If the notifications popping up on your phone every second is bombarding you with news of rising coronavirus cases and the misinformation spread on social media is multiplying your worries even as you maintain social distancing in a bid to contain the spread of the virus, heed to what mental health experts have to say about ways to beating the stress.
The most important thing at this point of time is to stay emotionally connected with your family and friends, even as you stay in isolation or maintain social distancing, according to the experts.
Secondly, it is important to understand that even if the measures implemented to contain the virus have put severe restrictions on you, they are meant for your own welfare.
"Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus. Its a phase that will have to pass. There are teams of professionals across the world trying to fight this out. Remember that your effort is helping others, loved ones, your family and neighbours in the community to avoid contracting the virus," Zirak Marker, Psychiatrist & Advisor - Mpower, a mental health organisation, told IANS.
"Yes it's not easy to go through isolation, but individuals need to rise up to their social responsibility, as a pandemic has to be fought with collectiveness. And to take care of their mental well-being during isolation/quarantine, they should be connected with family, use social media and digital communication, take care of self, indulge in doing things that interests the self," said Samir Parikh, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare.
It is also important to understand that how you deal with the situation will also impact the people around you, especially your children who are impressionable and observant.
"We need to be role models for children, instilling in them a sense of altruism and teaching them socially responsible behaviours and ensure that the home atmosphere is positive, spend time with them, play indoor games and do not let them feel pressure, yet encourage them to maintain hygiene and self care. The impact on mental health would largely depend on how the family deals with the situation," Parikh explained.
Sapna Bangar, Psychiatrist and Head, Mpower - The Centre, Mumbai, agreed that how we behave in front of children will have an impact on their behaviour as well.
"So, if parents are worrying excessively, children are bound to pick on it. So, taking this in a positive spirit, giving the situation an adventurous spin, spending more time with children doing activities like board games, reading, teaching them a new skill, getting them to do small chores in the house helps them not only keeping the boredom at bay but also helps in improving their self-esteem and sense of purpose," Bangar said.
So if the coronavirus is keeping you at home and offering you to spend more time with yourself, better catch up with your reading, pick up the old hobby that you abandoned due to paucity of time and spend more quality time with your children instead of spending time googling about coronavirus, stress eating or watching TV aimlessly.
You should also avoid getting overloaded with information, surrounding yourself with negative and hopeless thoughts, reading information from unreliable sources, and transferring your anger, frustration or helplessness on others, Bangar said.
The experts are unanimous in their views that people need to follow a structure and routine despite being at home.
"Sleep well, exercise, follow a balanced diet and spend time communicating with your loved ones," Marker said.
However, it is also true that not everyone might be able to handle the situation with ease.
"All populations will be affected in some capacity because of the measures put in place to combat coronavirus. However, people who have a predisposition towards anxiety or those who do not have a social and family support system are more susceptible to having mental health concerns during this pandemic," Parikh said.
"The measures implemented are absolutely necessary for keeping people physically safe and stopping the spread. However being isolated takes a toll on peoples mental health. It is observed to increase anxiety, rising panic, worry about the outcomes and family members. It is also common to start affecting one's mood with feelings of guilt and sadness. People who are quarantined may suffer PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) or suicidal thoughts," warned Bangar.
If you are feeling distressed, anxious, low, irritable or frustrated, reach out to friends or family or speak to a professional counsellor, who shall be available for online consultations, Marker advised.
(Gokul Bhagabati can be contacted at [email protected])