Protecting mental health important while quarantined

An empty W 4th Street is seen in Downtown Los Angeles on March 22, 2020, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (AFP Photo)

While people are staying at homes all around the world as their governments request amid pandemic, experts say people should be active in order to protect mental health.

There are over 339,000 confirmed cases and more than 14,700 deaths worldwide from the virus.

, which has labeled the outbreak a pandemic, declared Europe the new epicenter on March 13.

The situation in Europe is worsening every day, especially in Italy, which now has more deaths than China, where the virus was first detected in December.

Many countries have declared states of emergency or curfews and are restricting transportation and trade.

Governments, non-governmental organizations and experts have advised people to stay home to stop the virus from spreading.

But how will the quarantine affect their mental health and what should they do to protect it?

Ayşe Sena Sarıdoğan, a psychologist at İstinye University Medical Park Gaziosmanpaşa Hospital in Istanbul, says socializing is an essential human need.

"Being unable to leave the house will prevent this. So when we need it, it will be useful to speak with our loved ones over the phone, online or video chat," she said.

Addressing the question about protecting mental health, she said young people or the elderly can do things they were previously unable to do due to a lack of time.

"We can be stronger if we can keep our external resources (hobbies, sports, etcetera) more diverse and robust against stress," she said.

She also warned that attention should be paid to sleep patterns and a balanced and healthy diet.

Sarıdoğan advised elderly people to solve puzzles and read books to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Clinical psychologist Gamze Dağar pointed out that distinguishing between 'taking measures' and 'unrestrained limitations' is very important for mental health.

"For instance, the most preliminary method of disinfecting the skin's surface is the knowledge that it is necessary to clean your hands with soap and water. However, when anxiety levels are out of control, people can create different skin diseases by using disinfectants or cologne excessively," she said.

For that reason, Dağar emphasized that keeping anxiety levels under control is very important for mental and physical health.

"Listening to your body after you had taken all hygiene measures whether you have any coronavirus symptoms and when you realize there are not any indications of COVID-19 will help reduce your anxiety level," she added.

She said anxiety levels may be higher in older people compared with others and dementia patients may especially be affected more negatively.

"In this case, changing the agenda and performing different activities with other family members and relatives will have a positive effect," she said.

Dağar said during quarantine days, many activities can be done in the house according to personality characteristics.

"They can do activities such as watching TV series and movies, reading books, talent activities such as painting, composing, exploring new areas with different recipes, doing physical exercise and designing plans for your life."

She also stressed that the positive psychological aspect of this pandemic can manifest itself in the long term.

"Along with the intensive life pace of people, relationships with each other, understanding each other, living together, taking common actions and social awareness can be revived," she added.

Turkey has 1,236 confirmed cases of the virus, officially known as COVID-19, with 30 deaths.

The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China last December, has spread to at least 167 countries and regions around the globe, while the tally of confirmed cases exceeds 339,000 and the death toll is over 14,700, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

China, Italy, Iran and Spain continue to be the worst-affected countries.

Despite the rising number of cases, the vast majority of people contracting the virus suffer mild symptoms before making a recovery.

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