By Dr. Sahithya B.R.
Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology, DIMHANS
The pandemic of COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our lives. It has become a threat to not only our physical health but also our emotional wellbeing. The pandemic put us in a scenario we’d never been in before: social distancing, quarantine, and lockdown.
India is a socially multicultural nation where the majority of people live in large joint families and communities gather together in droves to celebrate even the smallest of events, including weddings. India is noted for holding public gatherings within communities to commemorate religious festivals, as well as attending festivals and Melas. All of this came to a standstill when the pandemic struck, putting the unprepared Indians in a difficult situation.
These problems have been stressful, upsetting, and have elicited powerful emotional responses in people. Public health interventions, such as social distance, which are required to slow the spread of COVID-19, cause people to feel alienated and lonely, as well as raise stress and worry. Furthermore, the nature of the disease, as well as not knowing what to anticipate, fuelled public concern, anxiety, and panic, which was compounded by repeated misinformation from some social media about the same subject.
“We have overcome the first wave, and the second wave is already receding, but there is still no clear foresight into the future. When will we be free of the pandemic? Will there be a third wave? Will there be a more lethal strain of the virus? These are some of the concerns people are expressing. “
These questions, however, do not have a clear answer. The government of India is doing the best it can with the resources it has. It has been able to care for people with severe covid19. Till now, India has vaccinated 36.9 million people, with 7.03 million being fully immunized. This has not been a simple task, given the massive population of 136.64 crores.
However, quite often, the positive news is being sidelined by some media, and focusing on negative incidents that happen once in a while, and create panic in the minds of people. People’s mental health issues have increased as a result of these occurrences.
Several mental health organizations, including NIMHANS, the Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists, the Ministry of Health, and others, created a tele-counselling service to address the public’s mental health difficulties during this crisis. Dr Mahesh Desai, Director of DIMHANS, provided tele-counselling facilities in the Hubballi-Dharwad region to provide psychosocial support to people who tested positive for COVID19.
The DIMHANS tele counselling facility has turned into a boon for people in distress. Students, employees, and faculty personnel from the departments of Nursing, Psychiatric Social Work, and Clinical Psychology worked tirelessly on the phone, answering questions and providing psychosocial support to covid positive people. Over 12.000 people have received counselling so far.
Stress plays a significant role in the development of mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Stress, on the other hand, maybe controlled. The following are some stress-relieving suggestions:
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, including plenty of vegetables and fruits and whole grains.
- Exercise regularly. Do yoga, walk around in a safe place around your house.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
- Continue with routine preventive measures such as wearing a mask, sanitizing hands, maintaining social distancing, etc., as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine when available.
- Take care of your mind.
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media.
- It’s good to be informed, but hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting.
- Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from the phone, TV, and computer screens for a while.
- Make time to unwind.
- Try to do some other activities you enjoy – music, gardening, cooking.
- Develop some hobbies
- Perhaps develop a skill – drawing, music, etc.
- Attend online classes/courses
- Do things you have always put off for another time.
- Connect with others
- Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- Connect with your community-or faith-based organizations online, through social media, or by phone or mail.
- Take care of others
- It is especially important to stay connected with your friends and family.
- Helping others cope with stress through phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely or isolated.
The pandemic will be here for some more time, at least until everyone is vaccinated and a cure is made available. Our government and our scientists are working on it. However, it is the public responsibility to prevent the spread. So, despite decreasingcovid19 cases, and easing lockdown rules, it is important to continue with preventive measures. If you are stressed and need psychological help, reach out to the helpline KIRAN (1800-599-0019) which was launched by the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. The helpline will offer mental health rehabilitation services with the objective of early screening, first aid, psychological support, distress management, mental wellbeing, promoting positive behaviour and psychological crisis management, and is available in several languages, including Kannada. DIMHANS OPD and emergency is also open for consultation.