Lockdown 3.0 How To Brace Your Mental Health
Covid-19 in my opinion is a weird beast. It has ironically been both a boon and a bane. Gifting us the luxury of a pause and punishing us for plenty
Lockdown 3.0 has begun.
What began for me initially as a rollercoaster ride of anxiety and fear of the unknown, over the course of the past 6 weeks flowed into one of the most peaceful times of my existence.
I soon settled into the comfort of being confined with my family safe and secure in a bubble.
Secure knowing that the illusion of protection would last till May 3rd.
In a bubble where I didn’t have to justify my existence no matter what the pressures of the productivity pimps.
Soon all the smut on social media of “Have you lost 5 kilos? Have you revamped your business plan? Have you written a book or run a marathon on your balcony? And if not you lack discipline,” had no effect on me.
I snapped out of it because I realised that this is a war like situation and for many people just keeping afloat has been a huge enough deal.
There are real problems beyond all of the above and getting your hands on ripe avocados and unsweetened almond milk.
So I drowned the voices around me telling me to graduate summa cum laude in Covid sciences and switched off.
Feeling lucky knowing that I could dedicate time to writing poetry, connecting intimately with my family and friends, returning to the basics and yes of course learning how to give my dog Chameli the drip at home. Practicing movement mediation and gratitude.
But now I find myself back to somewhat ground zero wondering what will happen once 3.0 is over and we are back in the video game of contagion with people being swat all over the screen. Wondering who will succumb next and how best can I protect my family.
Covid-19 in my opinion is a weird beast. It has ironically been both a boon and a bane. Gifting us the luxury of a pause and punishing us for plenty.
It has hugely impacted peoples mental health and overall wellbeing. Whether you have it or not the long term costs are huge.
Today there is a fear of losing one’s livelihood, savings, relationships and one’s health amongst many other fears. Financial security and health seem to be the prime concern.
We have no idea of the economic ramifications in the long term.
While the single most potent threat is to life itself we are still not sure of the kinds of psychological costs that are being borne due to corona.
According to Sr. Psychiatrist & Advisor - Mpower Dr Zirak Marker it is yet too early to predict what are the financial implications of the same. However, the burden of costs owing to mental health problems are only going to get higher according to him as across the world many employees have been laid off and this trend amongst all industries will continue.
He believes that only time will tell us as to how many people will not be able to function optimally or healthily owing to their mental health concerns or illnesses caused by this situation.
The government and private organisations are trying extremely hard to set up free mental health helplines. Their centre Mpower too, is continuing with their online or Skype counselling sessions and providing services to those who reach out.
Mpower has recently partnered with Govt. of Maharashtra & BMC to launch a 24x7 helpline called ‘BMC-Mpower 1on1 to address mental health concerns during Covid-19 pandemic.
The helpline is for those who’re having a hard time coping with their existing conditions or facing the onset of new mental health concerns in the wake of the drastic changes brought about the pandemic.
This is something Neerja Birla Founder and Chairperson Mpower herself is very invested in.
Their team is also using social media to disseminate video content and posts to help people understand what they’re feeling and what they can do to take care of their mental wellbeing. Most importantly, they’re hoping to help people keep an eye out for warning signs and red flags, so they know when to reach out for help.
There are a few signs according to Dr Marker that one should reach out to a therapist for especially if you haven’t felt before.
1. Worsening of Pre-existing symptoms related to stress, anxiety or depression.
2. Constant obsessive, intrusive, ruminating thoughts that cannot be controlled or stopped with regards to this situation for e.g. - contracting the virus, getting quarantined, spreading it to others, fears of self or loved ones dying, and anxiety about not having access to investigations or treatment.
3. All this can lead to - Repetitive behaviours of constant checking, cleaning, hoarding (items for the house, face mask, medication, hand sanitizers etc), increased hand washing / bathing , or obsessive reading and watching TV, news , social media feeds or the internet for further information.
4. Severe anxiety symptoms with palpitations, difficulty with breathing or breathlessness, chest pains, headaches, blurring of vision or tremors.
5. Headaches, back aches, chest pains or other vague psycho-somatic symptoms with no real medical cause.
6. There can be very negative thoughts, irritability, mood swings or feeling very low or on edge all the time, and thoughts of impending doom.
7. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness and mental fatigue.
8. Disturbance in sleeping patterns or appetite, difficulty with focus, concentration or attention spans, difficulty following daily schedules and eventually a lapse in functionality.
9. Some young adults may also turn to abusing substances such as alcohol, drugs or excessive smoking to negate their symptoms.
Neerja feels that there is a huge importance of Emotional Intelligence in these times.
“With entire countries having gone into lockdown, we’re dealing with change, uncertainty and even fear at such on such an unprecedented scale. We need to believe that this will end and that we need to be strong and supportive of each other. EQ gives us skills like resilience and empathy, which are essential one tries to come to terms with how all of this affects us. Another important aspect of emotional intelligence is communications skills, which are invaluable, especially as we practise social distancing. Whether one is working from home or just sharing one’s hopes and worries with one’s loved ones over a video call, communicating clearly, honestly and kindly will make a world of difference,” she stresses.
Keeping in mind the fear of job loss and the looming economic downturn, general insecurity
Neerja's advice to people is to know that these are very trying times, but that we’re all facing the same massive changes and uncertainty.
“We must accept that things are going to be challenging for a while, but this too shall pass. In the face of such adversity, our greatest strength lies in being united and helping each other get through this. This is the time for us to be empathetic and to work together to return our world to a state of normalcy,” she shared.
We are faced with a whole new world in the face of lack of socialisation. In light of the fact that the lockdown has been extended and the FOMO is rising.
Neerja hopes that people understand that everyone is again in this together, and everyone is dealing with the effects of being socially distanced.
“However, that doesn’t mean we need to be emotionally isolated from each other. Just because we can’t go out doesn’t mean we need to miss out on our usual social interaction. I’ve found that it helps to find alternative means of staying in touch, such as social apps and communication apps so that one doesn’t feel left out, or lonely,” she highlights.
The best way to cope with the given situation and this worldwide pandemic according to Dr. Zirak Marker are the following recommendations:
Each home should have a very robust schedule that needs to be created that balances work, physical, emotional c psychological and spiritual needs. This schedule also needs to incorporate physical exercising with simple floor exercise routines and cardiovascular workouts; hobbies and simple activities such as reading, listening to music, meditation, playing board games, cooking or painting.
We need to accept and embrace the situation for what it is. We need to do so with mindfulness and by collecting all our thoughts to be focused on the present moment of these times.
We need to take collective responsibility for the well-being and safety of ourselves and all our loved ones and understand that this lock down is to safeguard this virus from spreading.
He believes that we should cherish this quality time that we have been given with our family members and loved ones. We need to spend time with meaningful conversations or activities and help each other through these difficult times. If we have children at home, spending time with them through play and activities can make the situation easier for them to deal with.
Lastly, we need to acknowledge our anxieties, fears and securities and reach out to friends and family members or a mental health professional especially if one feels the need to talk and gain professional insights to help navigate their emotions.
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