How Coronavirus Is Taking a Toll on Mental Health – The New York Times

Posted: May 12, 2020 at 9:44 am

This post was added by Alex Diaz-Granados

As quarantine drags on, two journalists have an honest conversation about the hard-to-ignore rising levels of stress.

Francesca Donner, editor of In Her Words, on how the coronavirus is taking a toll on peoples mental health

Can I still afford rent? When can I see my friends again? Will my kids ever return to school? Is it safe to go outside? What will life look like when this is all over, if this situation ever truly ends?

Were here for some candid talk about the rising levels of stress during lockdown, and how to cope. Corinne Purtill is a freelance journalist and a parent of two, and Francesca Donner is a Times editor and a parent of three.

Corinne: Hi, Francesca. Were now let me check my notes here about seven and a half years into home quarantine. How are you doing?

Francesca: Well, technically fine. But its been well over a month since my kids stopped going to school and I stopped going to the office and we officially stopped seeing people, other than a grocery worker here or there. Not to point out the obvious, but it starts to wear you down. You?

Corinne: Same. On good days, I remember to be grateful that my family is healthy, and we have a safe place to stay. But I still liked it better back when I had all that stuff and I could go wherever I wanted.

Francesca: I realize a large part of the problem for me is simply not knowing the end point. The way it is now, there are these hazy dates on the horizon, but they seem just to feed a false sense of hope. Nobody actually knows when this will end.

Corinne: Nobody knows. A friend of mine compared it to entering a marathon and finding out midrace that theyre moving the finish line back a few miles again, and again, and again.

Francesca: You can see people starting to unravel. A LeanIn.Org survey out this week suggests women are experiencing stress at up to twice the rate of men. And being under this pressure makes us women and men do and say things that, well, we might not normally do. Parents shouting at kids. Adults shouting at each other.

One friend of mine said she threw her husbands clothes out of the window because he left them on the floor. She said it was extremely cathartic.

Corinne: Oh my God. I think I just snorted my coffee through my nose.

Francesca: Plus, youre either never alone, or always alone. Harried families and roommates are desperate for a moment of peace, while for some people isolating alone, maybe all they want is a moment of companionship.

Corinne: A definitive conclusion from this quarantine is that humans sweet spot really is somewhere between alone every minute and never alone for a second.

Francesca: Indeed.

Corinne: There was a haunting line in Jill Lepores recent New Yorker piece on loneliness: One tragedy of loneliness is that lonely people cant see that lots of people feel the same way they do.

And then theres the feeling that things are out of control the world cant control the virus, and we cant control the most basic aspects of our lives. That can make people lean too hard on coping mechanisms too much drinking, for one.

Corinne: I spoke recently with Nir Eyal, a productivity consultant, and he mentioned a 2006 study that found that workers in situations with high expectations, little social support and minimal control over their working conditions basically, our lives right now were at greater risk for mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

Something that does seem to offer a bit of an antidote to that is finding a routine.

Francesca: I agree. If uncertainty is the beast, as the Atlantic posits, then a routine, however minor, may be some small panacea. And there are other things we can do to help manage the risk, like washing hands or wearing a mask.

Corinne: Totally. Inger Burnett-Zeigler, an associate professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University, told me that people fare better when they think of their actions as conscious choices rather than circumstances thrust upon them. Its the difference between thinking I am stuck at home and I am choosing to protect my communitys health by staying at home.

Francesca: Thats a helpful way of framing it, and much more constructive than mulling what youre missing, what could have been or what might have been. So, Corinne, is there anything you do to manage your stress?

Corinne: I leave my house. On foot. Once a day. It doesnt really matter where I go. I walk or run, I feel air on my skin, I take a break from doing and just be. You?

How Coronavirus Is Taking a Toll on Mental Health - The New York Times

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