Make sure to keep the virus at bay, but don’t ignore your mental health and emotional well-being

Many people are wondering what would be the outcome of this lockdown. Those who live alone are feeling lonelier. People are losing money. It’s important to keep your emotions in check

Shyam Mithiya
| Updated: Last updated on April 4th, 2020,

These are unusual times. Nothing could have prepared us for this situation. People are locked up inside their homes and suddenly we all have a lot of time at our hands. We all keep complaining that we don’t get enough time and now, irrespective of whether you are working from home or not, let’s accept it, we are getting a couple of hours extra. However, this is also a time when we must keep our emotions in check. While we must do all that we can to keep the virus away, we must also not ignore our mental health and emotional well-being. It’s likely that many people will end up depressed or feeling low once the lockdown ends.

Don’t take stress, don’t panic, don’t hoard things

When the coronavirus outbreak hit our country, there were many who failed to understand the gravity of the situation. They were travelling without taking any precautions. They were meeting people and were unconsciously spreading the virus. There were also many who, even in such a critical situation, were not bothered about hygiene. They were still eating paan or chewing tobacco and spitting randomly. The general perception was ‘it’s just flu’ or ‘it won’t/can’t happen to me’.

And, on the other hand, there are those who are extra conscious. Such people tend to overdo things. By constantly watching the news or by constantly discussing what is happening around us can make one anxious. Such people may unnecessarily pass on this anxiety to their family members, friends or even children. Such kind of behaviour makes one irritable and sad.

There are also those who are stepping out every day, or when they can, to buy things they may already have or don’t really need. Yes, it’s an unusual situation, but we will still get basic things in the market. There is no need to do panic buying. Such people may end up suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or psychosis, and they will find it difficult to behave normally once the coronavirus threat subsides. And, if not treated, such issues may have an adverse impact on the mental health of these people and their family members.

Many are struggling to ‘work from home’

Almost all of us are into stressful professions. In big cities, like Delhi or Mumbai, most of us have to rely on public transport and that commute itself is exhausting. We all have been yearning to work from home, but now that we have an opportunity to do so, many of us are complaining. Our attitude has changed because we are being asked to work from home, and it’s not something that we wished to do. Many people are already complaining that they feel claustrophobic, tired, bored, frustrated and irritable.

These mood swings affect them and also the people around them. In such a situation, the atmosphere at home may suddenly become very stressful and negative and hence unbearable. People may feel other family members are unnecessarily intruding, kids in the family are too cranky and the presence of the elderly, like parents, may feel like a burden.

These days, the ladies of the house are doing a commendable job in keeping everyone together. There are many mean jokes doing the rounds on social media. They are mocking the plight of the women as both, husbands and kids, are at home. It says lot about the attitude one carries.

Partners and husbands and wives keep complaining that they don’t get to spend a lot of time together. And when they are getting a lot of quality time, they don’t know how to make these moments special. Had you been given a week’s off in your normal routine, would you have not welcomed that change? So, why not now? It’s all about perception and attitude.

Make a routine. Bond with your family

Yes, as we are locked up in our homes, our routines have gone haywire. It’s terrible for children. I would suggest, make a plan for the day and stick it on your refrigerator. Alter this plan on a daily basis.

Making small changes in the morning can keep you motivated for the whole day. Get up early and exercise, meditate. If you are religious, pray. Cook together and have breakfast together. When was the last time you had all the three meals with your family? Grab this opportunity.

It’s a perfect time to bond with your family and to do all those things you couldn’t do in normal times. Read a book, listen to your favourite music, play indoor games with your kids, watch a film together, exercise together, dance, if you like to. Share your dreams, share your issues, fears and problems. It’s a perfect time to put your feelings into words. Tell your children you love them, tell your partners that you care for them.

Use this time to teach your children things that are not taught in schools. Teach them basic cooking, basic banking, how to change the gas cylinder or how to check oil in the car. These are the skills that will help them in the long run.

How to deal with loneliness?

There are many who live alone or away from families. There are young students who live in hostels or as paying guests. There are young professionals who are working in big cities. It’s difficult for these youngsters to deal with this unusual situation. Keep yourself busy. The most important thing is to stay connected. Call your friends, talk to them, video-call them. It’s important to spell out your emotions. It’s important that at least one person knows what exactly are you going through and how you are actually feeling.

There are many senior citizens who live alone as their children or away or are abroad. They may feel lonelier than usual. It would help to talk to people around you. Communicate with your loved ones. Do all those things that you couldn’t do as you were always busy. Read books, listen to songs, solve puzzles, pray.

How to deal with losses?

Many people are wondering what would be the outcome of this lockdown? People may lose their jobs, suffer losses in their businesses, they may miss their targets. Please understand that this is an unavoidable situation and everyone is sailing in the same boat. Remember, it’s not impossible to find another job, or to recover the money that you have lost. At the end of all this, we should just be grateful that we survived and that our loved ones are still with us. We usually don’t get time to empathise and do something for society. Try to help someone, donate some money, do something for others. The satisfaction that one gets by doing so is far greater than any monetary loss.

Too much information is not good

It’s natural that we are watching a lot of news these days. We are hooked on to our mobile more than usual. We are getting a lot of information from all sides. After a while, it becomes difficult to differentiate between sensational news and authenticate news, between exaggeration and information. It’s best to not get too involved. It’s good to be aware, but make sure you watch the news for just one or two hours throughout the day. Don’t read too much about the current situation, read other things too. Don’t get affected by provocative headlines or messages on social media. Use your judgement. Believe only what you think is right. Don’t circulate fake messages. Don’t believe the internet, listen to your doctor.

Talk to your children

It’s a rough time for children. They are locked up and are getting frustrated. Talk to them. Inform them in an age-appropriate manner. Don’t brush their fears aside, listen to them. Don’t get annoyed if they are asking too many questions. They are watching you so make sure your behaviour is proper. Don’t get too anxious, don’t panic. Use this time to teach them a new life-saving skill, read to them, talk to them, listen to them, revise the curriculum. Involve them in day-to-day activities. Give them small tasks. Bond with them. Come to think of it, coronavirus is probably a blessing in disguise!

Lastly, probably, coronavirus is a vaccine and we are the virus. It’s nature’s way of getting back at us. Let’s stop abusing the mother earth. Let’s reduce pollution by planting more trees. It’s time to learn basic hygiene. Come to think of it, corona might be spreading fast, but we still have an upper hand over it. We have more fatal illnesses like TB and pneumonia which need our attention too. It’s time to ponder over these things.

Shyam Mithiya is a consultant psychiatrist and sexologist and relationship counsellor based in Mumbai

(Views are personal)