The vaccine drive in the UK is being considered a success by many. With over 15 million first doses of the jab administered, the country is third for having the most people vaccinated per capita, only behind Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
While it is expected that social distancing regulations will continue throughout 2021, the roadmap to some form of normality is underway. But when normality returns, how will the pandemic continue to affect the health of those who contracted the coronavirus? For carers, parents, and essential workers, the pandemic has been a toll on their mental health.
When the stress of the pandemic is over, many people will experience a mental burnout and the effects of ‘Long Covid’. A significant number of people have experienced increased responsibilities through their job and home-roles, and long-lasting symptoms of the virus after the infectious period suggest that the consequences of COVID will continue for years. Here, we explore the real consequences of COVID-19, and how to relieve these unfortunate effects.
After the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic, there were reports of fatigue as a symptom of the virus, even after the main infectious period. This suggested that there were real long-term effects of COVID-19. These effects were named ‘Long Covid’ by healthcare professionals and the media.
Such lasting symptoms include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
One in twenty people will experience the symptoms of the coronavirus for longer than eight weeks, according to a study by King’s College London. Considering the total cases of coronavirus in the UK by mid-February, this would mean that at least 200,000 people will suffer from Long Covid. This number will inevitably increase.
Fortunately, Long Covid may be combatted by natural supplementary support. The symptoms are similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, with some healthcare professional suggesting the Coenzyme Q10 could be used to alleviate the condition. Dr Chris Steele responded to questions on Long Covid in a television discussion, he said that “quality counts” when it comes to Q10 as an essential vitamin. Studies have already proven substantial benefits with this supplement and combatting their fatigue – one of the main demobilising effects of the coronavirus.
Lockdown causes deficiencies
The national lockdowns have caused a huge shift in the normal living experience. Being asked to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel has come at a cost to physical and mental health.
Sunlight exposure is vital for getting vitamin D. However, remaining indoors has caused a national deficiency. The NHS says that vitamin D3 helps “keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.”
Joint and muscle pain is a symptom of the coronavirus, and there is evidence that links a deficiency of vitamin D to comparatively worse effects of the virus and Long Covid. New studies are now researching links between respiratory viral infections and vitamin D. Meanwhile, the UK Government and Scottish Government are providing free vitamin D3 supplements to the most vulnerable in society for free. The NHS advises that the supplement should be taken by everyone throughout the year.
But nutrient deficiencies aren’t the only thing making lockdowns difficult. The restrictions on social interaction and physical exercise may contribute to reduced mental wellbeing. There has been strong guidance on protecting our physical health during the pandemic, but now the Government and various NHS foundations have focused on what we must do to aid our mental health.
According to one NHS Foundation Trust, exercise and communication are essential for mental health. Anxiety is high during the pandemic, so talking to someone can help avoid mental burnout. Even talking through your problems can alleviate stress. Ideally, this should be done virtually through a phone or video call.
Adding exercise to your daily routine is also recommended. Meaningful activities are important for mental health. Movement helps to reduce anxiety and depression.
The impact of the pandemic has been huge, especially for our frontline workers. The conditions of work mean there is an increased amount of scrutiny, regulation, and demand in their jobs. This can lead to mental burnout in many sectors of work.
This is true for NHS workers. 69 per cent of NHS workers rated their personal anxiety as a five or above on a scale of one to ten, according to a YouGov poll of 750 healthcare staff. This poll was in April. Since the end of April, COVID related deaths have quadrupled, in no doubt increasing this anxiety. Has the pandemic forced our health workers to rethink their vocation? Yes, according to the poll. Seven per cent of workers said they were unlikely to stay in the healthcare sector after the pandemic.
The education sector was also affected by the pandemic. However, one study suggests that restrictions helped improve feelings of anxiety among teachers. One in eight teachers reported high anxiety as a consequence of the coronavirus before the first lockdown was announced. However, after the lockdown announcement, only one in twenty reported this anxiety.
But with schools closed, home classrooms opened. As a result, this pressure was likely passed on to parents instead. The balancing act of maintaining a working life, family health, and the education of their children added substantial pressure.
The mental burnout of the pandemic is tiring. However, there is a reason to be optimistic, says psychologist Dr Janna Koretz: “This is going to make everybody’s ability to manage, cope and be flexible much better.” This suggests that life after COVID-19 may be perceived as easier because we have had so much to contend with during the pandemic.
The physical effects of the virus may continue for those who have been infected, however, mental burnout is likely to be temporary. The rapid vaccine rollout provides some clearance normal living arrangements to return. However, we must ensure that the public is safe for the time being – for both mental and physical health. Talking to friends and family, exercising, or using supplements to boost our health may be the best way to look after ourselves.