The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has already had a devastating effect on the world. As of today, a total of 219,345 people have tested positive for the virus and 8,969 people have lost their lives. However, the statistic that we need to focus on is that 85,745 have already recovered from it--and that's great news!
Scientists are working round the clock to develop a vaccine that could be a potential cure, but that might take them at least a year. According to medical experts, our best bet right now is to curb the spread of the virus, and this is where social distancing comes in. Limiting social interaction between the masses will limit the spread of the virus, and this model has already had success in countries like China and Italy.
In India, while the outbreak hasn't reached a critical state, the ministry of health has already recommended social distancing: educational institutions have suspended classes, theatres and nightclubs have been shut, and companies are letting their employees work from home. And while it is very important that we practise social distancing, it does come with a not-so-pleasant side-effect: deteriorating mental health. Being locked up inside a house during a global epidemic with no certainty about the future can cause further panic and leave you feeling anxious.
We spoke to Tanvii Bhandari, counselling psychologist at Anchorage Counselling Services, about how to cope with social isolation, and she said that the secret to staying sane is to focus on self-care. "Use this time to indulge in intensive self-care--focus on making yourself feel better. Our excuse for not taking up activities we like has always been lack of time. This is your moment--use this time to do all those things that you kept on hold."
Tanvii shared some of her best self-care tips that will help you stay calm and get through this period with ease.
The best way to cope with any kind of anxiety is to involve yourself in activities that are self-soothing. Think about the things you like to do when you're in a happy space--it could be painting your nails, binge-watching your favourite show, cuddling with your pet or having a long chat with your mother. These are trying times, and you're allowed to take out more time to focus on activities that make you feel good. Want to start the day with an elaborate breakfast? Go for it! Want to stay in bed and watch YouTube videos of cute animals? Totally justified. Just remember to not overdo it--make time for other important, yet not-so-fun tasks that you need to do as well!
Research has already established a link between working out and improving mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. This is because when we exercise, our body releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, which are responsible for stabilising your moods. While going to a gym isn't a good idea right now, it doesn't mean you cannot work out at home. Several gyms are offering live workout classes if you have a subscription. If you don't, youtube will come to your rescue--there are a million kinds of workouts available for free, and for all levels! So make sure you set aside at least 30 minutes to an hour to focus on exercise.
We all have that one hobby that we've always wanted to explore, but you convinced yourself that there just wasn't enough time. Well, guess what? Time is one thing that you have in plenty now. Even if you're working full time from home, you can utilise all the extra time you would take to commute and dedicate it to an activity you love. So buy that guitar, grab some art supplies, take that online course--this is your time to try all those crazy things. And if you really find something you love, you can find a way to make it stick when this pandemic will be (hopefully) contained.
Loneliness is one of the biggest side-effects of social distancing, especially for people who live alone. But just because you can't meet people in person, it doesn't mean that you can't stay in touch with them. In the age of the internet, you really don't need to be in the same room as other people to do things together. So make good use of the video calling feature on your phone and catch up with your friends and family. Want to take it a step further? Plan some 'online' group activities, like eating dinner together on a video conference. Play multi-player online video games. Miss going to cinema halls? Download the google chrome extension for Netflix called 'Netflix Party', that lets multiple people watch content at the same time. Isn't that genius?
Use this time alone to self-reflect and meditate. Research has proven that meditation and mindfulness are some of the best ways to improve your mental health. So if you've always wanted to give it a shot, this is the best time to try it. Don't know where to begin? Worry not, there are plenty of apps and videos on youtube for guided meditation to help beginners. So find a quiet corner in your house, make yourself comfortable and plug in your headphones. And don't give up if it doesn't help the first few times--you'll get better with each try.
Anxious people thrive on structure. Uncertainty trigger anxiety, and right now, there is no way to know what the future holds. The best thing to do right now is to maintain your positivity, and try to find certainty where you can find it. Planning out your day can be of big help in this case. So write down the activities you want to do on a daily basis--this can be work, cleaning, indulgence, fitness. Now, prioritise the activities that you want to do first, and schedule them during the first half of the day. You can also add breaks in the middle so you can get some time out. The key here is that you may not be able to chill in bed watching Netflix all day, but you can decide how to divide your time and best utilise the hours of the day.
I know what you're thinking, tidying up doesn't exactly sound like a lot of fun. But research has shown that outer disorder can lead to inner distress, which can worsen your anxiety. Would you be so much less anxious if all your surroundings were neat, clean and tidy? Plus, if you share your house with other people, it is VERY important to spend some time disinfecting common areas. A lot of people have also admitted that organising and cleaning can be a very calming activity, and claim that it soothes their anxiety. Hiring external help to tidy up your place isn't the best idea right now--so this an important 'self-care' activity. And whether you enjoy the process or not, we can guarantee that you will definitely feel better once your house is neat, tidy and germ-free.
According to Tanvii, as long as you stay positive and feel productive, anxiety (during social distancing) is manageable. "It's when you feed the fear that anxiety overwhelms us," she added. And with all these useful tips, we'll surely be able to sail through this period of anxiousness and come out stronger.
However, if you still feel that your mental health is not manageable, feel free to reach out to a mental health professional over the phone. Follow Anchorage Counselling Services on Instagram for useful mental health tips.
Featured Image: Shutterstock
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