• Victor Mohan

Mental Health during the Coronavirus pandemic

On 18th of March, the World Health Organization released a briefing note to help all affected by the outbreak cope with the mental implications of the disease. Given the extension of the nationwide lockdown in India, it is perhaps even more relevant to discuss this issue now.

Taking care of your mind as well as your body is important while staying home because of COVID-19. Yet, fear of being out of control and unable to effect change and alter the status-quo can make the process of maintaining good physical and mental health difficult. In this regard, it is important to first accept that it is okay to feel lonely or frustrated; the feelings will pass because the situation is temporary. There are, however, a few things that can be kept in mind to make the process of home-quarantine easier.

Do not stay glued to the news

Try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media, and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone. You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to checking a couple of times a day.

Use trustworthy sources, our database provides a quick overview of the COVID situation along with a twitter feed of the Indian Ministry of Health. For more updates visit the MoHFW website or the WHO website.

Stay connected with others

Maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is important for your mental well-being. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family while you are all staying at home – by phone, messaging, video calls or social media – whether it's people you usually see often, or connecting with old friends.

Lots of people are finding the current situation difficult, so staying in touch could help them too. Consider reaching out to the Behavioral Health: Psycho-social toll-free helpline at 080-46110007.

Carry on doing things you enjoy

If we are feeling worried, anxious, lonely or low, we may stop doing things we usually enjoy. Make an effort to focus on your favorite hobby if it is something you can still do at home. If not, picking something new to learn at home might help.

There are lots of free tutorials and courses online, and people are coming up with inventive ways to do things, like hosting online pub quizzes and music concerts. Get started with art workshops hosted by our partner, The Crimson Canvas. Follow their Instagram page to join live workshops.

Stay on top of difficult feelings

Concern about the Coronavirus outbreak is perfectly normal. However, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their day-to-day life. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as how you act, who you speak to and where you get information from.

It's fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, but if constant thoughts about the situation are making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try some ideas to help manage your anxiety.

AnxietyUK suggests practising the "Apple" technique to deal with anxiety and worries.

  • Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.

  • Pause: Don't react as you normally do. Don't react at all. Pause and breathe.

  • Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don't believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.

  • Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don't have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.

  • Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else - on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else - mindfully with your full attention.

Look after your body

Our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse.

Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly. Avoid smoking or drugs, and try not to drink too much alcohol. You could try one of the many home workouts available on Youtube.

Take time to relax

This can help with difficult emotions and worries, and improve our well-being. Relaxation techniques can also help deal with feelings of anxiety.

Look after your sleep

Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel, so it's important to get enough.

Try to maintain your regular sleeping pattern and stick to good sleep practices.

Keep your mind active

Read, write, play games, do crosswords, complete Sudoku puzzles or finish jigsaws.

Whatever it is, find something that works for you.