hong Kong University pathologist John Nicholls has said sunlight was one of three important factors that could cause the virus to be slowed as summer approaches.
Even when the sun isn’t shining, Fisher said vitamin D can still be manufactured through cloud-filtered sunlight.
If stormy spring weather forces families inside, imitated sunlight through technology can be crucial for mood regulation.
“As we find ourselves in stay-in-place orders, we have to look at how we can get our daily dose of nature,” Fisher said. “We can do that through videos on YouTube, you can go online and zoos are doing demonstrations of what the animals are doing, feeding them as well as just being able to observe them in nature.”
Along with a consistent routine and a healthy diet of news consumption, Fisher said mindfulness and a positive attitude can be the crucial ingredients to turn a fearful situation into a growing experience.
Several mindfulness apps are offering free access amid the global pandemic, including the popular Headspace and Calm apps.
“We can turn what seems like a very difficult situation into an opportunity to learn,” he said. “I often tell people life happens to us, not for us. And I especially believe that now. It’s teaching us to wash our hands. It’s teaching us the importance of health. It’s teaching us the importance of family and some of the things that we may have thought were important aren’t so important.”