Many months into the Coronavirus pandemic, its effects are all around us. The loss of jobs and stifling restriction of staying at home for most waking hours are only a few of them; at least the ones which are most visible. But simply because some of its deteriorating effects are invisible, doesn't make them any less important. The effect of the COVID-19 health crisis on one's mind may not be tangible but is a very real worry. Just as measures are being undertaken to stay fit and boost immunity, the same caution should be exercised for one's mental health as well. What better day than this one to address it. On the occasion of World Mental Health Day 2020, we spoke to Dr. Prakriti Poddar, Expert in Mental Health and MD at Poddar Foundation for her expertise on tackling whatever the pandemic throws the way of our mental health.
The Coronavirus has crept into our lives in ways which cannot even be fathomed. "The additive weight of stress, isolation, uncertainty and loss due to the pandemic can cause mental fatigue, anxiety and burnout in ever so subtle ways, and there is real danger in doing nothing about it. With restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, we need to take measures to combat the stressors," says Dr. Prakriti and continues, "Paycuts, layoffs, increased workload, isolation, uncertainty and disruption in daily routines has led to feeling overwhelmed in the midst of this ongoing crisis. With no end in sight for the foreseeable future, you need to take measures to maintain to combat the stressors."
Businesses, offices and firms are slowly finding their feet once more. While that heralds good news for the economy and workplaces, if carried out incorrectly, it can impact mental health negatively too. "While telecommuting offers more flexibility, it is not without problems. Getting ready for and traveling to work allowed people to get into the right mindset before they started work and gave them time to decompress on their way home. Now, most people wake up, walk a few feet, and sit down to work, and there is a real danger of work and personal life blurring in unhealthy ways in the long run. It is important to create a routine to stick to while working from home. Create a separate workspace and clearly define your working hours. Communicate it to your co-workers and make sure it does not bleed into your personal life. The loss of a social net is palpable and you must make it a point to stay connected with your family, friends and colleagues via video chats, phones calls, text messages and emails. There is also the real danger of digital overindulgence. So, make sure you clock your screen time," recommends Dr. Prakriti.
The silver lining is, for every worry there is a solution. All is not bleak. First of all, remember that what you're going through is completely normal. "Feeling stressed out at a time like this is normal. Work on identifying the emotional and mental signs of stress. Common emotional signs include irritability, anger, fear, sadness and fatigue. Mental signs include memory loss, lack of focus, indecisiveness, disorientation and confusion. If these sound familiar, then you should incorporate breathing exercises in your daily routine to keep yourself calm. Make it a point to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Do not slide into a sedentary lifestyle. If exercising outdoors is not an option, jumping rope is a great way of getting vigorous aerobic activity indoors. Try doing it for 10 minutes every day. Understand that it is not your fault and do not shy away from seeking help if things get out of control. If you cannot visit a mental health professional in person, consider seeking help online. Not only do virtual consultations offer more flexibility, but they also give you access to a wider pool of trained professionals. They will keep you healthy, both physically and mentally, " recommends Dr. Prakriti.