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The COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown has led to a growing wave of uncertainty and anxiety. NT BUZZ speaks with a few experts to understand how one can cope in these stressful times

Losing your mind over COVID-19

DANUSKA DA GAMA | NT BUZZ

These are trying times. Not just for Goa, but for the entire global population. There is a ton of information to process, laws being enforced, restrictions on movement, scarcity of essential commodities and the enduring fear that the pandemic is going to get worse in India or that the lockdown will be extended. But anxiety can only cause more problems and thus there is a need to keep one’s mental well-being in check and aim to reduce the stress and panic.

Panic is to be expected

And indeed, a reliable source working in the healthcare department of Goa tells us that a lot of mental health related issues can arise during this time. “The fact that medical science has no cure for novel coronavirus is stressful. Once infected you need to be quarantined and shifted to isolation, “ he says, adding that generally people are not used to staying alone and not going out.

At the same time, one begins to worry about what will happen to oneself or the family, and those that have tested positive live in guilt of having infected their close family and friends. “All in all, a very uncertain, untreatable situation will prompt the mind to get stressed,” the source explains.

People at large can also feel anxious and helpless due to the uncertainty and change in the pace of life says assistant professor of psychology and counsellor, Ridhima Shirodkar. “People are unaware of what to expect and how long this issue will go on. Also, the lack of routine may cause a sense of emptiness,” she says.

In particular she is worried about the elderly who are unable to go out and get supplies. “This can cause mental and physical health issues, too,” she says.

This stress could manifest in physical symptoms like sweating, dry mouth, sleep disturbances, guilt feelings, sadness, decreased appetite and in severe cases even suicidal ideas.

Further, with businesses shut, there is the added worry of finances on people, that can lead to depression. Those who have loved ones in far off places will also feel guilty of not being able to do enough in such times to be there for one another, she states. “Many Goans have family abroad and the situation in most countries is bleak. Travel is out if the question and thus this may be a source of worry and desperation,” says Shirodkar.

She adds that there is also a sense of despair in the air as people are constantly aware and alert and don’t really know who is a carrier and when they may be a victim. “A kind of stigma is being attached to COVID and people seem to be hiding away from it,” she says.

Positivity is key

Being positive and not overthinking is what one should practice now, experts believe.

“Staying home is the answer and self hygiene is the key. Rather than thinking of what could happen, focusing on what you could do for it to not happen is the focus,” says the healthcare department source.

He strongly opines that these are days of following orders from those who are fighting the war, and the least one can do is not to challenge the thoughts and directions of the health professionals. He says: “They are only protecting you. This is no time for activism but a time of acceptance, humility and humanness.”

Use your time wisely

A good way to keep the stress at bay is to take up a hobby, learn a new skill, do all those things with family that one always dreamt about but were unable to give time to, says the healthcare department source.

Gardening, cooking, penning your thoughts down, besides experiencing life and feeling a sense of gratitude is what he believes can help us during the lockdown. “Discourage criticism, unwanted talk and connect with yourself and others,” suggests Shirodkar.

One could also catch up with friends on the phone or video chat, adds the healthcare department source, while stressing on the need to meditate and exercise.

While there has been whip out in place for those spreading rumours, jokes and unverified information, Shirodkar advises people to be positive by reading positive news and stories during this time. “Don’t focus on negativity associated with COVID-19. Instead read up or focus on those who survived and those working positively during this time,” she says.

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