As the COVID-19 crisis worsens by the day, so does the toll it is taking on our mental health. Social media is flooded with desperate pleas of people asking for help for their loved ones. Information about the daily rising death toll is dominating headlines. Our phones are buzzing non-stop with tragic messages about our friends and family.
In situations like these, it is hard not to feel low and hopeless. To top it off, we are expected to continue to work and function normally. So if you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed or depressed at the moment—you are not alone. According to Tanvii Bhandari, counselling psychologist at Anchorage Counselling Services, we are dealing with 'COVID anxiety'.
POPxo caught up with her to understand what COVID anxiety is, and how to cope with it.
We are all experiencing an extremely traumatic and stressful situation right now. In India, it has reached if not inside our homes, then right at our doorstep. And the uncertainty surrounding the virus and hopelessness about the future is triggering anxiety in several people. This is COVID Anxiety.
However, according to Tanvii, anxiety and fear at this point of time is what is going to help us survive. "First off, the anxiety is valid and crucial at the moment. These are the emotions that will help us remember to wear a mask, wash our hands, eat our supplements and sanitize EVERYTHING. When we lose that fear, we become complacent and that complacency has been a big part of the monster wave we are experiencing," she says.
But she says that it is also important to remember that this is a time to survive, not thrive. "When surrounded by this chaos, we should accept that we are all running on fumes... battery saver mode if you will. So optimal efficiency is impossible and cruel to expect from one's self," she adds.
Here are her tips to cope with COVID anxiety:
Like Tanvii said, survival is key at the given moment. Don't beat yourself up if you are not being as productive as you normally would have been. Doing just the bare minimum is totally acceptable right now!
If you've found yourself doom scrolling for hours on social media, you're not the only one. It's a double edged-sword—while social media keeps us updated with what's going on right now, those updates are also triggering our stress and anxiety. So find some time to switch off from social media, set your phone aside, and focus on an activity that calms you, like reading or re-watching your favourite movie.
When anxiety or negative thoughts trouble you, do something about it. Taking action will make you feel more in control. So lend a helping hand to someone who's struggling or amplify calls for resources on social media.
Talking to people who are close to you will make you feel lighter and more reassured. So give them a phone call or connect over Zoom. Playing games or reading to each other can also help ease your anxiety.
While you can't control the virus, you can control how safe you are. So stay indoors and step out only if you must—make sure you double mask, wear a face shield and carry sanitiser if you do. When you return, sanitise yourself thoroughly. Eat all your meals on time and consume healthy nutritious food. Drink some warm water and take steam. Take all your supplements. Your health is in your hands, so focus your energy on building your immunity.
Crying is a good way to release your emotions and feel lighter. So remember that when you are feeling burned out or overwhelmed, you are allowed to cry. Don't feel bad about it!
We're all dealing with extraordinary circumstances, so it's important to go easy on yourself. "Right now our only goal should be to survive this wave...We will thrive only if we survive," reminds Tanvii.
So take a break, be gentle with yourself, and cry if you need to! We are all in this together.
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