The Importance of Focus on Mental Health During a Pandemic

The Importance of Focus on Mental Health During a Pandemic

Penelope Debs Keough (School of Education, National University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6952-8.ch009
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Abstract

A focus on mental health is paramount in importance during the COVID-19 pandemic! This chapter is devoted to how parents, teachers, children, and other professionals can maintain a modicum of sanity while the media touts the devasting effects of this global crisis. Various tools and coping mechanisms will be explored such as a positive outlook to combat the influence of the hyperbole espoused by the media and how to maintain one's focus for optimal health amidst the suffering caused by the pandemic. How fears can be assuaged in light of the risks associated with COVID-19 will be explored while simultaneously exploring one's passion to keep motivation to do what enhances life while the disease ravages the globe. An emphasis on cultivating social emotional principles will be a major aspect of the chapter as well as developing clarity through maintaining disciplined principles of organization for body and mind.
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Background

As a child, one often heard parents say, “Eat your vegetables”, followed by sighs, or a turned up nose, even feigned lockjaw.

Now, with global widespread COVID-19 virus, and recent discovery of various mutations of the virus, not only optimal nutrition is important, but care of one’s physical health and spiritual needs must be met in order to maintain a modicum of immunity against COVID.

As the holiday season came to a close in 2019, an eerie predator was looming in Wuhan, China. Open air markets were thriving, but so was the virus, allegedly originating with bats and/or odd looking rodents similar to an anteater known as Pangolins which were a popular source of food and medicine throughout China.

Epidemiologists may need to adjust their research agenda to ascertain the cross-over of animal hosts for the spread of the virus to humans. According to Volpato, Fontefrancesco, Gruppuso, Zocchi, and Pieroni (2020):

The available literature suggest that there are two main drivers that enhance the necessary conditions for infectious diseases to cross the species barrier from wild animals to humans: (1) the encroachment of human activities (e.g., logging, mining, agricultural expansion) into wild areas and forests and consequent ecological disruptions; and, connected to the former, (2) the commodification of wild animals (and natural resources in general) and an expanding demand and market for wild meat and live wild animals, particularly in tropical and sub-tropical areas. (p. 1).

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Pandemic Promoting Anxiety

Educators, especially those in elementary and middle schools are reticent to return to their classrooms. There is a “new normal” with distance learning, but many teachers at the age of retirement are taking that option due to the complex nature of technology and their lack of aptitude. “The pandemic’s disruption to education will have social, economic repercussions for years.” (Knutson, J., 2020, retrieved 3/8/21).

Clinical psychology has sought to ameliorate anxiety through cognitive theory. Some of the leading theorists such as Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis used replacement of negative thoughts with those attached more to reality. In vernacular terms, Albert Ellis is known for replacing “stinkin thinking”. Ellis was the founder of Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) and “believed that intertwined thoughts and feelings produce behavior”. (Jay, M., 1999, p. 94). In other words, perseverating thoughts, based on fictitious or maladaptive facts produce either overgeneralization, or dichotomous (black or white) thinking creating a series of “mind clutter” leading to detrimental thought patterns which is the basis of anxiety. Aaron Beck, founder of Directed therapy “helps to expose and restructure maladaptive thought and reasoning patterns. This is generally short-term therapy in which the therapist focuses on tangible evidence of the client’s logic (such as what they say and do).” (ibid, p. 93)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Meditation: The act or process of mediating: serious contemplation or reflection.

Vaccine: Any preparation so used to produce immunity to a specific disease.

Zoom: A computer platform used to host meetings and conversations in cyberspace.

Mental Health: A positive condition of the mind.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL): A process which is an integral part of education and human development.

Lockdown: A term coined during the COVD-19 pandemic indicating stringent mandates sanctioned by a nation’s government to prevent individuals from leaving living quarters.

Anxiety: Worry or uneasiness about what might happen.

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