Of all the scary by-products of a pandemic, mental health issues during COVID 19 has become worth concern. Coronavirus is presently the first word that the global population is hearing after waking up, and probably the last. The fact that we are living amidst a pandemic is scary enough. Even more terrifying are the repercussions of the same on the mental health of most people.
With an ethos of the ‘new normal’ including in activities like homeschooling for children, temporary unemployment for adults and physical distancing from the loved ones, have taken its toll on the mental health of the people.
Anxiety arising from a radically changing life pattern is supercharged by the fear of uncertainty, unknown, and vulnerability from a rapidly spreading disease. And all these, during trying times, is inevitable, the least to say.
This illustration was made to highlight the strong sense of community in Italy, which has been reinforced through facing these crises together. In Naples, the “Panaro,” an invention of a basket tied to a string in which people dangle out of their window to collect their groceries and avoid going down the stairs, has become indispensable for the most vulnerable people of the community (Image created by Lélie Lesage. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives – help stop the spread of COVID-19)
The present scenario requires us to think not only about ourselves and our families, but we must have an open heart to think about people around us as well.
The pandemic has led the world to two extreme cliffs:
People battling with mental and physical health
People struggling to make financial ends meet
While it is not completely possible to cater to people struggling with money or basic needs, mental health can be dealt with more readily through an emphatic approach.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres initiated a discussion on the increased need for countries to focus on the mental health amidst the pandemic. He had shortlisted the major group of people likely to be affected by mental health issues:
Frontline Health Care Workers
My special addition to the list will be the working mums, who are now grappling to cope up with household chores (as the concept of men helping in the household work is still a rarity in places like India), job, child education plus a million other things.
According to the CDC (Centre for Disease Control), some issues that we are dealing with right now are:
Changing sleep patterns
Changing eating habits
A general feeling of distress and uneasiness
Here are some of the things recommended by the world’s front line public health domains:
Be choosy about what you read
Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
Social media can be a great respite from boredom during the lockdown. But the same can also be a source of unwanted anxiety.
High traffic sites like Facebook and Twitter are often breeding grounds for misinformation. It is highly recommended to read-only from the trusted sources and not panic instantly upon coming across a piece of information.
2. Stay connected and eat, sleep, exercise well
WHO suggests talking, texting, Facetiming, and video calling friends, family and loved ones to keep stress at bay. It is a fool-proof way that brings a smile to many faces at once.
Don’t forget to check what you’re eating. Eat healthy foods, sleep enough, and exercise however possible within the social distancing norms.
Having a walkout in nature while maintaining social distancing can be a good way to unwind (Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash)
Stay away from alcohol and smoking to reduce stress. Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding junk, sugary, and caffeine overdose, which can aggravate stress and anxiety.
3. Stay connected with children
Situations like the present ones are not common and hence it is very much possible for children to become anxious and fearful of the surrounding developments.
Parents are advised to stay connected to them. Ensure they get ample relaxation, and stay in their unusual routine as much as possible.
Talk to them about what has happened and ways to reduce the risk, WHO suggests.
4. Do the following for self-care
Practice deep breathing at least for ten minutes daily.
Make a list of things that we are grateful for in our lives.
Trying to call someone to talk the stress out. Remember there always at least someone with whom we can talk.
In worst-case scenarios try reaching out to the emergency department of your town or city if you live alone.
Watching a good movie if there is any resource available to do so
Cleaning the cupboard and de-cluttering all time available.
Engaging in some freehand exercise at least every two days.
Meditating can help greatly
5. Acknowledge IT’S OKAY to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed
Once you realize that that you’re not alone in these trying times, the burden will reduce. Acknowledge that it is okay to feel stressed, sad, and vulnerable from time to time.
Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash
Billions of people around the globe are into this, all at once, no timezone, no international borders, no disparity at all.
6. The plants in your home deserve all the care now
Until now, you had excuses for work-pressure and stuff to not taking care of your indoor plants and gardens properly. Now, they won’t accept it.
Unleash the gardener in you with and absorb the therapeutic properties of it (Photo by Andre Guerra on Unsplash)
Start tending the money plant on the wall, shredding the over-grown rosebush in your backyard, watering the orchids plentifully. Bring out the master gardener in you and get the benefits of its therapeutic properties.
7. See if you like Bill Gate’s Summer 2020 Book recommendation
Mr. Gates makes it sure to suggest the best books he has read from time to time. Following the ritual, the billionaire’s 2020 summer book recommendation is out now. Check it out here.
8. Hone a skill
You probably didn’t know you’re so much talented, until you hit the kitchen and baked the first cake, or made the first pizza.
Honing up skills, that can be anything, could be a great way to keep yourself engaged and enjoyed at the same time.
Just for your information, the ‘XXX: Return of Xander Cage-actor Deepika Padukone vouches for cooking and its therapeutic properties.
A post shared by Deepika Padukone (@deepikapadukone) on Apr 4, 2020 at 6:53am PDT
9. How to help children cope with stress?
The most trying time is for young children and adolescents who are forced to stay at home and feeling terrible about it.
No meeting friends, no playing outside and no goofing up can really take a toll on their health. Often children taking drastic actions to cope with this extreme stress.
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As parents and guardians try few things like:
Talk to them often and monitor their behavior closely so that any early signs of mental breakdown can be averted
Assure them it’s going to be fine soon
Engage them by teaching them life chores like cooking, washing, or cleaning.
Make them talk to their friends at least thrice a week
Explain to them what is going on and why they are at home (for little ones)
Tell them stories of how people are trying to help in the time of crisis to encourage them
Keep them away from stressful television news
Play with them and don’t let them stay alone
Help them to start with a new hobby
10. Help the elderly?
This particular age group is most vulnerable both physically and mentally. Here what we can do to help:
Spend more time talking to them
Asking them to avoid watching stressful news just like for young ones
Monitoring their health closely so that their already underlying conditions do not deteriorate
If you know any elderly staying alone near your vicinity, kindly reach out and visit them even if they are complete strangers.
Remember, helping oneself at first priority will ensure that we are at a state to help others. The whole world is in this together.
We must be courageous and not overthink about the crisis. What has come has come. The only way to cope is to face it and trying to rise above it.
Together We Unite. My illustration shows the power of togetherness, using images people from different COVID19 impacted countries. The facemask has become a symbol of protection during the pandemic. (Image created by Laura Makaltses. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives – help stop the spread of COVID-19)
Let us think back to our actions and our way of life. Let us pledge to understand the need of the hour and not only be concerned with our personal lives.
Let us all pledge to be a little more responsible in what we how we decide to spend our time henceforth. Better days are ahead. Here’s hoping for each one of us strength and courage to get over the pandemic.