How To Maintain Mental Health During Covid-19 Outbreak

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Dr Sheikh Shoib

COVID-19 is a novel Coronavirus that was first detected in China and has now spread all over the world, including in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Pandemics are not just a medical phenomenon; they affect individuals, and society on many levels causing disruptions in daily life. Stigma and xenophobia are the social aspects of pandemic outbreaks. Coronavirus infection has been increasing at an alarming rate since the end of last year and has been declared a pandemic by the WHO (World Health Organisation).

As with other disasters, this pandemic has become fertile ground for many psychological disorders particularly anxiety disorders. As the virus strikes, sales of many anti-anxiety drugs suddenly increased in the Indian market.

Coronavirus is not just threatening our physical health, but our mental health too. It definitely has an impact on your mental health and can cause anxiety and fear. It is important to focus on self-care and also mental health support.

Kashmir is known for its beauty and also for conflict. The turmoil here which spiked psychological and psychiatric disorders. This pandemic which has reached Kashmir has likewise led to an increase in many anxiety disorders particularly among the patients who are already suffering from stress issues.

During the last few months, anxiety levels of patients have increased and there is increase in number of patients visiting hospitals with these symptoms.

There are various reasons why pandemic like corona affects mental health:

Rumours and misconceptions regarding the illness.

Fear of getting a disease or loved one getting affected by illness.

Decreased job security.

Social withdrawal

Loneliness.

Decreased financial security.

Increased health anxiety.

Feeling of hopelessness.

Mind-set switch from living to survival

The pandemic of coronavirus disease may have a varied response among people depending upon age and premorbid conditions. Although the effect of the coronavirus on mental health has not been systematically studied, it is anticipated to have a multitude of effects.

Different people react differently to stressful events. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. People who respond more strongly to the crisis include extremes of patients of all ages (Very young, teen and elderly) and patients with chronic medical conditions.

In addition, patients who are already suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse, and health care providers also respond strongly to stress. Being stressed about the news is comprehensible, but for many people, it can make existing mental health problems worse.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include

Excessive fear and worry about illness.

Change in sleep and eating patterns.

Irritability and acting out behaviour in teens.

Sadness

Difficulty in attention and concentration.

Unexplained body aches and headache

Remember, you are not alone in this, everyone is experiencing discomfort and support and help is there if you need it. You cannot control the virus at present but you do have tools for managing mental health.

World Health Organisation has released advice on protecting your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. Patients who are suffering from mental health issues should continue treatment and should inform mental health professionals in case of new or worsening of symptoms.

Here are some tips that may give some comfort to those who are struggling with these symptoms.

Follow general precautions and standard recommendations to maintain hygiene.

Avoid excess health-related news: We all want to remain up to date when it comes to health-related events, but people with health-related anxiety should avoid reading excess health-related updates because it becomes compulsive for them to read the news again and again. If you are worried about the symptoms of illness, talking to your friend or consulting doctor is a better option in an emergency situation.

Avoid the googling of symptoms: ‘Dr. Google’ is not the authoritative source.

Exercise can help calm you down and allay your anxiety. Deep breathing and relaxation therapy can be very beneficial and also decrease anxiety.

Allocate a daily worry period: Giving yourself some time to worry about and listening to your heart and then you have to go and do something else.

Remember your anxiety state is not permanent and just takes it as a rough patch in your life. Acknowledging that life is like a journey and you will face up and down in life.

Treat yourself: Anything that gives you a little boost and you will feel better can decrease your anxiety. It can vary from taking a  bath or going to walk.

Talk to your friends: Talk with people you trust and share your concerns and feelings about everything that is going on.

“Apple” technique to deal with anxiety and worries in crises situations

Acknowledge the insecurity will come to end.

Pause:  Pause and deep breathing. Don’t react at all.

Pull back:  Don’t believe everything you think and just think it is worry talking.

Let go:  Just let go of your unwanted thoughts and think they will go and are not permanent.

Explore:  Explore the world around and feel your sensation. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell.

  1. Avoid making any assumptions. Don’t judge people and try not to make conclusions about who is responsible for disease spread. The disease can affect anyone irrespective of age, sex, and ethnicity.
  2. Connect to your health care provider or mental health professional if the stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in succession.
  3. If there is a chance you have contracted coronavirus, you may be asked to isolate yourself. For most people it seems like a daunting task. Keep in contact with your loved ones via texts, social media, and phone calls. Keeping yourself busy with scheduled activities and the use of relaxation techniques may be helpful.

The current COVID 19 epidemic has a multitude of effects from inciting fear and phobia on society. On an individual level, it may exacerbate anxiety and many mental health issues. Early detection and treatment can alleviate the suffering of patients. Social contact and maintaining routines can be supportive of our mental health and wellbeing. In circumstances where this is not possible, staying connected with friends and family online or by phone may assist.

 

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