Muntazir Ahmed, 22 years old, is studying to be an engineer. A graduate student of mechanical engineering at the Jamia Milia Islamia university in Delhi, he cannot often go home to his family in Arwal, Bihar due to his studies. But things have been different since the lockdown.

“I live in a joint family and in the starting I was very happy after meeting all my family members, I had been missing them a lot and was enjoying these limitless holidays… But with this lockdown increasing day by day I was not able to adjust to this thing in my mind,” says Ahmed.

“I had to stay at home all the time, which I am not used to. I could not concentrate on my studies properly, or on my assignments, because every time someone would come to my room and start talking about some random topic.

“There is an internet problem in my village and I can’t attend the online classes or submit my assignments after completing them. It was disturbing me a lot: the teachers were pressuring us for the assignments and attendance but I couldn’t make it. I started getting frustrated and feeling irritated by all this,” he recalls.

“I started separating myself from my family. I wanted to go out, talk to friends, walk freely on the roads, feel nature but I could not, and because of all this I was feeling very lonely.

“Because of the internet issue I have to spend my whole day sitting in front of the laptop and trying to reconnect to the network. I started getting tense about my studies and career; I would think about it all day and night.

“I was getting depressed and facing anxiety and it was hurting my mind’s and physical health. I stopped talking to my friends, neighbours, family members,” says Ahmed.

“I was getting angry and irritated in very small things. Every day I would fight with my father, siblings, relatives on small issues and they would also not understand me.

“I was not taking my meals properly and day by day I was getting frustrated and falling into depression.

“I would stay in my room all day, drawing the curtains and switching off the lights and sleeping all day. One day I removed the bulb and tubelight from my room so I could stay in darkness, as I wasn’t liking my life at all in this situation.

“I want to study, I want to keep myself busy, but I wasn’t able to do these things,” Ahmed told The Citizen.

It has been a similar story for Ramsha Fatima, a 21-year-old who aspires to be a doctor, pursuing her first year in medical from the Jagannath Gupta Institute of Medical Science & Hospital.

For most of the time Fatima didn’t want to come home: “Because of my parents’ personal issues I have to suffer in between them. But due to the lockdown I had to come home, and this time I don’t have any excuses to skip going home or returning earlier,” she says.

“I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my studies at home. When I came home I saw both my parents were happy to see me, and seeing both of them happy I too felt happy as everything was normal now; if they are changed they might sort out everything between them.

“The days passed and I was spending good quality time with my family. I felt so happy seeing things back to normal. But it didn’t last long. One day when I woke I heard my parents fighting over some random topic. So I went to them, requested them to keep it down.

“‘I don’t like it when you guys fight with each other’ I told them, but they just ignored me. I came to my room and started crying. This became the daily routine of my parents, to fight with each other. I couldn’t concentrate on my studies seeing all this.

“Earlier my father would go to work and there was less fighting, but now staying home all day increases the fight,” Fatima observes. “It was difficult for me to do my assignments or attend online class as they would be fighting all day and the noise didn’t let me focus on my studies. Sometimes they would fight at night as well and I couldn’t sleep all night.”

“Day by day I started keeping quiet. I would busy myself the whole day on the internet. It was really affecting me, but I don’t have any other option to spend my days. I keep to myself inside my room; only I was getting depressed as there’s no one for me to talk to.

“I feel a little awkward sharing my family problem with my friends because they have a lovely parents, so I can’t share this thing with anyone. I am getting frustrated because of all this, and being a first-year medical student the pressure of studies is also haunting me.

“There are lots and lots of assignments that have to be handwritten, and online tests being scheduled every alternate day, which are impossible for me to handle in this situation overall. I was managing anyhow but it was making me frustrated. A stressful life is what I was living,” says Fatima.

Dr Anshul Mahajan, a psychiatrist, told The Citizen that many students are unable to “control themselves” in this lockdown. “We should keep ourselves mentally fit by practising mindfulness meditation. Keep yourself busy with positive things such as gardening, which is good for our health and the environment.”

Professor of psychology Dr Sanjeebanee Sudha Sasmal agrees. “Don’t sit idle in this lockdown as there are many things that arrive inside our mind when we are alone and sitting idle. It will make you bored, feel loneliness inside you, you will become lazy and many negative thoughts will come in your mind. This will only lead you towards depression, anxiety, frustration, anger building inside you,” she warns.

Once you have ruled out a medical condition or a mental health issue requiring professional intervention, make changes to your habits and routine to help you cope. It is important to maintain a proper schedule, whether it is eating, sleeping, studying or staying online.

“Occupy yourself in online learning in your favourite field, work or hobbies. Do not just engage your hands, eyes or legs but engage your mind also in whatever you are doing. Then only will you enjoy it,” says Dr Samsal.

“Never be tense in your life, just go with the flow. Practise meditation, yoga, exercise, realisation techniques, deep breathing exercises, or attend awareness talks about mental health,” says Dr Mahajan.

“And in your life, never hide anything inside yourself which is haunting you. Share it with someone.”

Asfia Hayat Khanam is an undergraduate student at the Aligarh Muslim University, West Bengal