During times of crisis, particularly one such as the ongoing COVID-19 scare that has resulted in the entire population having to stay in the confines of their homes to protect the larger well-being of the society, it is natural for an individual to experience many emotional and psychological challenges. These may be either difficulties that have been swept under the rug and now have to be faced, or a psychological reaction that is triggered by the crisis itself. A large portion of the population is part of the corporate workforce where stress and a busy lifestyle is the norm. During a quarantine situation such as this, work has largely come to a standstill for a lot of people which means that individuals may have to deal with mood swings, boredom, anxiety, fear of the future, and inter-personal conflict without having the usual distractions to cope with this.
One of the biggest challenges that people could likely face is the fear of the future. Questions such as the following are likely to trouble many – how long before the pandemic is controlled? Could I be infected? Will I lose my job? How do I take care of my family? What if this continues for a very long time and things become stagnant? What will become of all of us if we are unable to control the spread of the virus?
One must first understand that while it is normal to experience such fears, it is also fruitless to keep ruminating on these thoughts. The first step to cope with the quarantine is to accept that this is how things are going to be for a while. Keep yourself updated about the on-ground situation but avoid over-researching, over-discussion or over-analyzing the far reaching implications of the quarantine as it is beyond anyone’s control. Practice acceptance and find a way to relieve stress if it becomes overwhelming – for example, discuss your worries with responsible, loved ones, maintain a journal, practice meditation, spend more time gardening or with your pets or find a creative outlet for the nervous energy. Dedicating time and energy towards being productive will also take your mind off the future.
Plan your day better and devote more time towards doing things that you enjoy. Spend a portion of your day to learn a new skill or to complete long-pending tasks. Stay connected with your friends, and devote parts of the house for specific activities – for example set up at a particular area to use as a workstation, a separate area for entertainment or gaming, a section for exercise and a separate room for relaxation. This will help your mind and body better adapt to the quarantine.
The quarantine period also offers people the opportunity and time to work on issues that they would otherwise have not been able to devote enough time towards. Accessing mental health resources, such as apps or tele-consultations with a psychologist, therapist or psychiatrists can help people develop better coping skills for difficult situations in the future. Being at home could also be a good opportunity for families to come closer and form a deeper bond. During this time, you could research or understand more about yourself and your psychology, as well as identify thought or behavioural patterns that are stopping you from giving your best to life. Use this time to examine yourself deeply and inculcate better habits – including in terms of lifestyle. Not many people realize how their eating or activity levels impact their frame of mind and mood and using this time to learn how to eat and exercise better could have far-reaching benefits for your mental balance.
The COVID-19 quarantine is an unprecedented situation for a large segment of the population, particularly the youth – however this must be used as an opportunity to make way for a better future.
Contributed by Dr. Nishal Pinto, Clinical Psychologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Sarjapur Road