On April 18, 2021 India had a record number of cases and deaths: 2.75 lakhs and 1,620 respectively. It’s something very very serious. People are standing in long queues to get themselves tested for the infection. Healthcare system has collapsed completely that not enough beds and oxygen cylinders are available for COVID-19 patients. People are dying. What could be more worse than that?
While the second wave in India is affecting our physiology we should not forget that it’s also taking a huge toll on our mental health as well. Everyone is stressed. Some wise minds have fear too of contracting the virus. People are very much worried. Quite honestly, stress, fear and worry during these unprecedented times is very common. When situations arise unexpectedly and there is uncertainty around us it’s ordinary to lose grip over our mental well-being. What’s important to know is that we should not let ourselves not prioritise our psychological well-being. While the pandemic is not under our control (although we could have been more careful since the beginning) what’s under our control is how we keep ourselves and our families safe. Moreover, taking good care of our mental health is also under our control.
The worst part is that the pandemic may subside (hard to be exact which year) but the way it’s deteriorating people’s mental health is very concerning. “I don’t think this is going to go back to baseline anytime soon,” says clinical psychologist Luana Marques, at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Luana Marques is constantly monitoring the mental-health impacts of the crisis in US populations and elsewhere. According to a survey conducted by US Census Bureau it was found that more than 42% of people reported having symptoms of anxiety or depression in December 2020. The number has increased significantly from 11% between January-June 2019. The times are difficult and alarming. Things aren’t very rosy in India as well. The second wave is so deadly that many people (including me) are facing anxiety on a regular basis.
An important question comes up: how to preserve our mental health?
- Make time for the activities you enjoy: Some people like to write while others enjoy cooking, reading, watching movies & tv series, etc. Everyone has different activities they enjoy engaging in. Find out what interests you and make time each day for it. It helps take the mind off the pandemic situation.
- Talk to people (virtually): The pandemic has made us all feel isolated and lonely. We are unable to meet our friends and relatives. Thanks to technology we have an alternative (although not a permanent one). Talk to your loved ones- call them, Skype them, whatever’s possible. Talk about what you’re feeling. Listen to what they have to say.
- Meditate and exercise: It cannot be stressed enough that meditation improves not just our physical health but mental health as well. People who meditate have stronger neural connections which allows for more synchronised communication. Meditating for 5-10 minutes in a day is enough if you’re a beginner. Exercise also have many benefits and make sure you add it to your daily routine.
- Eat healthy food: While it is common to gorge on unhealthy food items during times like these, we should not forget to take a healthy and balanced diet. Reduce carbohydrates and sugar in your diet. Add healthy fats. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. There are evidences from scientific studies that diet does play an important role in regulating our mood.
- Prioritise your sleep: We often lose our sleep during crises. Having trouble falling asleep or having nightmares becomes common. Make sure to go to bed at a fixed time. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark with a temperature that is not too hot or too cold. Don’t consume caffeine or alchohol before bedtime.
- Don’t forget to take breaks from news stories: Consuming news stories constantly all day can definitely create a lot of stress. That is why it’s crucial to take occasional breaks from news stories (on television, social media, etc). It’s fine to keep yourself updated but that shouldn’t mean you let it affect you psychologically. Set a time and frequency for watching the news updates. By doing that you will protect yourself from the stressors.