First time in our lifetime we are witnessing a global pandemic which has forced most of the people world over to quit their day to day pursuits and sit idle at home. Stay at home to stay safe became the new mantra for our wellbeing.
Now it has been almost four months since people had their usual life; when students went to schools and colleges to study, adults went to their workplaces and everyone had their usual routines of visiting shopping malls, hanging out with friends, dining out, traveling to beat the blues and all the normal things we had got so accustomed to and called life.
How has this temporary but seemingly indefinite pause in our living life affected our mental well-being? There are definitely many repercussions of the first ever global lockdown on our minds.
First of all, idleness itself breeds many mental woes. The biggest advantage of a busy life is that it keeps the mind off useless thinking and worrying. In the normal course of life people are usually too busy to indulge in unwanted and unsettling thinking. Their daily jobs and tasks keep their overworking minds occupied and even those who are habitual over thinkers do not make time to reflect everyday. But in this case of forced sit down with nothing much to keep the mind engaged, overthinking and especially negative overthinking is natural. Most vulnerable are the emotionally sensitive and chronically anxious people who in current times have the habit as well as all the time to over analyze things and then worry about them.
Excessive thinking and worrying causes anxiety in people. Thousands of people are getting sick and are losing lives everyday and there are 24 X 7 news channels reporting the numbers and the horrors of what’s happening in every corner of the world. People are bound to worry and get anxious about their and their dear ones lives. Anxiety leads to poor sleeping and eating and many somatic symptoms that give us a feeling of being sick and the health scare aggravates.
The financial losses and worries that have resulted due to the pandemic and the lockdown are the other reason of anxiety. Businesses are closed or down, jobs are being lost, all spendings except for necessities are postponed and hence people are not earning as usual and nobody knows when things will improve. People of all classes and status are bearing the financial losses of varying magnitude. In a country like India where Government packages do not compensate our earning losses and people have to be self reliant for their monetary needs, this stress is inevitable.
Another casualty of this situation is the relationships. In normal days, everyone gets a break from each other, but now people have been forced to live together with their immediate kin all the time inside the four walls of their houses. For some it came as a blessing to have gotten an unusual chance and time to spend with their families which generally got ignored while making living for them. But for many it came as a disaster as living constantly together and finding no usual ways to escape from each other has led to frustrations, increased quarreling and fighting among the family members.
Overthinking, anxiety about wellbeing and life, financial stress and lack of leisure and distractions are causing a feeling of hopelessness and depression in many. There are many people struggling with the evils of depression right now and as mental health is still an ignored sphere of life, they are suffering in silence and without help. If you are one of them or know someone who you feel is being agonized by his/her mind, seek the necessary help. For my readers I am offering some solutions for their mental concerns.
1. The first and the easiest solution to your woes is to find ways to stay occupied. Clean your whereabouts, cook the good food you are missing, water your plants, de clutter your overfilled spaces, do a physical workout at home, watch the series you weren’t getting time to watch, read the books lining decoratively on the shelves or start a new hobby, just do something and keep busy. Do enough to get tired and doze off peacefully at night.
Staying occupied is essential for everyone. Children need to keep busy with useful activities, else they will get more hooked to mobile phones, internet and television. They may start losing interest in studies and even lose some basic cognitive skills while idling away from the usual school routines. Thus, it is imperative that they should be encouraged to read books, solve mathematical problems, play board games and engage in some sort of physical activity like cycling or running.
Stay at home and stay busy to stay absolutely safe should become the new slogan. This pandemic is not going to last forever and when it does people need to come out physically as well as mentally stable and healthy.
2. The best way to deal with your anxieties is to develop a positive outlook about what is happening in the world. God knows how the disaster broke out but what had to happen has happened. The best we can do is is to think of the positives of our situation.
There are some optimistic viewpoints we can adopt. The nature needed a pause from our excessive, abusive activities and has healed somewhat since the closing down. Many of us needed to stop and think of better ways of living life. For some the rat race may become over and a more contended life may begin.
Some of us may wake up to realize that there are many more endangering challenges lying ahead and a new much needed revolution to save the planet may be in offing.
For the less philosophical and more realistic people who need more reason to feel optimistic, look at the data because the data is not pessimistic. Wherever you live, analyze and see that only a very small percentage of people is getting infected and an even smaller number becomes severely sick and very few die. The numbers are not very scary and if you are taking necessary precautions you may never become infected. Most of us personally do not know anyone who got infected or has died due to corona breakout.
You need not give too much attention to the news which is mostly aired to scare you. I strongly suggest, neither be unreasonably optimistic nor absolutely pessimistic. Be realistic and go about your normal life with some caution that your mind has already become accustomed to and you may never catch the virus and even if you did, you will survive as it is curable in most of the cases.
Another way to feel less anxious is that you are not alone in it. The entire world is struggling and all the world powers and medical experts are working to find the solution (the vaccine and the cure) which is going to be delivered sooner than you can imagine. Stay hopeful and use the time to do what best you can do. Like all other good and bad times even this time is going to pass.
3. In case of your financial worries you have to again deal with your situation with a more positive outlook. It is again something everyone is dealing with. Look for opportunities as they are aplenty now, reduce your overheads if you can, revise your goals and plans and if nothing else works, be grateful to be alive and start afresh.
The economy will bounce back once things improve, the money isn’t just rotating right now but it is there and will start churning again and with more momentum maybe. Save your good business sense and energies till then. Rather use this time to brush up or learn new skills.
4. If you can remain busy, feel optimistic about your future and stay calm in these times, then you can definitely enjoy this time as one of your best times with your family and vice versa. Our family life affects our mental well-being and our mental peace reflect in our family bonds.
Work hard and consciously to improve at least some aspects of your life and the rest will follow automatically. This pause is actually the time you have been granted to reflect upon your life and to review and reassess your life situation. Take stock of your life, relationships and all that you hold valuable and make an extra effort to improve the inventory. Reach out to your friends and whoever needs help and share your hopes and enthusiasm with those who need it. As they say, maintain social distance, not emotional distance.
5. Lastly, some people may have become paranoid in the current times when you have to mind your social distance while simply going out to run errands or working if your work has resumed and constantly maintain the hand and body hygiene. Never in our entire lives we had ever been so conscious as we are now.
I personally call it meditation as meditation is nothing but being conscious of now and here. By being alert we are actually living in a permanent mindful, conscious and meditative state. We are not lost in thoughts of past or future but are aware and alert to the present. So, don’t be paranoid, just enjoy being fully conscious and don’t forgo these healthy and hygienic habits that we have been forced to adopt.
The historical event that we are witnessing in this historical year is going to become history soon but how we come out from it physically and especially mentally will become our personal story to be shared in the times to come. So make sure that you don’t make yourself mentally sick with bigger but less talked about illnesses while trying to protect your bodies from the lesser but more popular ailment.
Stay at home and stay busy and hopeful for a better tomorrow.