Third pandemic wave turns to the psyche

According to experts from the Leopoldina Academy, in Germany, the world is preparing to receive the third blow of the covid-19 pandemic. But in this new chapter of the horror movie entitled "2020" the protagonist is not the coronavirus itself. The third wave will have mental health in its vortex, that is, the consequences that the world situation is causing on the psyche of people, subjected for just under a year to a strange "new normal" that transcends social classes , cultures and borders, limiting physical contact, privileging sedentary lifestyle and saturating the mind with bad news. It is true that at first glance the panorama looks hopeless, however, the key to overcome the long night of isolation is within each one and that is when an underlying magic word: self-care.

With the full name of the German Academy of Natural Sciences Leopoldina, this supranational body of researchers and academics is considered the oldest scientific society in the world. It was founded in 1652 and is the executor of the history of science and medicine in the Western world.

The Leopoldina Academy warned that the third wave of the coronavirus is that of mental illnesses

Upholding those merits, its academics submitted a comprehensive report to the government of Angela Merkel with opinions and predictions related to Berlin's handling of the pandemic. The document, among other aspects, speaks of the prevailing need not to abandon biosecurity measures in order to contain contagions, of assuming the mask as "the new social standard", and why it is urgent to start an offensive for health mental since the third wave of the coronavirus will be psychological.

It sounds like a truism: the extended quarantine is a scenario that begins to take its toll on people's mental stability. Leopoldina has not just said it, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also been warning it since March and even the English medical journal The Lancet, one of the most prestigious publications on health worldwide.

And if this is the case in Germany, imagine the forecast in Latin America, where meeting, getting close and touching is an irrefutable cultural characteristic.

But there is no problem without a solution, especially in this age obsessed with health. Self-care measures to help us from our own possibilities are free, enjoyable and easy to locate in a simple web search. And if you need to seek professional help, there are also a host of options at hand.

Three peaks of a single mountain

The issue of waves and the coronavirus opens a debate. Those who support this narrative around the disease point out that the first wave began, naturally, with the appearance of covid-19 in China in December 2019, had peaks between February, March and April in different parts of the world and began to decline in the beginning of the boreal summer. The second wave, they say, came between September and October with the reopening of schools and work activities in much of the world and is still being felt strongly in countries such as France, Spain, Germany, the United States, Brazil or Iran.

The theme of waves parallels the Spanish flu pandemic at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, which was recorded by history in a story that attributes three moments of exacerbation to it.

But experts like the spokeswoman for the World Health Organization (WHO), Margareth Harris, say that it is absurd to compare the two pandemics and does not give credence to the theory of the "waves". The spokeswoman implores not to use the term since it gives the impression that covid is a seasonal virus and nothing is further from that. For her, the coronavirus has a single wave that goes up and down.

We consulted the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Nancy Bello to find out her opinions regarding the Leopoldina Academy report and the third wave of the new coronavirus and it turned out that the galena coincides with Harris, she does not believe in waves or outbreaks of the disease but it is convinced of the great impact that the world situation is causing from a psychological point of view.

Bello said that this pandemic has unprecedented characteristics for humanity, far beyond the obvious ones. "There has never been a pandemic in such a short time with the character of ubiquity and universality," she said.

Self-care is vital

We asked Bello to share her advice for mental health in times of acute stress and she spoke about the situation taking into account key groups. One of your biggest concerns is the hopelessness it instills.

“The covid came to affect the world of relationships and contacts. Humans are beings of contacts, we are made to touch, to hug, to love, and the covid came to destroy all that," she said.

In older adults, for example, in whom the peculiarities of life in the elderly are added with intensified fear since it is the human group with the highest risk of contagion and death, he considered companionship and strengthening of the highest importance of the social network around him.

The elderly are the most vulnerable population of the covid and also
of its psychological consequences / Photo: María Isabel Batista López

Regarding women, she stressed that the situation is also doubly challenging due to the cultural burden of women as those who take care of others. And this not only in the domestic space. Bello pointed out that in the health sector, 70 percent of the workforce is female and that is suffered by the female population, who in quarantine has seen their tasks and household chores, as well as work, redoubled.

With the coronavirus, women see their work as caregivers redoubled

Regarding self-care measures, I first list the importance of taking care of the body with physical activity routines that can be done even at home. For the psychiatrist, another consequence of the pandemic will be the excess of musculoskeletal diseases due to reduced mobility and that could be avoided by establishing a discipline at home for exercises, however simple they may be.

If you need help or creative encouragement to get started with this, on the internet the possibilities are endless to get tutorials and yoga sessions, aerobics, dance therapy, Pilates, Tai Chi and even boxing routines that are fun, effective and, the key word, free .

Another measure of self-care is to respect the ritual of restorative sleep and consider as sacred the eight hours that at least we must sleep to regain energy and keep the immune system in tune.

It is followed by a balanced and healthy diet according to the possibilities of each household. And beyond that, it is already a profit if tobacco, alcohol and drugs are kept out of the game. And continuing with the line of filtering everything that enters the body, limiting screen time as well as excessive exposure to the media to have a healthy mind in a healthy body.

“You have to make a conscious effort to relax and recharge your batteries. Everyone knows which routines are best for them ”, emphasized Bello, who commented that just as for some this is achieved with music and dance or simply with a shower, for others they are taking refuge in the spiritual life, painting, cooking, or simply enjoying company and conversation with loved ones, caring for a pet, giving and receiving affection. All this based on "establishing reasonable priorities and goals to sustain the day to day," added Bello, who offers advice and reflections on mental health from the psychoanalytic approach through the Instagram account @psiquempoderada

But if you already have symptoms of anxiety and depression, you have to seek help. "First with the social network, the family, and on the other hand seek professional help because depression and anxiety have effects even in one's own life," she stressed.

And there is nowhere to run in the midst of chronic stress or depression. For example, in Caracas the Plafam association offers free online psychological consultations as part of the quarantine. The information is on their website, and you can also call 0412-2273712. Another group that offers the same service is Psychologists without Borders, with assistance through the telephones 0412-5507600 and 0424-2925604.

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