Updated: May 20
There was not a single cloud in the sky. It was yet again another gorgeous beach day in April. The only thing preventing local Angelenos from trooping to the Santa Monica beach was the ban on social gatherings. The COVID-19 pandemic was having it’s peak effect on quality of life. Restaurants lining Santa Monica Boulevard had closed their doors, few of which offered pick-up and delivery options. The beach city of Los Angeles was brought to it’s knees, struggling to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic.
The effect of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and stay-at-home measures was felt by all. We began to understand the full effect of social isolation. Humans are social beings. It’s not surprising that the biggest events on our calendar are the iconic celebrations that bring family and friends together such as the Super Bowl.
Isolation has the tendency to increase stress and anxiety levels. Major Depression is expected to increase during extended periods of lockdown. There have been multiple reports of increased domestic violence, which was not unexpected. These tend to have physiologic consequences.
Major Depression is historically classified based on a constellation of symptoms popularized by the mnemonic “SIGE-CAPS” - suicidal, insomnia, guilt, energy levels falling, crying, appetite, psychomotor agitation, sleep problems. Stay-at-home orders and a widespread work-from-home culture will probably lead to decreased physical activity in at least a subset of the population. Long lines form at grocery stores, making it difficult to purchase healthy produce. New eating habits emerge. The combination of insomnia, low energy levels, over-eating, decreased physical activity and new eating habits will only compound the obesity epidemic. In the years leading up to the pandemic, obesity was rising with an estimated 39% of the US population being obese.
It’s imperative to be mindful of these challenges in an extended lockdown period as we redefine the “new normal” in an attempt to fight the pandemic. Even as some medical practices close their doors to protect staff and patients from the spread of the virus, creative ways need to be quickly developed to provide the high quality mental health services that are so dearly needed. In comes Telemedicine. Telemedicine allows psychologists to be able to reach patients in the comfort of their home.
A good psychologist -or mental health program such as this- is able to consolidate therapy to address sleep problems, overeating, low energy levels and inactivity. It is good medical practice to seek the care of a registered dietitian (such as this) to develop a personalized nutrition plan in the face of dietary challenges and new eating habits. As stay-at-home orders and a new culture of work-from-home lead to decreased daily activity levels, fitness coaches (such as these) are now worth their weight in gold. With Telemedicine, we are able to receive the quality care we deserve.
It is important to be prepared for any potential outcome of this pandemic, whether we completely eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic with a unified global effort or whether we have to learn to live with the Coronavirus. Changing times require changing strategies. As situations change, we will be creative in developing new strategies to face our obstacles.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man!