May 24

The Unseen Side of COVID 19: Imminent mass anxiety and it’s long-term psychological implications

Social distancing and quarantine in the current scenario can have adverse psychological effects on people. It is an outbreak where not just a specific group is suffering but the entire population. We often tend to ignore that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. On the other hand the fear of pandemic illness and hearing statements from migrant workers like “If we don’t die of the disease, we’ll die of hunger”, definitely takes a significant toll on people’s mental health. Belonging to a collectivistic society, the concept of social distancing is new and causing a sense of discomfort in people. In times like these it becomes common for people to experience emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness, confusion, irritation, sense of worry etc. We can’t overlook the fact that there are people who are already dealing with mental illness, anxiety issues or who might have already experienced PTSD, it can be extremely daunting for them to strive through this period. Similarly individuals belonging to families with conflict or any kind of abuse, may not be able to feel equally safe even at home. It is important for us to recognize, even though the social distancing has been put in place is to slow the spread of coronarvirus, it can develop feelings of loneliness for whom social contact is the only support and key element of the treatment.

We are receiving huge amount of information on how to cope and what to do in the quarantine period. As a mental health professional before I suggest any measures, I want to highlight and request please take your own decision and do not force yourself to engage in something you do not resonate with. Remember each one of us deal with stressful situations differently. You have to make a choice, do whatever works the best for you just follow that.

Here are some measures that can help you cope in some way with the current situation:

- Create a structure and schedule because due to unpredictability and lack of control over the situation people often feel restless and anxious. They feel they have no control over anything anymore and have no choice but to wait for the worse to happen. Thus to eliminate this ambiquity having a plan for the day can make you feel empowered and relaxed.

- If you have heard or you are familiar with the concept of boundary, this is the time to practice it. Specially content boundary; where you make a decision about things you will and will not consume from social media, restricting the content you are absorbing and taking back with you. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly, keeping a track of the figure changing will only increase panic and worry.

- You can use this time to strengthen the family bond, develop healthy communication patterns with your friends and loved ones. Due to your regular schedule you often miss out on keeping in touch with your friends and family, allow yourself to make the most of the time with them.

- Balance it out, don’t pressurize yourself to work on family bonding just because you see other people doing it or suggesting it. It can get overwhelming for some people and create emotional tension in the family, as family dynamics may differ for everyone.

- Self care is of utmost importance, exercise regularly, eat healthy and home cooked food, take time out for yourself that personal space should not be eliminated just because you are at home.

- Allow yourself to release if you are holding onto any feeling which maybe panic or even a state of void. Talk to people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Or else the pent up emotions can be manifested in unhealthy ways with people you are sharing the space.

- Refrain from compensating for what you have missed out to eliminate the FOMO feeling.

- Its okay, to have mixed feelings at this point. Its okay if you are not feeling worried or anxious about the pandemic as everyone else is.

- For many people out there, this has been a period of sudden movement and relocation. Set your own pace and allow yourself to be more gentle and easy with your actions.

- I would suggest engaging in mindfulness based activities, I can share one coping technique called 54321, where you acknowledge 5 things you see around you, 4 things you can touch around you, 3 things you hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Such activities help you become more aware of the present moment.

- Having a positive self talk is also important. Restructuring your statement that make you feel worse, rather than saying You are stuck at home, tell yourself You are safe at home.

- Take each day as it comes and set short term goals, focus on task set for each day. It will eliminate uncertainty leading to negative feelings.

- Do not feel pressured to act out and follow what you see on social media whether it may a challenge or any other trend. Be mindful of your choice and engage in things that make you feel better.

- Specially for parents, children have their own ways of understanding what is happening around them. Reassure your child, teach them coping ways but do not give them false hope. Depending on their age and level of maturity, explain them what is happening. Give them space to express their feelings and allow them to act it out whichever way they choose. Don’t bombard them with rules and regulations, just because they are not going to school. Include aspect of fun and learning both in their day routine. Share your feelings with your child and ask them they feel. If the adults in the family experience anxiety and panic, the children tend to absorb those feeling. Be kind and patient with self and others in the house.

- Seek help from health professionals, if you feel the need. There are Multiple helplines and organizations doing volunteer work to reach out to masses.

Sending each and everyone of you the needed energy and positivity to strive through this difficult time. Stay hopeful and stay safe.

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