Health Covid-19: Physical and mental well-being of the Latin American...

Covid-19: Physical and mental well-being of the Latin American community – RCI


The pandemic brought pain and mental disorders, in addition to the virus. Photo: iStock.

Although the coronavirus constitutes a health problem in itself, the enormous incidence that it is having in our daily lives, with the suspension of our social role as we knew it, has brought with it other health disorders.

The modification of our routine, both at work and in private relationships, has given rise to a series of manifestations on a physical and mental level that encompass all people, both adults and young people and children.

To address this issue, Casa de las Américas organized an online meeting with specialists last week, with the aim of bringing the population, particularly Spanish-speaking people, an appreciation of the physical and mental health problems arising from the pandemic and some tips to deal with them.

Andrea Cobo, Sophia Escobar and Ricardo Botero during the meeting. Photo: Facebook Maison des Amériques.

Online exchange

Andrea Cobo, an expert in massage therapy, kinesiology and orthotherapist, and Sophia Escobar, a mental health specialist, participated in the meeting, which was carried out through the videoconference modality.

The exchange lasted just over an hour and had the participation of the public, who could send their queries. The exhibition was moderated by Ricardo Botero, community organizer in the northern area of ​​the city of Montreal.

Covid-19 and physical disorders

One of the most visible consequences of the pandemic has been the emergence of physical ailments, as a consequence of the abrupt change in our activity.

The disease suspended or modified our usual routines without prior notice and forced us to confinement in a reduced physical space.

Many people had to cancel their usual physical and leisure activities, eliminating, reducing or adapting them to a smaller range of possibilities.

Suddenly, it was impossible to go to the gym, run in a park or just take a walk.

The home was not intended to become an office. Photo: iStock.

But, also, an immense number of people was forced to work from their homes, performing their jobs in a place that was not prepared for that purpose.

The consequences were soon felt … in the body.

In this regard, Andrea Cobos warns that working from home is, in general, more sedentary. We are not required to leave the home, take a transport, climb stairs, or walk from one desk to another to speak to a colleague. “Working from home sat us in front of a computer ”, says the specialist.

Physical pain did not take long to appear due to less activity and poor posture.

In this sense, Cobos recalls that it is absolutely necessary to do “active breaks, stretching, trunk and head rotation, squats” in order to avoid numbness of our body, due to the lack of movement.

Poor posture can cause multiple disorders to our health. Photo: Facebook Maison des Amériques.

Active breaks are those in which we suspend for a few moments the task that we are carrying out to carry out another action, which may be walking a few steps, exchanging some words with other people, pouring yourself a coffee or others.

In addition, the presenter recalled that it is essential to have a suitable environment to carry out our task.

The most important thing is to have a comfortable chair and position the computer so that you are not inclined to see the screen, placing it at eye level. Forgetting these two basic conditions will lead to cervical pain, shoulder and upper and lower back discomfort, ailments in the spine and, quite possibly, problems with blood circulation, cramps or other changes in the legs.

Sitting correctly, upright, without stooping, releases the diaphragm and favors breathing, helps to avoid fluid retention, through adequate circulation, and eliminates the possibility of chronic fatigue.

Maintain mental health

In turn, Sophía Escobar argued that all health crises cause anxiety and concern in people and that, if they are not treated properly, they can harm mental health.

Escobar provides figures that show the magnitude of mental problems. Per year, these disorders affect “600,000 people in Quebec, 4,000,000 in Canada and 600,000,000 worldwide”.

Lack of routines and social contact also affects the little ones. Photo: iStock.

The pandemic seems to have aggravated the picture.

Organizations such as Revivre, where the specialist works, recorded an increase in consultations with the public suffering from mental disorders.

“One in four people can suffer from this type of illness”Escobar points out. “Being concerned about the pandemic is not bad, worrying can be a strategy to deal with the situation ”he adds.

The problem arises when that concern gives rise to anguish and that can lead to a catastrophic appreciation, which does not necessarily reflect the real situation.

There are two different types of concern and knowing how to tell them apart is helpful in giving them an answer.

  • The real concernIn other words, recognize that there is a pandemic and that we must take measures to contain it, such as, for example, hand washing or social distancing.
  • On the other hand, the hypothetical or anticipated concern, which exaggerates the possible consequences of the situation, such as thinking that due to the pandemic we are all going to die.

When worry begins to have physical manifestations, then we talk about anxiety.

The most common physical manifestations are muscle tension, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

To these we must add emotional disorders, worry, fear, irritability and impatience; cognitive, when we have concentration problems or are slower to understand or respond to an issue; behavioral, when we avoid people, places or situations because they scare us.

Stay calm and ask for help when necessary. Two basic but important tips. Photo: iStock.

Effective responses

There are numerous self-management strategies that can help preserve or restore mental health in stressful situations such as a health crisis.

The specialist cited the example of a form of intervention that she calls “support for self-management”, which consists of all the little things and actions in everyday life that can be used to prevent stress or relapses.

Among the advice provided by Escobar are:

  • establish a routine (times to get up, go to bed, eat, do leisure, etc.),
  • stay physically active (for example, through exercise) and mentally (learning a language, doing crossword puzzles, taking online courses),
  • carry out activities that incline us to calm and self-pity, avoiding judging ourselves with extreme harshness (yoga and meditation can be useful),
  • look for reasons to be thankful at the end of the day,
  • consult reliable news sources (filtering the enormous flow of content to which we are exposed daily),
  • go to professionals and specialized agencies for help and
  • identify people in our environment with good listening skills, from whom we can ask for collaboration if we need it.

The Casa de las América, a meeting place for Latin Americans in Quebec. Photo: Maison des Amériques.

Andrea Cobo is a nursing assistant and telecommunications, specialized in the treatment of deep muscle and joint pain, with more than 15 years of experience in the field of health and well-being.

Sophia Escobar is currently an organism mental health specialist Relive. Part of her job is to promote mental health through a self-management program focused on helping people living with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

The House of the Americas (The House of the Americas), is a meeting place for the Latin American community in Quebec, with activities in the social, cultural and business fields.

Source: Maison des Amériques / The House of the Americas.


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