The fear of the COVID 19 virus has taken a firm grip in all our minds as we go about doing our daily chores. Stress seems to be the new normal even as fighting it emerges as a confirmed challenge in the current scenario.
In South Kolkata’s Tollygunge, 70-year-old Sukriti Bannerjee is having sleepless nights ever since she came to know that her granddaughter is stuck in one of the virus-affected countries. “Ma wakes up in the middle of the night screaming my daughter’s name who studies in Australia and is stuck at home due to the recent lockdown. We cannot seem to convince her that my daughter is absolutely fine!” – says Sukriti’s son who works in a consultancy firm. “Maa has been diagnosed with stress-related disorders. Doctors have advised keeping Maa away from television and the overdose of information.”
Stay at Home but Stay in Touch
“The elderly seem to be the most vulnerable – both physically and mentally”. The geriatric psychiatrist who is attending Sukriti, says. “Research shows that a weekly telephonic counselling session helps in such tough times”. But it is not only the elderly who calls her for help.
“I get a dozen or so calls every day from people of all ages as this fear takes shape in their minds. A patient with an anxiety disorder reached out to me because his neighbour works in the health department. Another young medical practitioner got in touch because she fears of infecting her family, including her five-year-old child.” – says this mental health expert.
Stay Away from Information Outburst and Strike the Fine Balance
Too much information is reaching our already-vulnerable minds. It is best to keep away from information overload as this creates public hysteria. And panic follows mass hysteria. Infected people equalise quarantine facilities to jail as of fear social stigma takes a hold. Many infected or suspects even flee quarantine.
Earlier in March, even when the country was not under lockdown, a 23-year-old student from Punjab, who studied in the UK and had shown symptoms of COVID 19, had committed suicide by jumping off the hospital building where he was being quarantined.
Experts suggest that there needs to be a fine balance between the abundance of information we expose ourselves to and making optimal use of it and seeking medical help when required.
(Resources to follow: icmr.nic.in, who.int, cdc.gov)
Stress has Gone Viral!
These are not isolated incidents. The measures taken to prevent this highly contagious virus from spreading are drastic and immediate and very necessary. Our world has changed radically. The anxiety that we might never get back to our old order can be a very disrupting feeling and makes many of us apprehensive, jittery and worried. Living in a prolonged state of fear and angst can take its toll on our physical and mental health.
Here are some more tips to help you cope with the present atmosphere of anxiety.
Find the Positive Sides of the Situation
Corona has successfully instilled a sense of fear in all of us as we worry about the lives of our loved ones. But instead of letting fear win, we must begin to notice the brighter sides of this situation. Take a look around you and identify the good things that have come up — like the extra time you are getting to spend with your kids or maybe you are really enjoying work from home and realise that emails are better alternatives to long meetings or that you simply love that you don’t have to commute daily to office. Pause to think of the innovations you are currently making to your lives and consider what you can take with you and continue with once this disruption ends.
Be Kind and Take Care of Your Community
COVID 19 has highlighted to what extent we are interdependent on each other as humans. It has reiterated our need to think and work for our collective selves rather than just for our individual selves. Suddenly everything is interconnected. Your neighbour’s behaviour, workplace policies or the steps taken by your government come together as in a mesh that determines your well-being. Keep safe by adopting self-care practices like regular hand-washing, meditation, and gentle exercise but don’t forget to think of our community. Avoid unnecessary travelling, email/call up elderly relatives or carry groceries for neighbours who are old or sick. Most importantly, stay at home as much as you can as your home is the safest place on earth.
Pay Special Attention to Your Childs’ Mental Health
Nothing is more stressful for a kid than a prolonged disruption to his daily routine. With schools and play parks and other creative lessons shut temporarily, kids are having a tough time. Try and use this extra time to spend more time with your child, explain lucidly what COVID 19 is all about and reassure him that though you get sick if you get infected, you do get better. Set a daily routine for him and structure his day.
Stay away from Addictions
Staying away from fake news and social media addiction is one of the better ways to stay afloat in this time of crisis. Indian Government in its advisory on ways to cope with the current lockdown has also advised us to stay away from alcohol, tobacco and drugs and other addictive substances.
Fight Uncertainties by Being Productive
This is simpler than you might think. “We thrive on progression and tackling new challenges and being productive makes us happy because it gives us a feeling of accomplishment” – says Pratibha, founder of a well-being clinic in Kolkata. Bring plants home or grow a garden, learn a new language, reignite a passion that you dropped due to lack of time.
As the world turns on its head tackling this COVID 19 crisis, we must keep our cool and stay connected. Some of the lessons that we learn today may well open up new ways of facing challenges that time may throw at us. Let us pray for the safety of humankind.
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