Dr KAFEEL KHAN | 7 DECEMBER, 2020
The Pandemic Impact on Mental Health - Some Do’s and Don'ts
Second most common comorbidity
Humans by nature are social animals.
Social distancing, isolation, quarantine, lockdown, working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, lack of physical contact with other family members and friends, and financial struggles are all taking a heavy mental toll on adults and children.
Added to that, rumours, unscientific views, infodemics, stigmatisation, guilt, infringement of personal freedoms, the death of love ones and the constant worry of what will happen next only serve to exacerbate the issue.
Research studies suggest that mental health problems followed cardio-respiratory difficulties as the second most reported comorbidity. Along with that, since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports have shown that all types of violence against women and girls—particularly domestic violence—have intensified.
There is still much uncertainty about the virus. The most common emotion faced by all is fear and anxiety. It's normal for people to experience a wide range of thoughts, feelings and reactions but be alert if someone around you is showing these symptoms:
. Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
. Anxiety, worry, or fear about your own health and the health of your loved ones
. Changes in sleep or eating patterns
. Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
. Sadness, tearfulness, loss of interest in usual enjoyable activities
. Physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, stomach upset, fatigue
. Restlessness or agitation
. Feeling helpless, having trouble relaxing
. Feeling disconnected from other. ms
. Apprehension about going to public spaces
. Worsening of chronic health problems
. Worsening of mental health conditions
. Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances
. Risk of being infected and infecting others
. Exaggeration of common symptoms of other illnesses like fever or coughing
Children often have trouble expressing their feelings or what they are going through. You have to observe closely for these following signs and symptoms in your child:
. Temper Tantrum—uneventful crying, restlessness, hyperactivity, agitation
. Changes in sleep pattern
. Changes in eating pattern—increase/decrease
. Clinging to parents/toys, staying alone
. Having difficulty concentrating—while watching cartoons or during online classes
. Decreased activity, walking slowly
. Bed wetting, increased urination, constipation
. Nail biting, hair pulling
. Psychosomatic Pain—Headache, abdomen pain, uncomfortable sensation
. Increased heart rate or temperature
How to cope? Remember that most people recover. Remember that you are not alone. Staying at home can be quite nice for a while, but can also become fairly restrictive. Here are some ways to remain positive and cheerful.
. Follow a routine—Keep yourself busy. Make a time table where you set a time for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, bathing, reading and so on.
. Sleep early—Avoid social media, watching movies, and other forms of screen time late at night.
. Get up early—Eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids. Exercise regularly.
. Distract yourself from negative emotions by listening to music, reading, watching television. If you have old hobbies like painting, gardening or stitching, go back to them. Rediscover your hobbies. . . . Learn new skills such as writing, swimming, horse riding, dancing, cooking, playing an instrument.
. Talk, listen, connect with family and friends through phone conversations/video calling. Share happy events, common interests, exchange cooking tips, new music.
. Sharing is caring. A small act of kindness will make you feel good. Understand if someone around you needs advice, food or other essentials. Be willing to share. Do something that makes you proud.
. Get out in nature.
. Stay informed, but don’t obsessively check the news. Focus on facts, reject rumors and theories. Do not follow sensational news or social media posts. Knowledge is power.
. Do not keep discussing all the time about who got sick and how. Instead, learn about who got well and recovered.
. Elderly people may feel confused, lost and need help. Offer them help by getting them what they need, their medicines, daily essentials etc.
. During times of anxiety, practice breathing slowly for a few minutes. Think of something calm and serene, and slow down your mind.
. When feeling angry and irritated, distracting yourself and calming your mind—by counting backwards from 99 to 1—helps.
. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
. Know what to do if you fall ill. Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
. Give more love as well as some space to your partner.
Special care should be taken around children. First and most important step is to self-regulate fears and anxiety and avoid getting agitated in front of kids. Balance your body language even though your words are better.
Have an open discussion with them, explain the situation and assure them of their safety. Remember your relationship with your child is like an emotional bank account—the more you deposit, the more you can withdraw.
Make rules—clear, consistent and for everyone. Try to make a time table for everything and inform them 15 minutes before TV/Mobile/Laptop time is going to get over. Keep them busy by allowing them to help in household chores. Make them feel responsible.
Consult a psychologist immediately if symptoms are persistent or worsening. Call the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare helpline number (1075 or 01123978046) for advice from a mental health professional or contact your doctor/mental health professional.
Golden words—Good mental status in difficult times may win you the battle more easily.
Golden Rule—Continue social distancing, wearing masks and hand hygiene practice.
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