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Beat the lockdown blues

It can feel daunting to think about the weeks ahead. Adaptability is key to keeping your mental health in good shape

Aldina Braganza

It has been a little more than two weeks at home. If you haven’t got a system in place then I can well imagine how you are feeling. Well, I get you. I know what it feels like. Yes, these are demanding times because there never was a precedence to the way things have panned out for us all. These are different times.

The first thing that you might want to do is take this in perspective. Most of us have been used to a certain way of life. There was structure and a pattern of expectations. There was a time to work and a time to play. In our lifetime, we never before had to be afraid of human contact.

As humans, we evolved to an expected way of life. Our systems (political, economic, and social) had evolved to ensure that our basic needs would be provided for. Money gave us a sense of security and dictated our lifestyle. By and large, the world – especially the well-heeled – had a sense of security and comfort.

As we entered the 21st century, the human race never felt more secure than before. With economic abundance and technological advancement, humans looked at conquering other planets and a sense of entitlement got the better of us.

However, come March 2020 things changed. We were abruptly stopped – amidst CAA and NRC protests and riots – to bow down to an insignificant microscopic virus. Never did we conceive the kind of damage we would have to endure. Stay home. Lockdown of an invincible economy.

It no longer mattered if we belonged to a first-world nation or a developing one. Neither religion, caste, gender nor socioeconomic strata made a difference. We could die and could do nothing about it. Everybody had to stay at home. A microscopic organism became our

equaliser.

It is in this suddenness that we are faced to comprehend what is important to us. It is this suddenness that is making us feel insecure and out of control. 

As a psychologist, I, therefore, urge you to not let this get the better of you. You see as humans we have the capacity for adaptability. We can think creatively and imagine novel situations to avoid threats. 

According to director of the Human Origins Program, Rick Potts our genome has the ability for interactions that allow human organisms to have plasticity ie the capacity to adjust itself. These adjustments happen based on the inputs from the environment.

In simple words, what you feed your brain is exactly how you will function. If you feed it fear, you will feel anxious and fearful. If you feed your brain security and control you will feel secure and confident. Here are some tips:

• Psychologists across the world are urging people not to read irrelevant messages on social media. Your brain cannot make out the difference between fake and real news. So, listen to encouraging messages rather than downers. The only way to prevent coronavirus is to stay at home. Maintain social distance because it will save your life and that of our front-liners who are tirelessly working for our protection.

• Create a sense of positivity for yourself by spending some time alone in nature. In Goa, we are lucky that most of us have houses with compounds. Even if we live in housing complexes, we have areas where we have open skies and trees. Close your eyes and hear the sounds of nature and with every sound of a bird chirping or bee buzzing say thank you. Gratitude creates positive vibrations in your body that help you fight off any kind of anxiety you might be facing.

• A great way to gain a sense of control back to your life is creating a structure around it. Create a timetable for your days at home. This should include things that might be work-related, home-related and hobby-related.

In existential psychologist and holocaust survivor Viktor Emil Frankl’s best-seller on his experience in concentration camps, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, he speaks about one key ingredient that helped him deal with those tough days, namely, give meaning to your experience.

• Give meaning to your daily life while you are grounded at home by this virus.  Paint that picture you always wanted to paint, write, learn to speak a new language, try out new recipes. Call it the COVID-19 project. You will never get the opportunity to do this again. Time and our world will not stop like this again for a long time. So, enjoy your lockdown, don’t let it lock you out.

(Writer is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and the HOD of psychology at Carmel College for Women.)

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