- Follow a routine to have some normalcy in your life: Expert
- Spending time with family can be therapeutic: Expert
- Negativity on social media can cause anxiety, focus on the good: Expert
New Delhi: As the world continues its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have reiterated the need to prioritise mental health. Most recently, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged governments, civil society and health authorities to urgently address mental health needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic, warning that psychological suffering is increasing. Mr Guterres said that the ‘grief at the loss of loved ones, shock at the loss of jobs, isolation and restrictions on movement, difficult family dynamics, and uncertainty and fear for the future,’ are some of the concerns that may deteriorate mental health.
Mental health services are an essential part of all government responses to COVID-19, he added.
As per Dr Sulekha Chatterjee, a Psychiatrist who has been treating mental health patients for nearly three decades, the fear-induced anxiety caused by COVID-19 is the most common mental health issue amid the pandemic. Secondly, she says, people are depressed due to the drastic change of lifestyle caused by the virus. She explained,
I have been consulting my old patients and new via video call and phone calls throughout the lockdown. Now too, we have ensured the necessary physical distance in my cabin, and I try to be available for my patients in both ways – face to face or online. In my experience, now more than ever, people are experiencing anxiety and depression. For my old patients, the pandemic and its implications are triggering the issues and also I’m seeing a lot of patients who are experiencing these issues for the first time.
Furthermore, she says that the pandemic is also stressful for people due to financial or other such problems, and fear, anxiety and hypertension among people are affecting them badly. The government should hold regular seminars to increase awareness about mental health, Dr Chatterjee says.
She advises a few simple ways in which people can try and ease their mental health issues in such unprecedented times.
Self Care: Spend Time For Yourself, Follow A Routine
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Chatterjee says that each person is going through a big transformation and we need to focus on our mental health. She says,
“We need self-care and self-care means giving time to yourself, now more than ever. People are spending most of their time at home, most are even working from home, so it is important to maintain a routine. Give your mind a break from time to time, fix timings for your work and for yourself. And most importantly, follow that routine. Do not forget to spend at least some part of your day doing something that can ease your mind – be it exercise, meditation, watch something on television, read a book and spend time with friends and family. I would advise people to cut the use of technology, especially social media, as it is important to take a break from the negativity that is going around the world at present.”
Enough Overthinking: Utilise Your Free Time
Dr Chatterjee points out that it is one of those rare occasions, where people across the globe are trying to shield themselves with the same concern – COVID-19.
While each person has a different type of challenge posed by the pandemic, we are still all facing the consequences of the same threat. Overthinking is the main cause of all mental problems, avoid overthinking and focus on positivity. We need to eat healthily and try to keep ourselves in shape as our physical health affects our mental health directly.
Blessing In Disguise: Spend Time With Family
To overcome mental health issues, it is advisable to spend quality time with people who are near and dear to you, Dr Chatterjee says.
One thing I have noticed among may patients, my relatives and even my own kids is that people have the rare opportunity to spend time with their families. In our usual fast-paced lives, we barely had the time to spend with our siblings, parents, and children. A lot of students and young people, who were also living away from home, have the time to spend time with their families. It can help with their anxiety and stress that they often felt living away from home.
Dr Chatterjee says that cooking with your family, playing indoor games, or even watching TV together can be a good stress reliever. Taking care of your family can also be therapeutical she adds.
Expand Your Horizons: Plan For Something You Always Wanted To Pursue
Dr Chatterjee says that at a time when the world is at a crossroads, it may be a good to time plan ahead, which is not their usual advice but makes sense right now.
We as psychiatrists, always say don’t plan ahead to our patients as it may trigger their anxiety. We suggest them to live for the ‘today’. But during the pandemic, I suggested most of my anxious and depressed patients to plan for what they want to do once this pandemic is over. It is important to give them hope and motivate them to get through this and so we had to adjust our advice accordingly.
Dr Chatterjee says she suggests her patients to plan for further education, maybe an online course while they work remotely, aim for their dream job or something as simple as a future trip.
Get Good Sleep: Focus On Simple Good Habits
Lastly, Dr Chatterjee says that getting good sleep is another important way for improving mental health conditions.
Social distancing has affected social life of people. I give some simple advice to my patients that they need to follow on a daily basis. These include talking to their friends regularly, eating healthy, being physically active, focusing more on positive thoughts, but most importantly is to follow a proper sleep schedule.
Dr Chatterjee says that people may not realise it, but the above-mentioned steps can have a significant impact on their mental health at such a time. She says that it is important to always remember that ‘this too shall pass’.
If you need support or know someone who does, please reach out to your nearest mental health specialist. Helplines numbers:
Sneha Foundation: 91-44-24640050
Vandrevala Foundation for Mental Health: 1860-2662-345 & 1800-2333-330
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.