Due to the lack of information on the causes of and the treatments for the COVID – 19 pandemic, there has been numerous uncertainties with no clear solution. In such times, there is a greater likelihood of experiencing mental distress. Some of the common symptoms and consequences of such mental distress could include disturbance with sleeping patterns, having racing thoughts, feeling of sadness and helplessness, difficulty in concentrating and relaxing, frustration, irritability, or anger, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, and increased use of alcohol and other drugs

However, each individual has different ways of reacting to stress in general and in the time of a crisis such as a pandemic. Therefore, in addition to taking care of one’s physical health, one should also pay equal attention to one’s mental health and wellbeing. Below are a few helpful tips on taking care of one’s mental health during the current outbreak of COVID-19.

1 Minimize spending time reading, watching or listening to news and avoid frequently talking about COVID-19

  • Set a specific time in a day to learn new information and latest updates on COVID-19.
  • Refer only to credible sources like World Health Organisation (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, and Department of Health, CTA.
  • Experts said that the more a person spends time reading or listening to news on COVID-19, greater is his/her stress and anxiety.

2 Maintain social connection and support

  • Although physical social distancing is required, do not isolate yourself completely from your social circle.
  • Even if you cannot meet your loved ones and friends in person, call or video-call them and stay emotionally connected especially with your elders
  • Share your thoughts, feelings and experiences.
  • To those who are in quarantine, comfort them by engaging with them and be there for them, while maintaining physical separation for each other’s safety
  • Social support among many benefits help reduce feelings of loneliness and coping with stress.

3 Practice Self-care

  • Get enough sleep of about 7-8 hours daily.
  • Maintain a healthy diet to boost your immune system.
  • Stay active: within the confines of your own house / terrace, do physical exercises like walking or simple stretching, yoga, and Zumba.
  • Meditate: Simple meditation practices like focusing on your breath have been found to lower your anxiety.
  • Refrain from drinking, smoking or using other drugs.
  • Keep a journal to note down your thoughts and feelings.

4 Maintain your routine

  • Routines help lower stress and anxiety as one knows what to expect and it also helps in dealing with and adapting to change(s).
  • If you don’t have any, make one and maintain it.
  • Take this opportunity to do things you enjoy like dancing, reading, writing, painting, cooking, and etc.
  • Use various online resources to learn new things and skills
  • Set time of each activities

5 Observe from wider perspective

  • Anxiety makes our mind think of all the worst-case scenarios thus, anticipates all seemingly possible threats and results in an over-reaction to future threats.
  • During this time, having a larger and broader perspective and maintaining a positive outlook is of utmost importance for your mental wellbeing.
  • Focus your thoughts and actions on what is in your control and what you can do rather than on situations outside your control.

Lastly, it is important to seek help if you need it and to help those in need, especially the elderly in your neighbourhood. Times like this call for patience and empathic understanding within a family and in our society at large.

If you have children at home, they may also experience stress due to the myriad rapid changes that they observe around them. You may notice them being more irritable, restless, having trouble concentrating, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, worrying excessively and returning to behaviors they have outgrown like bed-wetting and etc.

Taking care of your child’s mental health:

  • Limit media exposure to COVID-19.
  • Listen to their feelings and let them know it is okay to feel anxious and worried.
  • Answer their queries about COVID-19 and clarify any misunderstanding.
  • Share age appropriate information about COVID-19
  • Reassure them that they are safe and that there are precautions they can take against the virus, like washing hands, avoiding crowded places, etc.
  • Give them extra love, attention, and time.
  • Most importantly, keep up with their routines. Get up and go to bed at specific times, keep them occupied in various activities (painting, reading, playing, in-door games) as well as engage with them in activities that you can do together like chores, etc. Routines make a child feel safe and in-control and hence lowers their anxiety.
  • Lastly, how you handle your own stress is important as children look up to parents for ways of dealing with changes and stress.

Sources:

World Health Organisation- www.who.int

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- www.cdc.gov

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