The novel Coronavirus has, as of April 22, infected over 2.5 million people across the world. The death toll has crossed 177,000. On March 1, there were only three confirmed Coronavirus cases in all of India. Now, the number has crossed 19,500 and is rising rapidly. And mind you, we’ve only just begun testing aggressively.
The spread of the virus is accelerating across the globe; there is a severe shortage of medical equipment, PPE kits and medical personnel; half the planet is isolated under lockdown; the world’s economy is spiralling downwards alarmingly with each passing day; and the medical fraternity still has no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19.
Whether it is on TV, on the social media or on during conversations with people, we’re hearing bad news and more bad news.
Such a gloomy state of affairs is bound to have a deeply negative psychological impact on people. This global pandemic and the ensuing crisis is causing stress and anxiety beyond imagination. And it is a fertile breeding ground for mental health concerns like anxiety disorders, depression, sleep and eating disorders, addiction and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCDs). Those with existing mental health issues are seeing a sudden escalation in their psychological symptoms.
With a plume of negativity hanging over the entire world right now, what is it that we can do to maintain good mental health?
The answer lies in ‘staying positive’ in a variety of ways and at multiple levels:
1. Don’t let paranoia overwhelm you. Don’t jump to conclusions the moment you start seeing symptoms of cold, cough and/or fever. Speak to or video call your doctor and let him or her decide whether you need to get tested or not.
2. Eating healthy and exercising regularly not only keep you physically fit, they have a significant impact on your mental well-being as well. Eating well-balanced and nutritious meals can boost the immune system and reduce stress. Working out helps reduce elevated cortisol levels, the body’s main stress hormone. It also releases endorphins, our happiness hormones. Being happy is always the ultimate goal.
3. Don’t forget the situation is calling for ‘Social Distancing’, not ‘Emotional Distancing’. Use technology to stay in touch with people, in order to ward off feelings of restlessness, anger, stress and anxiety that we may experience while we are self-isolating. Video calls, phone calls or connecting with people on the social media can help you fulfil the human need for social contact and lift your spirits.
4. Have a structured routine to manage your day while you’re under lockdown. Approach it like any normal, pre-lockdown day with a schedule. It will help you increase productivity and keep you in good spirits.
5. Work from home like you would at the office. Wear your work clothes. Find a quiet room or corner and use it as your office at home. Set deadlines, connect with colleagues by way of phone calls, video calls and virtual meets and try and achieve the daily target. All of this will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you positive about your work.
6. Since most people do not have any domestic help at home, the household chores need taking care of as well. Make the domestic chores a family project. Even the kids can help by tidying up their things and making the beds. Cook meals together. When the entire family pitches in, no one person will get burdened with the workload. In fact, getting the whole family to collaborate with the chores can be a fun event. Having fun is bound to improve the mood.
7. We all have cupboards that need cleaning and clutter that needs clearing. Most of us have been delaying this for months and years. Now is your time. Organising your cupboards and putting things in order can psychologically help deal with the disorder that we’re seeing in the world right now.
8. Scheduling some ‘me time’ is a must and is therapeutic. Chit-chat with a friend, watch a lighthearted movie, read an inspiring book, meditate and breathe or listen to uplifting music. It is a proven fact that listening to music relaxes you, combats stress and anxiety. It has the power to improve your mood. In fact, music therapy is used as a mental health intervention to promote emotional health and promote psychological well-being. Reading a book helps lower your blood pressure and eases the tension in your muscles.
9. If you have a hobby, indulge in it to the fullest. If you’ve thought about acquiring a new skill, now is the time. Whether you want to learn how to cook or play the guitar—online tutorials and classes can help you get started.
10. Take some time to share a few laughs. There is a reason why laughter is called the best medicine. It boosts our immune system, lightens the mood and reduces stress. Again, laughter therapy is an alternative cognitive-behavioural therapy that triggers healthy physical and emotional changes in the body.
11. Stay updated on what is happening around the world vis-à-vis the pandemic. But guard against an information overload and avoid sensationalised news and rumours. By limiting the conversation about the Coronavirus contagion and the global crisis, you can keep negativity, anxiety and depression at bay. The important thing is to have positive conversations that will give you hope and the motivation to stay strong.
12. If you feel that negative thoughts are taking over your mind, or you begin to experience fear, stress, anxiety or depression—seek help. Don’t stifle your thoughts and worries inside you. You can talk to a friend or a mental health professional. Both the government and private organizations have set up helplines for this very purpose. Talking about your fears and feelings can help alleviate them and lift your spirits.
13. Even though you are confined indoors, you can be of help to others. There may be people that you know who are experiencing stress or anxiety. Talk to them and reassure them. Raise awareness about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of people and the measures to counter it. Donate to the relief measures. Positive intent and positive actions can help create a positive state of mind.
14. Instead of thinking about all that is and could go wrong, focus on the positives of the lockdown. Take this unexpected time off to really bond with your family. Relive old memories, create new ones. Feel grateful that you and your family are healthy and safe in the comfort of your home.
15. Take stock of your life—assess what you have achieved so far and create a plan for what you wish to do once this difficult period ends. By doing so, you will be convincing your mind that the ‘crisis will definitely end’. The plans you make are what you will have to look forward to.
All in all, the ‘how’ isn’t important. That you maintain a positive mindset through this distressing time is the only thing that matters.