It has been more than four months but the whole world is still grappling with the pandemic. Every day we are getting distressing news and images on social media. COVID-19 has brought many changes in our daily lives. These changes have not only been of staying at home, dining at our favourite restaurants, making vacation plans with friends and family but more than that. It has also directly affected our mental health.
We are currently living in a world where we are uncertain about the future. In our daily lives, many of us have become victims of stress, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, isolation, pressure, tension, work burden, and others. But many have been fighting these for the longest time that they can remember. We regularly hear rumours about the pandemic through social media (and even through our mainstream media) forcing us to think more, we are worrying about getting ill.
Tracy Browner, a sociologist, wrote an article in ‘Forbes’ where she talked about a study by Qualtrics. This study has been conducted in the UK on mental health crisis during COVID pandemic, it says that 67% people reported in the study that they are feeling higher levels of stress, 57% reported greater anxiety, 53% feel sadness in day to day life, 50% fell they are more irritable, and 42% reported that their overall mental health has declined.
I am a Ph.D. scholar. It’s been two months of lockdown, I still am not able to concentrate on my studies. I am regularly thinking and thinking but not working. Even if I work and suddenly get the news of one more positive case nearby it makes me stressful.
Although the study is based in the UK, it has significance globally. It is rational enough that we all are experiencing stress in our daily lives after the pandemic, one of my friends from Delhi has continuously been telling me from January that “if you are not stressful you are not paying attention to the news”.
In such a mental health crisis, WHO, state governments, and civil society organizations are suggesting strategies to cope from it. Mental health institutions like NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences), IMHANS (Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences) and CIP (Central Institute of Psychiatry) etc have provided toll-free numbers to help individuals and families with the distress they are facing due to COVID-19. The current situation has become highly stressful for families who are living with a person with mental illness. Through the helpline numbers, the mental health professions are able to reach out to them as well.
Here, I would be talking about some strategies which may help us to deal with this mental health crisis.
The government has told us to start practising social distancing to stop the transmission of the corona virus. This word ‘social distance’ has been used globally to maintain a physical distance of minimum one meter among individual. But I think we must maintain physical distance only rather than emotional. We need to be close to each other emotionally at such times. We need each other more than ever to get over the situation.
Keeping oneself updated with the latest developments around the pandemic situation will help us educate those around us too. As I had mentioned earlier WHO, State governments and many other organizations have provided us with information to cope with the mental health concerns arising due to COVID19. This information can be used to help oneself and also others.
You are the only person who can help yourself to deal with your mental health. You have to take care of your body and mind. Good sleep, healthy food, regular physical activity, regular work (whichever work you are engaged in), reducing screen time and spending more time with family etc. are some strategies which may help us to take care of our mental health.
It is basic psychology that when we are free we start thinking (especially have negative thoughts). So if we make ourselves busy in work then we may distract ourselves from these thoughts. Engage in productive activities at home to keep that stress level down.
If you are not at home, regularly speak over the phone with your family members, give them update about yourself and take from them too. If you are working from home then be in touch with your friends or colleagues virtually, ask them what they are working on? How they are dealing with the crisis? And share positive aspects of your daily lives.
If you think that your anxiety in this pandemic will go by its own, then you may be wrong and it may lead to a higher level of stress. So if you are worried about anything which is leading to your anxiety, talk about it to your trustworthy friends and if it still carries on take professional help.
These are some strategies which may help us to deal with our mental health concerns. We have to keep working on it. Take care of yourself and your family’s mental health.
Note- Author would like to acknowledge Mamta Yadav, MPhil Scholar at CIP Ranchi, for her contribution