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What the national lockdown taught us about mental health & wellness

It’s been a tough year on the health front. The COVID-19 pandemic shook the world and its reverberations were felt around the globe. South Africa, in particular, faced one of the strictest national lockdowns to ensure our safety, which started on the 27th March 2020 and was subsequently extended. Although most of the country has gradually progressed to a Level 1 status stage, as of December 2020, South Africa has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the continent and has the 18th highest number of confirmed infections in the world.

Bloom Financial Services, a leading provider of affordable health insurance, together with their partner Momentum Health4Me, discuss the effects the pandemic has had on the mental health and well-being of South Africans and what you can do to take care of your wellness.

COVID-19 facts from around the globe

  • There are currently more than 20 million confirmed infections worldwide
  • South Africa is estimated to have more than 800,000 active cases and has entered the second wave of infection
  • Data has indicated that a loss of smell and taste is a key symptom of COVID-19
  • Men and older people with underlying health conditions, like diabetes, are at greater risk of developing the disease
  • Obesity increases the risk of falling ill or being hospitalised for treatment
  • Children and younger people become less seriously ill than adults
  • Many people have suffered from mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression over the lockdown and quarantine period

World Health Organisation confirms mental health impact of COVID-19

The World Health Organisation has confirmed the severe mental health implications of the pandemic, with depression and anxiety stemming from the effects of bereavement, lockdown isolation or from the loss of income or job redundancy. In fact, the WHO states that there has been a notable increase in the use of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety.

Step away from toxic productivity

We all took on so much this year; be it homeschooling the kids, working from home, and even learning new skills; and yet many people didn’t give themselves enough credit and instead, overextended themselves to the point of mental exhaustion and breakdown. Toxic productivity is not a new concept but it became increasingly relevant in 2020. The concept is related to obsessive self-improvement and workaholism, where people are encouraged to work themselves to exhaustion in order to succeed materially or receive emotional affirmation of self-worth. Obviously, having a good work ethic is an admirable quality but not at the expense of your mental health. This year, many South Africans faced a shift in their family, social, and work dynamics, which compelled many to try to succeed or create an unrealistic “lockdown legacy” in 2020. There really is no need to learn several new languages, run a marathon in your driveway or repaint your entire house. Give yourself a break!

What is mindfulness and how does it benefit you?

Bloom encourages all things in healthy moderation, which is why we believe in the practice of mindfulness for good mental health and well-being. Mindfulness is about self-awareness and it improves both our mental health and our overall well-being. It is largely about non-judgemental self-acceptance and includes breathing methods, positive thinking, and relaxation techniques. Mindfulness is important because, it has been argued, spending too much time worrying, problem-solving, and pushing for strict deadlines can be mentally draining. This is when the symptoms of acute stress, anxiety, and depression can set in. For more insight about the importance of your mental health, take a look at our article on Why is it important to take care of your mental health?

How to practice mindfulness?

Practicing mindfulness is quite simple. Here are some easy tips to get you started:

  • Learn to pay attention. It’s a busy world and we’re busy people so we often forget to slow down and notice things around us. Mindfulness is about being cognisant of your immediate and external environment, so take the time to use all your senses and appreciate touch, sound, light, smell, and taste. Instead of eating a quick lunch at your workstation, why not take your meal out into the garden where you can enjoy some fresh air and really savour your food?
  • Live in the moment, which means you need to actively try to find pleasure and fulfillment in the present rather than striving to achieve unrealistic goals that may actually undermine your ability to enjoy what you already have.
  • Accept yourself. Treating yourself well and recognising your own sense of self-worth, especially over this unprecedented and trying period, will go a long way in helping you be a stronger person, both mentally and emotionally.
  • Focus on your breathing. If you’re experiencing negative thoughts or are feeling overwhelmed, shut your eyes for a moment and focus only on your breathing for a few minutes. In fact, if you have the time, we highly recommend taking up meditation to help with improved mindful wellness.

Mental health support from Momentum Health4Me

Bloom specialises in offering affordable health insurance for the South African market and is also committed to providing our members with mental health support services, especially during a critical time like this. Our members have access to confidential, multilingual counselling support services that are offered on a toll-free number. They can even download the Momentum Wellness App from Google Play or the App Store. We offer specialised counselling support for:

  • Adults, where our services provide preventative and proactive intervention for the early detection, identification, and resolution of work, personal, or health problems that are causing mental distress and affecting their ability to work.
  • Children and teenagers can receive confidential support for preventative, proactive interventions of problems faced by this particular age group, which is often related to poor self-image, peer pressure or bullying.
  • Trauma and critical incident counselling are provided as a means of trauma support from professionals who are trained to provide emotional support to those who have experienced traumatic incidents, like rape, hijacking, child abuse, suicide, assault, or domestic violence.

Takeaway

COVID-19 has had and continues to have, a severe impact on all South Africans, especially with regards to our mental health and well-being. While the importance of good mental health is often overlooked, Bloom recognises the severity of a mental illness and takes an active role in the early detection and intervention against stress, anxiety, and depression. Contact our team of brokers to get a free quote for health insurance cover in GoldSilver, or Bronze medical insurance plans.

Medical Content Disclaimer

You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom Financial Services website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.