Of all the challenges that the world is facing amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the mental and psychological ones are perhaps the most grave. With social isolation and physical distancing becoming the new norm to prevent the spread of disease, it is probably only natural for people to experience frequent bouts of stress, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. Everyone worldwide finds themselves adjusting to the new normal – working from home, refraining from personally visiting their family and friends, and getting their kids homeschooled. Amidst this, finding ways to cope with stress and maintaining sound mental health has become more important than ever.
How you deal with stressful situations in life is entirely subjective. No two people can have the same response or reaction to a given situation in life, leave alone something as life-altering as a pandemic. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), how vulnerable you are to the situation has a lot to do with factors such as your background, the community you belong to, and all the aspects of your behavior, trait, and personality that differentiate you from the others. Having said that, coping with stress or any other difficult situation in life will only make you and the community you live in stronger and this ongoing outbreak is no different.
As a community, we need to devise some effective stress management techniques to get through this pandemic. By community, we mean parents, co-workers, and health-care professionals. And while we may do our bit for our families and society, let us not forget that our mental health is important too. So what are the different stress management techniques that we can employ to best cope with this situation? Let us look at the FAQs below.
Who are the ones most vulnerable during this pandemic?
The people who have been responding the most strongly to stress during the outbreak of this infectious disease include:
- Senior citizens
- Children and adolescents
- People suffering from chronic diseases
- People who have serious mental health conditions and addictions
- People who are susceptible to catch infections due to low immunity
- Doctors and other health-care professionals who are working on the frontlines to treat people with COVID-19
What are the common symptoms of stress that one experiences during this crisis?
Some of the common symptoms of stress affecting people on a daily basis are:
- Change in sleeping patterns by constantly worrying about themselves and their family members
- Facing problems in concentrating and completing tasks
- Losing appetite due to the constant mental state of fear
- Undergoing erratic behavioral changes
- Overuse of alcohol and other drugs to numb the stress and anxiety
- Worsening of health conditions of people with chronic diseases
How can you take care of your mental health during this situation?
While caring about our loved ones, it is equally important to take care of our own mental well being. These are a few ways in which we can do so.
- Indulge in self-care, which means eating healthily, meditating, being spiritually inclined, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol or drugs.
- Expose yourself judiciously to any news related to the pandemic. Take regular breaks from social media, news stories or other forms of information, which will help you stay calm.
- Find ways to stay connected with your friends and families. Use video conferencing tools to see them and feel connected. The virtual connection will help combat loneliness.
- It is important to build new habits and routines and stick to them as that will help to reinforce a sense of purpose and order into your life.
- Take regular breaks and unwind. You can either play games with your family or cook together. Take up activities to bond with each other like never before.
What are the different ways in which you can help your friends, neighbors, and co-workers during this phase?
You may be socially distancing yourself to help the other person, but that is not the only thing that you can do for them. Here are some of the other things that you can do to ensure the people around you are positive and upbeat.
- Refrain from sharing negative news.
- Share positive and inspirational stories to help them cope with stress.
- Reach out and interact with them over a call, or through video calls. Sometimes just checking on one another can uplift one’s morale.
- If someone you know has been diagnosed with COVID-19, be empathetic towards them. Don’t make things difficult for them by referring to them as “victims”, or one of the ‘COVID-19 cases’. It is imperative to not associate a person with a disease. It is perhaps more important now than ever to be kind, compassionate, and supportive of one another. Separating a person from having an identity defined by COVID-19 is a step towards that direction.
- When it comes to your colleagues, take time off and help them out with their targets if they are not able to meet them. Being there for one another through this difficult time will help bring in solidarity.
If you are a parent, what are the different ways in which you can support your kids?
How to not be overwhelmed and explain the pandemic to your kids or teens in the best way possible is perhaps something every parent has had to deal with. Kids will look at their parents for emotional support and take cues from their behavior to know how best to react to the situation. Here are a few ways in which you can support your kids and ensure their mental health is not badly affected.
- Ensure that you and your kids have a proper routine to follow. Setting a routine in place will bring in some discipline.
- Schools and colleges have come up with homeschooling techniques, so create a homework and learning routine for them. Also, set up relaxing and fun activities from time to time, so that they do not feel too pressured or bored.
- See to it that your kids feel safe. Be honest in communicating with them about how you feel and at the same time tell them it is okay to feel sad and upset sometimes. This will give expression to their feelings and help them cope with stress.
- Talk to them about the pandemic and answer their questions in a way where they know the facts but remain hopeful about the future. Positive reinforcements always help.
- Exercise control over your family’s exposure to news and social media. You do not want your kids hyperventilating over something they read on the internet. If they do, it is important you know about it and have an open dialogue with them about the same.
- Help them feel connected with their friends by encouraging them to talk to them regularly.
- Get them to have balanced meals, get proper sleep, exercise and burn out their energy. This will help them stay happy and active.
Lastly, remember to respect and honor health-care workers, government officials, and defense personnel in your community who have been fighting on the frontlines to control the spread of the disease. The least we can do is acknowledge their role in protecting us and our loved ones.
For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit the CDC link and the NIH link.