A viral pneumonia of an unknown cause in Wuhan, was first reported to WHO Country Office in China on 31st Dec 2019. The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30th Jan, 2020. And on 11th Feb, 2020 WHO named this novel disease, COVID-19. Ever since it has the world on its toes, every country is doing its best to fight this Pandemic. As we all know now that the best way to fight this Pandemic is prevention- Stay Home, Stay Safe- as they say. But staying home has started another war within us that we can call as a Psychological Warfare. Millions of lives are facing a significant change for which they were unprepared.
A large sect of the population may cope well with the present situation but there are many who find it difficult to manage their fear and anxiety in the current scenario. This time can lead to a rise in stress, internet addiction, excessive gaming in children, and distraction of daily routines and relapse of existing psychiatric conditions. In a survey it was found that the anxiety levels are quite high in the general population. More than half of the respondents reported that they remain pre-occupied with the thoughts of COVID-19. Sleep difficulties, paranoia about acquiring COVID-19 infection and distress related to social.
There are people who are using this time as delight to pursue their hobbies, spending time with their family, watching their favorite movies, helping in the household chores, doing office work from home etc. But there are others who are finding it hard to manage amidst the ongoing crisis. Some are finding hard to kill their boredom and adjust with the changed dynamics of their lives. While others are literally fighting stress and blues as soon as they get-up from the bed in the morning. So the question in hand is what all can be done to fight this psychological warfare? With some adaptive coping-strategies the psychological difficulties arising out of such crisis can be dealt effectively.
Encountering helplessness and anxiety is usual when we feel that we are stuck in a situation. So the first step towards healing will be acceptance. If we start accepting the situation we will look forward toward the ways of dealing with the situation. As someone rightly said “Nothing brings down walls as surely as acceptance.” Assenting to the reality of a situation helps in dealing with the crisis effectively.
In childhood while reading anything on ‘My aim in life’ you must have come across something like ‘Life without an aim is like a ship without a radar’, as true as the saying goes, we should have a plan to save ourselves from the anxieties and stress that comes to us with unplanned ventures whether we talk about life or the day. There is a quote “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” If we have completed our first task, we will most probably end up doing it all by ourselves because of the motivation that we will get after completing the first task. We need not to have big and unrealistic plans to start with. Just start with little and realistic things like doing the room in the morning, helping mother in the kitchen, reading the newspaper, watching a movie etc.
Being continuously at home gives us more than the necessary free time. And this is a common human tendency to divulge in negative possibilities. The current crisis is uncertain and in these kinds of situations we often find ourselves helpless and hopeless. We often find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle of unhelpful negative thoughts and revert to ways of coping that take us nowhere. It is important to acknowledge one’s own thoughts and emotions. Using a solution focused thinking approach, challenging negative thought-patterns, repeating positive affirmations, practicing self-compassion and gratitude may aid well in breaking these cycles of our negative thoughts.
In such hard times, it is very common to feel a loss of control and this may overwhelm people resulting in over thinking, fear and even anxiety. It is very important to keep ourselves relaxed and a little focused. Relaxation activities including deep breathing may be easily practiced at home. Mindfulness- the state of being in the present may also aid to stay focused and relaxed. Mindful breathing i.e. to focus attention on breathing patterns is one example.
The existing psychiatric patients should take care of their follow-ups with their respective treating psychiatrists & therapists. Tele-counseling services can also be used by those in need. We need to be consciously aware of some activities that might interfere with our physical and mental well-being. Excessive exposure of T.V and social media should be restricted.
Drugs, alcohol, smoking are negative ways of coping and should be avoided. Keeping ourselves busy with reading good books, spending time with the family, calling friends, taking care of health and sleep are some of the healthy coping habits that we should inculcate in our daily routine.
This Contagion has led to a disruption in the lives of millions worldwide. In the crisis, feeling low, irritable and anxious are normal human emotions. To help people bear out their emotions and thought processes, bring healthy coping strategies into practice so that they may keep themselves hearty and healthy. Such Pandemics may have long lasting adverse psychological effects which emphasizes the need for public mental health care interventions to be formally integrated into health preparedness models
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.