Mental Health During the Pandemic: Take Care!
Dr Alipta Jena

Dr Alipta Jena

Jan 18Mental health

Mental Health During the Pandemic: Take Care!

Covid-19 and the global pandemic has taken a toll on all of us in varied ways. Along with the fear of infection and contracting the coronavirus, are the numerous changes and modifications to our normal lives. These include the stresses of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends, and colleagues. In such circumstances, it is important that we look after our mental, as well as our physical, health.

The high number of Covid-19 cases in India has put immense pressure on the existing healthcare infrastructure and frontline workers in the country, as well as the common person.

The pandemic altered the way of life, adversely impacting the mental and physical health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates suggest that almost 20% of India might have fallen prey to some or the other mental disorder by the end of this year.

As the lockdown and restrictions on movement and continue to be in place, we have been forced to make changes in our routines that have taken a huge psychological toll on us that is almost throughout the day,

The new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends, and colleagues take time to get used to.

Adapting to lifestyle changes such as these, and worrying about people close to us who are particularly vulnerable, have been emotionally challenging for all of us.

They can be particularly difficult for people with mental health conditions.

If it is a person being treated for an alcohol or drug use disorder, the isolation may lead to increased feelings of fear, anxiety and isolation that can increase the risk of relapse, substance use, discontinuation of treatment.

Fortunately, there are lots of things that we can do to look after our own mental health and to help others who may need some extra support and care.

Here are some things that might make life easier to deal with and keep you going-

  • Make a daily routine for yourselves or keep up with daily routines as far as possible, for a sense of order.
  • Ensure physical hygiene
  • Try to eat healthily and regularly.
  • Physical activity, yoga, exercise can help balance out your life. Even if gyms are closed, a small walk or some light stretches should do the trick! Medication and deep breathing techniques and apps can come in handy as well.
  • Allocate time for working and time for resting.
  • Make time for doing things you enjoy.
  • A fixed sleeping schedule.
  • Try to reduce exposure to news that makes you feel anxious or distressed.
  • It is important to keep in touch with your people, family, and friends, If your movements are restricted, keep in regular contact with people close to you by telephone and online channels.
  • Avoid using alcohol and drugs as a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, boredom and social isolation.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink or don’t drink alcohol at all.
  • Ensure that you are not spending too much in front of a screen every day.
  • Use your social media accounts to promote positive and hopeful stories. Correct misinformation wherever you see it.
  • Help people in your community who may need it, such as helping them with food shopping.
  • Practice gratitude. Thank your country’s health-care workers and all those working to respond to Covid-19

mental health

Mental healthcare for adults

  • Try to stick to a regular schedule and maintain a routine for eating, sleeping, and some leisure.
  • Simple exercises like walk or stretch to keep fit and flexible can work wonders for your mental health as well.
  • Stay in touch with your loved ones. Make that phone call, write an email, reach out on social media or hold a video conference.
  • Keep practical matters like food, medicines, household repairs, and chores sorted. This will ensure a sense of regularity and normality and keep you occupied. Ask family members, friends, or neighbours for support, if needed.

Care for people with existing mental health conditions

The pandemic has been particularly harsh on people with existing mental health conditions.

Some were deprived of crucial support systems and the isolation and the lack of social interaction aggravated matters.

If you are being treated for a mental health condition, make sure that you continue to take medication as prescribed, and that you have a way of getting your medication.

If you are seeing a mental health specialist, find out how to continue with that support during the outbreak.

Keep in touch with people who care for you and whom you can contact for support in case of emergencies.

Children can do with some tender loving mental care too!

Also, during the pandemic, your children can feel a tad lost and left wondering at the state of things. It is essential to keep them engaged and as gently as possible, and informed of the state of affairs. It is common for children to crave more of your time in these times, particularly when they are distanced from their friends and outdoor activities.

Discuss the pandemic situation with them, using age-appropriate language.

Help them out with the new modes of online learning and make sure they are not bogged down by screen time.

Set aside sometime in the day for play as well, alongside their online classes. Make sure they have time away from screens every day.

Help children find positive ways to express feelings such as fear and sadness.

Sometimes engaging in a creative activity, such as playing or drawing, can help you with this process.

Engage your children in creative activities, online and offline.

Spend time with them and encourage them to explore creative activities on their own.

With them, you can bake, cook simple things, engage them in chores and make it seem like play, sing or dance.

Try DIY crafts and drawing too! Above all, cherish the time together with them, as it can be a means of destressing for them as well as you.

If possible, help them stay in touch with their friends too, through telephone and online channels.

Organizations like WHO, together with partners, are providing guidance and advice during the COVID-19 pandemic for health workers, managers of health facilities.

There is guidance to be had for caregivers as well - people who are looking after children, older adults, and people in isolation.

Learning and wellness

In 2020, a record number of people turned to online learning as a source of hope, growth, and resilience amid economic uncertainty, and campus and workplace disruptions.

A large number of Indians also enrolled in courses in courses such as Learning How to Learn and The Science of Well-Being.

The list of the ten most popular courses in the healthcare domain in India was topped by Introduction to Psychology (Yale University), Social Psychology (Wesleyan University), COVID-19 Contact Tracing (Johns Hopkins University), Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19 (University of Toronto) and A Life of Happiness and Fulfilment (Indian School of Business).

Other courses in the top 10 list in Health are Buddhism and Modern Psychology (Princeton University), Science of Exercise(University of Colorado Boulder), COVID-19: What You Need to Know (Osmosis), Psychological First Aid (Johns Hopkins University), and Stanford Introduction to Food and Health (Stanford University).

Disclaimer: This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

ProactiveForHer is a digital clinic for women, offering accessible, personalised, and confidential healthcare solutions. We offer out-patient care, diagnostic services and programs for various health concerns of Indian women, across their lifetime - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause.