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9 Ways To Manage The Effects Of The Pandemic On Mental Health

“Treat your body like a temple,” it’s often said.

Eat right, take care of your body, exercise etc. We talk about these things so often, the sound of these words has become almost like background music to our lives. What is sad is that when we talk about ‘body’ being a temple, we conveniently exclude our ‘minds’ from the concept. If we have a toothache, or a cold, or a fever, we make sure to attend to it. It is almost funny how we ignore when our brains show us signs of an issue as opposed to when any other part of our body does so. What happens to mental health then?

Mental health today has become a completely separate field of study and science. This is great, except that this is also proof of the common practice of excluding mental health concerns from the scope of mainstream physical health, even though mental health concerns manifest as physical effects.

Mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realises their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community,” according to the World Health Organization. Various social, psychological, and biological factors can determine the level of mental health in an individual.

Good mental health can be associated with a balanced life, well-developed and healthy coping mechanisms, and frequent breaks and checks in favour of maintaining mental health. On the other hand, poor mental health can be a result of physical/sexual violence, stressful working conditions, pressurising socio-economic conditions, discrimination, exclusion, poor physical health, unhealthy life practices, and so on.

Most common mental health conditions or disorders may include clinical depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others. In today’s time, while awareness about the ‘subject’ of mental health is on the rise, mental health issues are soaring, too. Based on the data by the WHO, there has been a 13% rise in mental health conditions and substance use disorders in the last decade (to 2017).

The Impact Of The Pandemic On Mental Health

The most recent global-level trigger of anxiety and mental health concerns is the Covid-19 pandemic. In early 2020, the pandemic rapidly spread across countries, leaving people with little time to prepare and cope. This, followed by a worldwide lockdown, left people in shock, pushing them further into uncomfortable situations. With the pandemic and the lockdown came feelings of fear, worry, anxiety and stress.

The fear of getting the disease, worrying for loved ones who were infected, the anxiety of being stuck in one place – not being able to meet friends and family, stress of social, physical, financial deprivation caused due to the pandemic – all of these took over the minds of even the best of us. Adjusting to the ‘newer’ systems of work from home and online classes, several people faced difficulty finding their balance.

Dealing with anxiety and stress while being stuck in a lockdown can be even more challenging than regular circumstances. As hospitals and medical centres were flooded with patients who tested positive, accessing even basic health assistance became a challenge. Finding help for mental health was a far cry.

Slowly, with the development of vaccinations and increasing accessibility to them, people have started to heal from stress. The thing with stress and anxiety is that they leave a long-lasting impact which turns into underlying conditions, leading to serious mental health conditions. An experience like this pandemic is set to leave people a little shaken, even as its intensity dilutes.

The good thing is that we are all in this together. People across countries and continents were hit all at once and will come out of it together too. As the world has started to heal, and the disease has become relatively manageable, help, too, is becoming more available. Here are some ways you can manage the effects of the pandemic on mental health.

9 Ways To Manage Effects Of The Pandemic On Mental Health

Talk and Listen

The best way of responding to the signs of stress your body shows is by addressing them directly. Accepting your emotions is the first step towards addressing them. Talking about your emotions with someone professionally qualified in the field can help you understand yourself better. Therapy is now easily available in most cities in India and even online. There is no shame in getting help.

Eat Well

Diet has a major influence on how your body and mind feel. A happy, healthy and balanced diet can help keep your body’s energy levels up and spirits high. When you eat a healthy meal, it has the capability of lifting up both your energy and mood instantly. Maintaining a healthy diet during lockdown is even more important and plays a significant role in sustaining good mental health.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated can be counted as the single most important practice to maintain a healthy body and mind. Healthy water consumption helps your body drain out toxins and acids which supports both your physical and mental health. Drinking water, and mindfully, is something that you need to plan and follow – to procure maximum benefits of staying hydrated. Drinking water at the wrong time- while having a meal- or the wrong way- glugging- does not help. Instead, it might even be counter-productive. So, plan your water and drink mindfully. Stay hydrated.

Stay Connected

In a world where everything happens behind a screen, more so in a lockdown situation, it is easy to lose touch with friends and family. Staying connected with your loved ones plays a significant role in maintaining good mental health. Feelings of anxiety and stress may trigger many people to isolate themselves, leading to possible unhealthy behaviour patterns. While it is important to take time to process your emotions, isolating yourself emotionally would only slow down your healing. Stay in touch, stay connected.

Physical Exercise

As we witness the second wave of the virus declining, most public facilities have started to resume, including gyms and fitness centres. While you may not be ready to go back to a crowded space for working out, taking time out to keep yourself physically active is absolutely necessary to maintain good physical health and manage mental health triggers and concerns. Exercising can help keep your body active and your mind alert – helping you tackle challenges more easily.

Maintain A Journal

Maintaining a journal is a widely loved way of managing one’s emotions. Whether you do it as a daily practice or use it as an escape from a difficult situation, journaling can help you understand your feelings. You can use creative ways to track your moods, emotions, identify patterns and understand yourself better. There are various ideas and ways you can maintain a healthy journaling practice, so why wait? Start today.

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Writer

Break The Chain

Understanding and managing stress symptoms can be tricky. Most times, when stress manifests itself in the form of physical symptoms, it can be confusing. But you need to identify triggers and understand your emotional patterns in order to manage your mental health. Once you understand what affects you and how it shows, you can break the chain. Only trick? Observe.

Count Your Blessings

It can be very easy to lose track of what you have achieved when the world is crashing down around you. In these times, if you start to feel low, one great way to instantly feel better is counting your blessings. There might be a lot of things going wrong, but there will definitely be so many more going right. You can list your blessings and put them up on your desk wall. Looking at these notes can remind you of your blessings and keep you positive.

Share Your Blessings

Another great way of maintaining good mental health is sharing your blessings! Sharing your blessings can mean many things. Some ways of doing so include helping someone, making a small contribution to a cause or donating your time. You can find countless such opportunities with Wishes and Blessings. At Wishes and Blessings, we run several projects across areas of work like elderly care, education, nutrition etc. Contact us to donate your time, or an amount, or spend time with our beneficiaries at our centres.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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