BC Mental health
Image Credit: Shutterstock

There was no doubt that mental health issues were of a key concern globally, but 2020 has brought in a new dimension to it due to sudden lifestyle changes leading to an increased focus on personal and mental wellbeing across the world.

Flashback to 2019 when the world was busy setting goals for 2020 and next travel destinations, very few of us could have expected the turn of events we experienced in the first few months of the new year. This year saw major sociopolitical conflicts and alarming news, with the rapid spread of COVID-19 making headlines. In March WHO declared COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic which led to several preventive measures being implemented such as movement restrictions. Life came to a sudden halt for many people globally and left countries around the globe struggling to combat the spread of the virus. These unprecedented developments impacted people’s lives physically, mentally but also financially due to a general shift to a more secluded sedentary lifestyle.

A McKinsey report stated that recent days have seen the sharpest economic pullback in modern history and a record-breaking spike in unemployment. It is inevitable that the global pandemic, compounded by financial crisis, will have a material impact on the behavioral health of society. We are witnessing a global shift to remote working, reduced consumer spending, an increase in reliance on online services which accelerated the advancement of technologies for a smoother operation of businesses across various industries.

While some of us adapted quickly staying at home by picking up new hobbies or by connecting to old friends, the pandemic overall has brought in enormous stress in the wider population. And with acute measures still being taken to curb the spread, some people might continue to experience further fear, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, depression along with other mental health issues.

According to a study published in 2015 , social isolation adversely affects mental health and overall wellbeing due to fewer opportunities to connect. Researchers claim that “the experience of socially isolating could be as profound as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and twice as detrimental to a person’s mental and physical health as obesity”.

In response to this emerging mental health crisis, UAE has launched several wellbeing initiatives for the residents. One of the most notable initiatives is the National Program for Happiness and Wellbeing (NPHW) which along with other community support functions, have rolled out a nationwide campaign for mental support for all UAE residents to help them overcome the psychological impact resulting from the spread of COVID-19. The National Campaign for Mental Support is an online initiative using digital solutions and social media channels with more than 50 experts in the fields of psychology, mental and social support, and life skills participating to support the population’s wellbeing.

Healthcare technology companies are also contributing to the cause and supporting mental health and overall wellbeing. Analysts and industry experts encourage the use of AI and digital platforms to connect consumers to evidence-based care as societies move forward towards a recovery “return” phase. With an increased reliance on innovative health solutions amid the current scenario, one can consider using an advanced wearable device or a virtual fitness membership service that helps individuals lead a balanced and active lifestyle.

The recent launch of health smartwatches and fitness trackers has made advanced features like stress management with EDA sensors, heart health notifications and mindfulness tools become much more accessible. Thanks to skin temperature monitoring, 24/7 heart rate tracking, active zone minutes, sleep analytics, guided breathing sessions and food logging, the benefits and possibilities of leading a healthy lifestyle with wearable devices are endless. In addition to this, some wearable brands also provide add-on benefits such as limited time trials to a paid premium membership that could unlock free access to features like video workouts, guided programs, wellness reports and wellbeing support communities.

If current global pandemic has taught us anything about mental health, it is the importance of talking about our mental health and taking necessary corrective actions. As such, advancement in technology has come as a handy solution helping people manage mental distress and increase emotional and physical wellbeing. Most of us would remember experiencing some form of mental distress during or before this health crisis. The adjustment to our lifestyles doesn’t need to continue to be a negative one. Let us lead a healthier and active lifestyle; today our health and wellness are more important than ever. So, don’t struggle alone, break the silence, reach out to trusted professionals, community resources or make use of innovative digital solutions such as wearables. This Mental Health Day on October 10, let’s move from surviving to thriving; now is the time to make your mental health a priority.

-Resha is a Licensed Counsellor and a mental health expert working with Fitbit to better understand and promote the overall wellbeing of the local population.