Corona and Mental Health

-Dr. Bhakti Murkey,

Consultant Psychiatrist (Amravati)

The current scenario:

While the world slows down and heals itself, and nature sets its restoration button; we, the cognitively evolved so-called great humans experience the futility of our accomplishments today. Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) has struck the human race and we are fighting back with all our might.  Bearing the burden of mortality in thousands and morbidity in lacs, many countries have sealed borders, initiated lockdown, forbidden transportation, set up quarantines for the exposed and hospitals for the infected, started digital awareness campaigns and accelerated medical research. 

With the boom in advancement of science and technology in recent era, being ‘busy’ had lately been a social trend. Once considered a luxury, free time has now-a-days become a daily entity and we don’t know what to do with this.  Karl Marx identified human beings as social animals. So in periods of social isolation we are prone to contracting infirmities of the mind. In such circumstances, keeping mentally fit could become a challenge especially once the initial novelty of the experience subsides. As the mind finds space to unwind during free time and we get to reflect upon our life, finding too much free time can become a source of emptiness and anxiety. A sense of isolation from the rest of the world along with disruption of our social routines can lead to loneliness or boredom and can push us to adapt unhealthy means of coping with these emotions, like bingeing on media, consuming alcohol, or eating or sleeping in excess.

  • Why a mental fitness is important in Quarantine:

Staying mentally fit implies being able to live a disciplined routine, keeping a good mood mostly, engaging in creative endeavors and maintaining harmonious interpersonal relationships. When in quarantine people face the possibility of being infected with the pathogen in question, thus creating a sense of panic or doom. In such a situation, a person either faces uncertainty of his/her fate or lives in fear of death. 

It is of utmost importance to focus on facts and not get carried away by others’ opinions or rumors. It is essential to understand and accept uncertainty as a part of life. Thoughts are a powerful mental resource and keeping a positive or encouraging point of view goes a long way in shaping mental fitness. Hence, those residing in quarantines must refrain from engaging in fatalistic conversations and reading about the negative impact worldwide. Even there, life can continue as at home, entailing regular exercise, meditation, good eating habits, productive use of time in creative pursuits or healthy interaction with loved ones from a distanceIf you have been diagnosed with Corona virus infection, it could be scary in times when no vaccine or treatment options are established yet. However, few reports of complete recovery do bring in a ray of hope. Keep faith in our healthcare system and professionals and pray sincerely for a favorable outcome. While untimely deaths are painful, it is the sad truth of life that death is imminent. There are reports of doctors over the world that contracted the infection while serving the infected and lost their lives. But they created an example of utmost bravery by lovingly bidding farewell to loved ones before graciously accepting demise.

  • Mental fitness of our Front-line healthcare workers:

Putting a loved one at risk of infection takes more courage than facing the risk ourselves. But we can be a valuable resource and support system for our family member serving as a front-line healthcare worker. Our attitude towards their contribution would make a huge difference in their enthusiasm and dedication to their work. We are undoubtedly proud of their service to mankind, but it is important for them to know that. Communicate with them regularly and encourage them with hopeful messages. Express your emotions verbally as often as you can to make them realize that they are not alone. Take care of your own selves and relieve them of their anxieties about your well-being in their absence.

  • Mental fitness of you:

It’s a unique time to be alive. The world has not witnessed social isolation on this scale before. This has pushed us to stay confined within the boundaries of our homes and refrain from enjoying the perks of outdoor activity. However, many of us find it difficult to conform to this requirement. Staying indoors creates a relative sense of sensory deprivation and hence discomfort. But it is a social responsibility of each one of us to ensure we stay indoors and fall in line with the safety measures being taken on a national scale. Remember that isolation is the key to preventing community spread of the virus and hence, the major safety shield for you and your families. 

You can jointly engage in activities at home like cooking, cleaning, playing table tennis or carom or cards, singing on a karaoke system, working out, or watching the television or movies together. This will help create fond memories, strengthen emotional bonding and help you get to know each other better. It will also be comforting that you are not stuck alone in the confines of a house, rather cherishing the novel opportunity of spending time with people who matter to you in the solace of your homes. 

If someone in your family feels low or dejected, be there to support him/her and have a heart-to-heart talk. Teach your kids to do household chores and reward them for their efforts. Have conversations with the elderly and get to learn from their life experiences. Spend time with your partner and reflect on your life journey and goals together as a couple. Indulge in self care and treat each day with gratitude as an opportunity of growth, restoration and love.

For our healthcare personnel, it is not only a matter of honor to serve the countrymen in times of global crisis, but also a position of immense responsibility and stress. Exposing oneself to the risk of Corona infection for hours at a stretch, in the dearth of PPE (personal protective equipment) can instill fear and exhaustion. Thus mental health is expected to take a toll, especially over time. 

For those engaging in such difficult nature and hours of work, taking short frequent breaks can be helpful. Human beings are known to function in the most efficient manner when they work intermittently. Thus, taking a few minutes of ‘me time’ out for the mind and body to relax and unwind is essential. This could sound impractical in our country with a huge population of people turning up in hospitals, but making an effort to relax in small bursts would be worthwhile. 

  • Message to fellow front-line healthcare workers:

Dealing closely with distress and death could also be stressful. Remind yourselves that losing a patient is not a sign of your failure, but it is the imminent fatality that strikes everyone sooner or later. Let it be sufficient to know that all the necessary efforts were taken with an intention to heal and care. Know that you are not alone, and there are others working hand in hand across all states of the country. Besides, there are prayers and blessings of your families and the entire nation who is thankful for your sacrifices and untiring efforts. 

As quoted in the holy scripture of the Bhagvad Geeta, let us remember that we have a right only to perform our actions; we are not entitled to their fruits. Let us continue our efforts in all our capacity to fight this disease, safeguard ourselves and our loved ones, support the front-line workers in our community and live one day at a time with grace and gratitude, as we together await the ebbing of this universal crisis. Nothing lasts forever, and let’s hope that it’s only a matter of time before the state of our world transforms, albeit slowly.

Dr Bhakti Murkey, 

Consultant Psychiatrist (Amravati)

  • We will fight and come back stronger!!

As quoted in the holy scripture of the Bhagvad Geeta, let us remember that we have a right only to perform our actions; we are not entitled to their fruits. Let us continue our efforts in all our capacity to fight this disease, safeguard ourselves and our loved ones, support the front-line workers in our community and live one day at a time with grace and gratitude, as we together await the ebbing of this universal crisis. Nothing lasts forever, and let’s hope that it’s only a matter of time before the state of our world transforms, albeit slowly

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