Mental health professionals urge residents to be mindful of stress responses during isolation

Dr Cleon Athill
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By Latrishka Thomas

The change and adversity that comes with the Covid-19 crisis can cause a stress overload and, according to local mental health professionals, the first step to tackling this is to understand it.

Counsellor Dr Cleon Athill is calling on residents to educate themselves on the phenomenon known as stress response.

“I’m asking you to go online and understand stress response; understand how the brain works, how the body functions…because what’s going to happen to you is that because of the flooding hormones and so forth it is going to amplify already existing issues like diabetes, like asthma, because of the stress response,” Dr Athill said.

Athill, who holds a doctoral degree in Psychology and Social Psychology, explained that many of us are experiencing some of the physiological symptoms of stress and may not be aware.

For example, she said that “the hunger that you feel when you just finish eating, that is part of the stress response-which is why people eat off the food and then run to the supermarket again.”

She added that self-education on the matter “will help us to understand, if your mouth gets dry, it will help us to understand if your skin is itching, to understand if you just feel like you want to pee because you have some regressive behaviour.”

Dr Athill also said that being informed will help one to be less critical of others and more be empathetic.

Another Counsellor, Renée Smith spoke specifically to the stress induced anxiety that arises from isolation.

 “If you notice that a person in your family is not able to complete everyday activities – not just simply that, okay, because I’m home and I’m not doing anything; in the morning and I might shower up, and I lounge around in my night clothes for the holidays — but if you notice that you have somebody in your home that seems to be unable to get up and function normally, they’re just sleeping the entire day,they have no more appetite, they’re extremely moody”, then that person may need psychological attention.

She also lamented that there are shortfalls in Antigua and Barbuda’s mental health system that could be amplified as a result of this crisis.

Smith remarked that frontline workers may also need assistance to cope with  additional stress during the pandemic.

“What we’re going to see happening, if we get to the point in Antigua where we begin to have unprecedented numbers of deaths, we’re going to say that at the end of this a lot of our healthcare workers are going to be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” she explained.

She that as a precaution, measures must be put in place to deal with that adverse impact on healthcare professionals.

Meanhwile, the World Health Organization advises that “during times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings.”

It also encourages healthy activities, exercise and healthy eating.

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