It's been over a month since the World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. As of today, a total of 21,92,979 people have been infected with the virus and 147,376 people worldwide have lost their lives owing to COVID-19-related complication. To make matters worse, the possibility of a vaccine is still months away, businesses are shutting down, people are losing their jobs and being confined to the four walls of your house is the new normal.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatry Society, there has been a sudden rise in those suffering from mental illness--cases are now up by 20 percent. If you feel like you are struggling with your mental health, we urge you to speak to a professional over the phone or via video call. However, remember that during the time of such unprecedented uncertainty, it is natural for your emotions to be a little haphazard.
We spoke to counselling psychologist Tanvii Bhandari, who told us that anxiety and guilt are common issues during such times, and it is totally normal to feel them. Here's a list of four emotions that you might be feeling right now, and how you can deal with them.
That people are anxious while the world is battling a deadly pandemic is no surprise. If you are usually a calm person and find yourself feeling anxious and overwhelmed, or if you're someone who is suffering from anxiety but have noticed it getting worse--you are not alone. "We are all supposed to feel anxious right now because this incident or situation begets anxiety...So there is no need to feel anxious about being anxious. Accept that it is normal, and be as cautious as you feel is necessary," says explains Tanvir. So if you find yourself feeling anxious, accept your emotions, and turn to activities that calm you, whether it is cuddling with your pet, or doing some yoga.
What happens when you find yourself overwhelmed with anxiety and stress about the pandemic, while social media is flooded with horrifying COVID-19 death tolls, pictures of homeless migrant workers, celebrities' 'home workouts' and everyone's baking experiments? Many of us are finding it hard to deal with the social isolation of being stuck at home, and then are instantly hit with the guilt of complaining while were safe and sound inside our comfort zones. "A lot of us are feeling guilty about complaining about our restrictions when we think/hear about people out there with no food or shelter. The question we should work on answering is--what can I do about this?" says Tanvii. So if you are in the position to donate funds, look for NGOs who are working towards helping those in need. Feed strays in your neighbourhood. Give your house help leave with full pay, and check in on them regularly. "Identify what you can do about it and do it, instead of sitting with the guilt," adds Tanvii.
As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds before the world, medical experts have constantly reiterated that social distancing is the best way to protect yourself at this point. So your regular schedule of going to work, to the gym, to a restaurant or a cafe...has completely gone out the window. And while it is extremely essential to practice social distancing, it is also important to acknowledge the loneliness that comes with it. However, just because you can't physically meet people, it doesn't mean that you can't connect with them. Use the gifts modern technology has bestowed upon us to video call your anxious parents, play online games with your friends, chat up a cutie on a dating app or meet for happy hour with your colleagues over Zoom. You might be alone, but you don't need to feel lonely!
While social media might be flooded with all the gazillion things people are doing with their time now that they're indoors, you should know that there is absolutely no need to pressure yourself to be productive. Managing your deteriorating mental health can become a full-time job during such anxious times. If the future is making you anxious, it is totally okay if you take it one day at a time. Sometimes, getting out of bed and getting through the day can be a major feat. So ask yourself how you want to spend your time--and don't let social media make you feel guilty about doing what you want to do!
When you find yourself going through any of these emotions, remind yourself that this is a temporary situation and that you are not alone. Instead of obsessing over the news, daydream about what you'd want your life to look like post the COVID-19 crisis. "Once this is over, we are going to emerge into a new normal--that is inescapable. But what do we want to do about it?" asks Tanvii.
And that is a question worth thinking about.
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