It’s time to talk about tech and mental health in the time of COVID-19

(Hello, Variable reader. Starting this month, we’ll be featuring an issue every Sunday. For September, we’re looking at just some mental health issues that should be talked about, especially during COVID-19. )

As the world continues to grapple the problem thats COVID-19, its left a lot of people hunkered down in their homes. In the Philippines, its a situation were painfully aware of. After all, weve been under some form of community quarantine since early this year that life before the pandemic feels like an eternity ago.

But beyond the hours spent watching Netflix and chilling—well, sweltering if you dont have air conditioning, the pandemic life has also raised our awareness on aspects of our lives that we often take for granted, chief of which are technology and mental health.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, industries, even people, often referred to tech in future tense. Case in point: before COVID-19 hit, many people were wary of online payment apps, often choosing to pay using cash or credit card. These days, its safe to say that people use em for many things. In fact, students who are still struggling to cope with distance learning under the new normal use GCash to get donations for either laptops or other much-needed gadgets.

Its also removed the stigma of working from home. Before the pandemic, many industries were hesitant to adopt remote work setups. The Telecommuting Act, the countrys only piece of legislation that covers work-from-home setups, covers those given to workers on a voluntary basis. Just roughly a year after it was signed into law, its become the framework of businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But nearly half a year into the pandemic, some cracks are starting to emerge. For one, people are starting to feel fatigued. In his interview with the Wall Street Journal, Googles ex-HR chief Laszlo Bock said that initial gains by companies at the start of the lockdowns could be attributed to people being terrified of losing their jobs. That fear-driven productivity is starting to take its toll, he added.

“[Its just] not sustainable.”

The first one to feel the toll of having technology in your face 24/7? Its your mental health.

A recent survey by the Martec Group, a U.S.-based global research firm, showed that over 80 percent of the respondents said that working from home negatively impacted their mental health. In addition, nearly half of the respondents reported an increase in stress levels, as well as a dip in focus. Even mental health experts say the work setup comes with a caveat, as it can blur the lines between your work and personal lives, leading to mental health issues among people. 

Before the pandemic struck, the line between work and personal spaces was defined: The office is where “work” happens, while your house is your “personal” space. These days, that once-clear boundary is starting to blur for most people—what, with working with listening to a barking dog or music blaring in the background, or even having to do an urgent errand.

“The timings are messed up,” added Dr. Murali Rao, a behavioral science expert at the Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, in an interview with Business Insider. He also says this is the reason why some people are itching to go back to the office because they think its back to organized living.

This is just one aspect of technology that were talking about. The truth of the matter is, what we know about technology and its effects on mental health is just the tip of the iceberg. As it continues to evolve, especially during these uncertain times, its best to take stock of what we know right now.

Yes, the pandemic is still raging on.

Also, yes, youre pretty much looking at a future where technology is now in the present tense.

Finally, yes, it can affect your mental health.

Experts say that self-care is important. For instance, having a clearly defined work schedule can be a godsend for people looking to establish boundaries between work and play. It also helps to have a “work” space and communicate it with everyone else—much like in the office.

But dont look at me, though. I started writing this in the morning, and just finished it tonight because life got in the way.

You know what? Im actually fine with that.

Now, its time to detach.

(Oh, we’re still looking for a title for the features. Suggestions welcome!)

Ralph Gurango

explainer | newsman | jrpg adventurer

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