Living in the Algarve and benefitting from the region’s natural resources, such as the sea and the mountains, seem to be great options to care not just for your physical well-being but also your mental health.
Given the current state of affairs, feelings such as anxiety tend to arise or become stronger, even for people with no history of psychopathologies. Requests for psychological help have been increasing and are common in all age groups. Children have trouble burning energy at home, teenagers’ academic lives are on hold and adults have to learn how to reconcile work and domestic chores with school support for their children within their homes. All this whilst trying to respect all safety recommendations.
“There are a lot more people feeling anxiety and having difficulty dealing with it. They feel more depressed, struggle with depression, and even obsessive-compulsive disorders, where there is enormous concern about cleaning up and eliminating germs,” reveals Norwegian clinical psychologist Eva Jacobsen, who for the first time ever will have to put new clients on a waiting list due to a lack of vacancies.
Ana Silva Duarte Lima, psychologist at the Health Secret Medical and Paediatrics’ Clinic, in Almancil, also says she has seen more requests for help, “especially from patients who had already been discharged and had been without therapy for a long time. Not only adults, but also children and many adolescents, who now feel a more imminent anxiety”.
For Jacobsen, a lockdown is almost like “a break from the world. For many people, it gives them the opportunity to focus on their interests and even to rest.
However, for many others, all their routines have been turned upside down”. These are the cases that can trigger more pathological patterns, and then, according to Ana Silva Duarte Lima, it is necessary to ask for help and attend psychotherapy, because “it is a learning process to first identify anxiety, and then manage to control it so that it does not grow”.
In any case, it is important to stimulate the hormones commonly known as hormones of happiness (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin), and create moments of relaxation. This is because “when the hormones are balanced, all our physical and psychological functions are balanced. Fear generates stress and stress causes an imbalance at the neurophysiological level”, explains Ana Silva Duarte Lima.
Living in the Algarve then seems to facilitate the stimulation of these hormones. “It is very important to get some sunlight, even if you cannot get out of the house, I suggest that you sit near a window in the light hours. It is crucial for our mental and physical health to get vitamins for the immune system. There are also many places in the region to go for walks, which won’t be a crowded affair, which makes it possible for people to go out safely,” says Eva Jacobsen.
On the other hand, it can also be important to set times for activities such as yoga, physical exercise, and even to drink tea or make a phone call. The vital thing is “to maintain a daily routine and structure. Have a specific time to do your tasks; things that were normal, but which at a time like this are easily lost, which can really have a tremendous effect on mental health”, says the specialist.
For those working from home, there are practical tips that you can follow as well: “Make sure there is a specific area of the house for professional activity only. When you leave, you don’t work anymore,” Eva Jacobsen suggests.
According to Ana Silva Duarte Lima, what truly matters is to stimulate hormones and balance the emotional aspect. “People can even hug themselves; it is a very important technique when there is anxiety. Then, I suggest everything that promotes a sensation of well-being and happiness, and that can be creativity, like listening to quiet music, playing an instrument or painting,” she explains.
Ana Silva Duarte Lima also stresses the importance of physical exercise for mental health, but always adapted to each person’s abilities. “It is crucial and there are many classes available on the internet. It depends on the type of anxiety; if it is a very strong anxiety, it is also not convenient to do very intense exercise because it can trigger tachycardia issues, which are common in panic attacks.”
A perfect option for those who live or visit the Algarve are watersports: “Saltwater has a relaxing effect on body and mind. Besides all the scientific studies available, the sea produces an effect of relaxation, meditation and mindfulness. The connection of our body with the water will develop and enhance the functioning of the metabolism and is, therefore, very good.”
In general, outdoor activities involving the sun, sea and/or mountains, as long as they are allowed within the safety norms, are strongly advised.
By MARIA SIMIRIS