Mind control: Here's how to take care of your mental health during the COVID-19 lockdown
The coronavirus outbreak has affected individuals across the world, with as many as 4.12 million reported cases and at least 283,000 recorded deaths, and the numbers growing each day.
The WHO has labelled the virus a pandemic, and it doesn’t matter which demographic, race, religion, or class you belong to, everyone is susceptible to the disease, and this is the unfortunate truth.
After nearly 2 months of lockdown, social distancing, and individuals being quarantined, it has been a time of mental stress and agony for families, daily wage laborers, citizens, and young people.
Since we haven’t been exposed to a pandemic at this scale, in the last decade or so, it is a new experience for everyone. It is safe to say that people are coming together to stand united, and flatten the curve.
Mental Health Awareness Month is observed in the month of May and this year, the occasion holds immense relevance as a number of people are suffering from mental health disorders, alcohol addictions, loneliness and despair during this challenging time.
Not being able to see the light of day, go to the gym to reduce stress, or see one's family members and friends can make an already lonely time, feel even more isolating.
As people constantly read about the number of new cases in the newspaper, or follow media and TV channels that are talking about the coronavirus repeatedly, they can feel overwhelmed and devastated.
YS Weekender brings you 9 things you can do to effectively keep your mental health in check and look after yourself or a loved one during this unprecedented time.
Minimise screen time
Since we are all cooped up indoors we often turn to our phones and social media to see what our friends and loved ones are up to. While this is healthy in small doses, it can be extremely damaging if not kept in check.
Turning to social media handles such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook can make you get lost in a world of make believe, and lead to unhealthy comparisons.
If you are living alone, and are stuck in a state away from your family and hometown, seeing others prepare elaborate family dinners, bonding with each other while cooking, or playing board games and watching movies can often make you feel left out.
It is important to remind yourself that you are not alone, and this uncertain period will not last forever.
Keep busy by going for a walk in your compound, learning a new skill, taking up an online course, or speaking to a loved one directly on the phone or through video calling features. It does not do good to dwell on what you don’t have, and to stay positive, no matter how difficult it might seem.
If you are working from home, make a schedule and decide on the amount of time you will spend on your laptop, and make sure that you get the most work done in that period of time.
Spend the remaining hours helping with household chores, buying groceries, planning on what to prepare for your next meal, reading a favourite book or putting aside some down time to watch a feel-good film or TV series.
Have an exercise routine and diet plan in check
Getting enough exercise, keeping hydrated during the summer months and eating whole grains, protein packed fibre and green leafy vegetables are the need of the hour.
Set aside 30- 40 minutes every day to do Yoga or Functional training exercises using your own body weight. If you don’t have access to free weights or Yoga mats, you can climb the stairs and do multiple sets of walking up and down.
There are also plenty of online fitness influencers who can help you join a powerful workout, break a sweat, and burn those extra calories while you are at it.
According to the Centres for Disease control and prevention (CDC) it is recommended to partake in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Doing some physical activity is better than doing no activity at all.
The release of endorphins will keep you in the right frame of mind, and help improve overall health and cardiovascular function.
Stay away from ordering home delivery or emotionally binge eating when you feel down.
Watch how many calories you are consuming daily with a fitness food tracker and keep a check that you are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy body.
Vitamin D is known to help beat depression and other chronic illnesses, and has significant health benefits. Spending some time on your balcony, home garden or terrace everyday will definitely help keep those lonely feelings at bay.
Meditation is known to help you connect with your higher soul, and balance your chakras.
Spending some time visualising a better tomorrow, and future will help you to positively reinforce yourself, and keep peace and positive energy flowing with others around you at home.
Manifesting your visions and goals, and keeping a gratitude journal will help you to see all that you have in your life at this present moment, and leave you feeling grateful and content.
You will feel energised, revitalised, with a whole new purpose and sense of self. Your body and mind will be at sync and you will attain peace of mind, and be able to assess and make sense of your thoughts more effectively.
Limit alcohol and cigarette consumption
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink or don’t drink alcohol at all. It is recommended by the WHO to not use this time to start drinking alcohol if you have never drunk alcohol before.
It is imperative to not use alcohol, smoking, and drugs as a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, boredom and social isolation.
Alcohol and narcotics are known to be a central nervous system depressant, what this means is that while it might give you a temporary high and feeling of euphoria at the time or even moments after it is consumed, it can still impair judgment, make you have faltered perception and can even slow you down and make you think irrationally.
In short it can increase feelings of depression, isolation, and hopelessness.
There is no evidence of any protective effect of drinking alcohol for viral or other infections. In fact, the opposite is true as the harmful use of alcohol is associated with increased risk of infections and worse treatment outcomes.
It is also important to be aware that alcohol and drug use may prevent you from taking sufficient precautions to protect yourself against infection, such as compliance with hand hygiene.
Reach out to a therapist or helpline
While for some it might be extremely difficult or nerve wracking to seek help from someone outside his or her immediate family, the best thing to do when you can’t get a hold over your feelings, emotions, or thoughts is to reach out and ask for help.
The person at the other end of the helpline is trained to help you through trying times and difficult situations in life. Reaching out to a Therapist/Psychiatrist or helpline is completely necessary if you feel hopeless, helpless, isolated or suicidal.
If you are having a hard time with a spouse, family member or loved one at home, and you feel like you might be a harm to yourself or even others, before thinking of anything extreme, it is best to seek the help of someone who can help you process your thoughts and think rationally. One should never make a decision when they are either too happy or too sad.
Thinking about divorce, or struggling with substance abuse or dealing with a mental health disorder are situations and conditions that you should never handle alone.
Keep in touch with friends/family
Even though we might not able to meet those near and dear to us during this time, due to social distancing measures laid out by the government, it certainly does not prevent us from calling or keeping in touch with a beloved friend or family member.
It will leave you feeling relaxed and good after a phone call, and it will certainly help the other person too.
Knowing that everyone is in the same boat, and facing the same situation can help reinstate the fact that you are not completely alone and going through this pandemic by yourself.
With Zoom Call, Face Time, WhatsApp Video Call, Hangouts, and Skype there is an abundance of free calling services available in the market.
Help others by supporting COVID-19 Relief efforts
Knowing that you are doing your part to help society at large will leave you feeling that you have done whatever you can to help those struggling migrant laborers or individuals less fortunate than you.
Donating money towards COVID-19 relief efforts, towards the development of the new vaccine, or providing household essentials to elderly or needy citizens in your neighborhood will definitely go a long way.
Feeding stray dogs on the streets and providing a room for those who have not been able to make it back to international destinations or to their home states, and helping with the necessary paperwork will definitely ease anxieties and uncertainness during this difficult period.
Read & Listen to Music
Music is therapeutic and extremely beneficial when it comes to curbing feelings of loneliness. It is known to help individuals who deal with schizophrenia, ADHD, clinical depression and numerous other mental health disorders.
Listening to uplifting rhythms and beats will not only soothe you, but also help you reduce feelings of anxiety and make you feel surprisingly content.
Music is a mood enhancer; that helps to reduce pain, curbs feelings of stress and improves overall emotional health. It can also help you realise the types of sounds, you do like and don’t like and make you understand different aspects of your personality.
The same goes for reading, as it not only takes you to an imaginative world, but also gives you something new to think about and distract you.
It helps you focus, concentrate better for longer periods of time, improve vocabulary, and is the key to acquiring knowledge.
Studies have shown that those who choose to read vs. those who turn to the television or other forms of entertainment, are known to have better sleep at night, ability to empathise better, and have higher levels of self-esteem.
Practise effective sleep, oral and physical hygiene
With the entire world in lockdown mode, and everyone at home, days can often tend to go by easily and become mundane and monotonous.
What takes a hit is personal hygiene, since we are not going out anymore and do not have a reason to put on our best attire, citizens can go days lounging about at home, without taking a bath, brushing, shaving or grooming themselves.
It’s essential apart from just washing hands every time you go to the grocery store/step outside for a walk, to effectively look after yourself and your personal upkeep.
Sleeping well and on time every day at a reasonable hour too is vital for mental health. It stabilises your mood, and replenishes your body.
It will be much harder to get back to a routine of effectively doing things, if you do not do not practise them during this time.
Edited by Asha Chowdary