From grounding self to reaching out, a clinical psychologist’s guide to staying mentally healthy during COVID-19 crisis
Here are some things which people can do to help maintain their mental health during these difficult times of COVID-19.
The pandemic and the resulting lockdown have impacted people in many ways. From experiencing immense anxiety, low moods, irritability, anger, disappointment, fear, apprehension to a significant sense of loss and even grief and guilt, this experience has resulted in an unravelling of sorts for many. The biggest impact this has had is on their mental health – their sense of positivity and optimism, their productivity and even their relationships.
Living in this altered form and format has made people vulnerable in many ways, challenging their way of coping and adapting to difficult circumstances. Here are some things which people can do to help maintain their mental health during these difficult times of COVID-19:
1. Accept your emotional experiences: Do not try to run away from what you are going through. Change does not happen by running away or rejecting experiences. To develop mastery over what is happening to you on the inside, it is important that you accept and embrace these difficult emotions and thoughts you are going through. Recognise that you are not alone in this experience either.
2. Handling social isolation: Handling social isolation is the most difficult part of the lockdown. Try to engross yourself in work. Build yourself a routine and try to maintain it. If you have an old hobby like painting, cooking, sketching or gardening, this is the time to focus on that.
3. Focus on what you can control: You cannot control your thoughts and feelings as these are generated spontaneously. But you can try to focus on things you have a control on, like your routine activities. Set yourself a schedule and stick to it as much as you can. Ensure that you include pleasurable and fun activities in your routine and not just chores. Also, incorporate exercise and maintaining a healthy diet in it. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of fluids. Do some indoor exercises to keep you fit and active.
4. Ground yourself in the present: Your mind may keep attempting to pull you into the past or towards what the future may be like. Be proactive in grounding yourself in the present. Keep giving yourself reminders about where you are and what you are doing to ensure that you stay in the moment and keep moving from one day to the next.
5. Stay connected: Make sure you connect with people, friends, family or experts to ensure you are sharing your thoughts and feelings. In such times, it is important to have and utilize social support to feel good.
6. Look for the silver lining: Maintain a focus on building and maintaining your optimism by looking at the good that is happening around you and by contributing towards helping others. This is going to be beneficial towards building resilience and allowing you to cope effectively with situations.
7. Focus on facts: Do not believe the rumours spread on social media. Also, do not spread or share such rumours. Instead, only focus on the facts that are being shared with you by a reliable source like an official news portal. Rather than focusing on how many have gotten ill and how many have died, focus on how many have recovered.
8. Avoid harmful drugs: Do not start consuming products like tobacco, alcohol, weed or other drugs to cope with boredom or stress. This can further destroy your mental and physical health. It can also reduce your immunity.
9. Help the people around you: In your own mental well-being do not completely forget about others. While it is necessary to maintain a distance, if you observe that people around you are not feeling well (emotionally or physically), be there for them and try to help. If they are ill, contact the doctor. If they are feeling emotionally unwell, lend an ear and try to make them feel better. Especially take care of elderly people, as they may experience more problems during the lockdown. If the problems continue for a long time, contact the helpline number (080-46110007).
10. Reach out for help: If you continue to experience emotions like anxiety, fear, anger or irritation for a long time and the feeling does not go away, despite your continuous efforts, and you feel hopeless or not worth living, please call the helpline number (080-46110007) to seek professional help from a mental health expert.
This article was written by Ms Kamna Chhibber, Head of Department, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.
For more information, read our article on How to protect your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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