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Let's talk about your mental health: interview with clinical psychologist Dr. Marietta Németh

An original KÖZGAZDÁSZ ONLINE post.

People had ambivalent reactions to the worldwide quarantine. Introverts probably welcomed it, while extroverts hated it… But what they likely have in common is the insecurities, anxiety, depressive thoughts, or other difficulties that the #stayathome brought with it. We talked to clinical psychologist, Head of Corvinus Student Support Office Dr. Marietta Németh about ways to respond to the situation.

The situation is unusual, our daily rhythm has changed, our space has narrowed, and we are bound to spend more time with ourselves and our families than before. How long does it take to adapt to the changes in environment and lifestyle? What effects can the solitary confinement have on our mental state?

Dr. Németh Marietta, clinical psychologist

We are all different, so we respond differently to the same circumstances. If previously you were not very keen on socializing, now may react to your confinement with some sense of relief. If you had a hard time being witty and sharp during conversations, now you have enough time to think about your words in online communication. In general though, we can state that we are experiencing huge changes and we need to adapt to them. Incidents requiring adaptation cause stress, so it is normal to experience some decline in performance, to get tired sooner, and be more irritable, get more easily worked up than usual. You need to try to be more tolerant with yourself and your family as well as other people around you.

Our home has become our office, so we have nowhere to go home to and unwind after a hard day of work anymore. It is important to create space and time for relaxing, even – without each member of the family having their own rooms – by assigning everybody a time slot for retirement and rest. Those students that left the dorm or their rented apartments and went back home are now living with their parents and siblings again, which might be unusual and sometimes difficult. It may be that they cannot live now with the people they would like to be together with, for example their partners or friends. It is very important to maintain communication with those people. As in online communication we have less metacommunication tools available, it is especially important to express our feelings verbally, and to be a lot more precise with our words than offline.

You may want to speak about your emotions and express yourself more accurately as online meta communication is less present. Being worried is normal, this is an emergency situation after all. This may temporarily be manifested in certain physical symptoms such as digestion issues or sleeping problems.

If anxiety makes you find new, adaptive solutions then it is helpful. However, if it overwhelms you to the point that you are unable to do your daily routine and carry out the simplest tasks for a longer period of time (even as long as a week), or experience extreme fear of what might happen, that is not helpful at all, and warrants professional help.

At Corvinus you can get psychological support. This is free, anonymous, and currently available online. For an appointment, contact Since distance education started we have been publishing self-help material, trying to offer help for students with advice and information on how to cope with the situations brought about by the pandemic.

If in this unusual and difficult situation you feel insecure, confused, anxious, frightened or experience more intense challenges in your relationships, feel free to contact us. We would like you to feel supported and have somewhere to turn to even far away from campus.

Many people are facing issues like canceled school farewell ceremonies or other, even bigger losses. How do we cope with the grief and let go of the painful feelings?

First and foremost, it is a good idea to look for balance here, too. If you focus on your losses you might get the impression that they are too overwhelming, and you might end up being disappointed, unmotivated, and even depressed. You should also consider your gains too, even by making yourself think about them consciously.

Besides this, you might want to stick to your old habits and red-letter days, even if not in their original form. It is observed that when you are sitting on the computer all the time your sense of time gets skewed, days begin to seem to merge - special days also help in structuring time.

You can also take on new habits too, and these might help you make events and days more special. Use your imagination here: a colleague told me a story about how their grandparents’ wedding anniversary was celebrated in the family: even though they could not meet in person, everybody prepared the agreed meal and then they ate it together, online.

It does matter a lot what context you choose to attach to an incident. The official school ceremony might be cancelled but you sure will remember these special times forever and have a story to tell your children and grandchildren.

The internet if full of practical advice on how to spend time – a fact that results in a more intense pressure anxiety about having to spend quarantine time productively. How can you find the balance between too much and too little activity?

Yes, you can read things about the quarantine being such a great opportunity to complete tasks you had no time for before. Indeed, there are people who cannot work from home and now have to figure out how to spend their days in a meaningful way. These people have been offered a lot of useful tips and advice from which they can pick the most suitable ones for themselves. But those who are working or studying from home have an extra burden on them, which is a challenge both timewise and mentally.

In the first weeks of home office and remote studies we have been operating in “emergency mode”, trying to adjust to the new circumstances, and at the same time deliver the same quality as before. This consumes a lot of energy which is aggravated by the uncertainties about the future, and about how long we will have to keep going and preserve our energies. We simply have too little control over the situation. As time goes by, the emergency mode should be replaced by a more sustainable operation. If this doesn’t take place, we will get drained, even to the point of getting either physically or mentally ill. This new, long-term operation will be characterized by picking up new routines and habits and formulating a new rhythm, or returning to the old one in terms of work and rest.

I also think that in the current circumstances we ought to consciously reconsider the patterns of time online and offline:

I definitely advise against spending the whole day in front of the computer. Digital silence and physical activity should also be part of your days.

To be able to do this you have to have made a decision, as well as the understanding and support of the people around you, your bosses, your teachers to maintain a healthy existence in the long run.

The article is to be continued with Part Two.

Written by: Fruzsina Lázár

Images: Pexels

Translated from:

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