Updated: Apr 27, 2020
This article is contributed by: Ms. Garima Khera & Ms. Disha Dwivedi from India, Ms. Ankita Shah from Nepal, Dr. Azliyana & Ms. Nurul Farhana Abdul Shukhor from Malaysia and Ms. R. Fitrasha N & Ms. Destri Kurniasih from Indonesia
Special thanks to: Dr. Ranit Chatterjee from India for his support
Mark Twain once said, “Out of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most”.
Mental health is as important as physical health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines, “health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The WHO also states that ‘there is no health without mental health.’
As the Coronavirus spreads and lockdown’s confines us amidst the four walls of our home’s, one should not forget: Mental Health Matters.
The increasing impact of COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on the levels of anxiety and distress throughout the globe. People with existing mental health issues are likely to have an even greater impact. Even Healthcare professionals are working round the clock on the frontline, thereby, undergoing mental distress.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. With millions of people infected, thousands dying every day, and confined in their homes; the worry about themselves, families, finances and work can be quite overwhelming.
Many others living alone, in adversity or abusive relationships can get mentally distressed too. According to WHO, the levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug abuse, and self-harm or suicidal behavior are expected to rise in such situations.
Since the lockdown was announced in different nations, various coping mechanisms have been suggested by the experts, organizations and the general public via digital platforms (esp. Social Media) throughout the globe. While some are utilizing this time to connect with their loved ones, others are rekindling their lost interests and hobbies, learning new skills as well as maintaining their physical and mental fitness.
About Psychological Well-being
Although, the reaction and thought process of an individual to different situations is subjective, the mental health of many is affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of unhealthy psychological well-being on an individual is subjective too and it can lead to concentration break, confused thought process, mood swings, stress, anxiety, grief, helplessness, disturbed inter-and intra-personal communication, reduced immunity, sleep disruption, sleeplessness, etc.
The population of all the age groups is vulnerable to mental distress. The mental health of children is getting affected. A preliminary study conducted in Shaanxi Province, China during the second week of February 2020 throws light on the psychological and behavioral problems among children. The most common problems among children aged 3–18 years were clinginess, distraction, irritability, and fear of asking questions about the epidemic.1 [Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in Children during the COVID-19 Epidemic]
Work pressure on women has increased tremendously during the lockdown. Mothers as caregivers have to deliver more and for women in the workforce, the pressure of work from home and work at home is taking a toll on their overall health. While those in abusive relationships are suffering in silence. In these tough times, it is required that families must support the ladies of the house by not just helping them in daily household work but by listening to them and giving them their individual space.
Confinement Zone for an Individual during CoV-19
An individual can go through different phases at any point in time. The confinement zones for an individual have been divided into 3 zones. This info is popularly circulated (https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2020/04/13/staying-healthy-during-isolation/). The picture below indicates these zones within which an individual’s state of mind may pass through during the pandemic.
Confinement zones/ Source: https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2020/04/13/staying-healthy-during-isolation/
Fear Zone: In the COVID-19 outbreak context, it indicates emotions of panic, anxiety, fear, and anger. If you are in this zone, you need to relax, rethink, re-evaluate your emotions. Spend time with your loved ones, talk to friends and discuss with a person you trust regarding your feelings. If you are overwhelmed by the situation, then consider talking to a mental health therapist.
Learning zone: It indicates focusing on what we are feeling and how we can improvise. Realization and awareness would lead to a willingness to accept this condition and move away from negative thoughts.
Growth zone: Where one moves from negativity to positivity and towards inner peace. Viktor Frankl (a psychiatrist from Vienna) conceptualized it as tragic optimism. This refers to the human capacity to creatively turn one’s life from negativity into positivity.
Moreover, helping oneself to cope, adopting the spirit of tragic optimism enables one to grow through adversity. Thus, by focusing on positive emotions, one can find ways to adapt to changes and situations.
An Insider: What are we doing to be ‘sane’
There’s no one way out there to keep oneself sane and yet merry each day especially when one feels trapped. People around the world are doing many many things to relieve stress. We see videos of fitness freaks exercising indoors: from meditation, yoga to work out these videos have been flooding on social media handles. Avid readers are utilizing this opportunity to explore non-fiction and fantasy stories.
Binge-watching is people’s favorite sport these days. While some are experimenting in the kitchen and sharing about it with the hashtag #quarentinekitchen. Rekindling the interests, some are going back to their hobbies or learning new skills. This also includes people registering for online courses and webinars, followed by a mad rush for certificates. Writing a journal, or a blog to convey feelings is one of the favorite pastimes too. Playing board games: physically and virtually is one of the fun ways to re-connect to family and friends apart from grand video-calls.
An evident rise in Funny TikTok videos shows that people are having fun while staying back at home. Even the videos of celebrities cleaning rooms, cooking and washing dishes are going viral on social media. People who like traveling are utilising time exploring google maps and visiting places, museums and art galleries: all online. Meanwhile, some are reliving their memories and sharing #nostalgic pictures of their good old times.
Tips for readers
Hello readers, while you could do so many things but you are here in our last section. We thank you for making out time to give attention to our words. Here’s some take away points for you-
Well, life is not tough but isolation and lockdown are making us feel trapped. Take it easy, take one step at a time. While caring for your loved ones back at home also indulge in ‘self-care’. One needs to pay attention to their self, their wants, and desires. Make a daily routine, explore different things and more importantly don’t take the stress.
While gathering information on COVID-19 through news and social media handles we need to save ourselves from Infodemic. Accordingly, one can limit the time of watching, reading & listening to the news as the rising number of cases makes us feel anxious and worried.
Children require special attention in these times. As a care-giver, facilitate a safe and comforting environment and engage them in activities like creative arts, storytelling and playing with learning.
Lookout and help others in need: immediate neighbours, elderly, people in your circle. Share your thoughts, provide your support while you connect to them. Be in touch with your loved ones through phones, video-calls, and social media.
In the current situation, an optimistic approach and a positive attitude are required for building self-resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. We can’t control this situation, but what we can control is our thoughts and state of mind. These tough times demand us to bring inner peace and be kind & compassionate. As Charles Bukowski once said: “Nobody can save you but yourself, and you’re worth saving. It’s a war not easily won, but if anything is worth winning then this is it.”
There’s always light after dark, and there are lessons learned after a tragedy and disaster. From the lenses of Disaster Management professionals, we see it as an opportunity for our inner self to BUILD BACK BETTER (borrowing the concept from SFDRR). After a crisis, most people acquire a newfound sense of purpose, develop deeper relationships, have a greater appreciation of life and report other benefits. As Emily Esfahani Smith has rightly said, “Some people are broken by crises while others emerge from stressful experiences even stronger than before”.
We welcome all the readers to share in the comment section: How are you spending your time in the lockdown while “minding your mind”?