As we continue navigating through the raging pandemic in India, every day has been a struggle. A friend of mine lost both her in-laws within the span of 48 hours and Mr. P lost an uncle a week ago. Sitting so far away and waking up to news about more known people contracting or succumbing to the disease has been very saddening and I can’t even imagine the plight of the people who are in the middle of it all, especially those who have experienced losses and the thousands who are involved in outreach programs for the affected. A couple of my cousins have been constantly posting information about the availability of oxygen beds, oxygen cylinders, doctors, food delivery services, and such across India, and when I spoke with one of them a few days back, I realized how traumatized and overwhelmed she was with the types of calls she was receiving for help. It is simply disheartening.
The traumatic details from India only started this year, but ever since the pandemic began in 2020, the news from around the world has been nothing less than depressing. Being cooped up at home during strict lockdowns, working from home for over a year, attending school online, and not being able to socialize with our near and dear have all taken a toll on everyone’s mental health.
Over the years, I have noticed and learned that people do not prioritize mental health as much as they do physical health, especially in India. There has always been and still is a stigma attached to going to the Psychiatrist because society might then label you as crazy. But what many do not understand is that, if we do not have the ability to cope with stress, anxiety, loss, etc, it can impact our mental and overall health. While some people learn to deal with mental issues positively, with mediation, counseling, and yoga, others, unfortunately, succumb to negative habits like substance abuse, which only worsens the issues.
I wanted to bring up mental health issues today because I believe that many in India and around the world are struggling with it now. I have read, heard, and seen stories of people taking their lives because they couldn’t cope with being isolated after contracting Covid, of people being ostracized in their own apartments while quarantining, and others finding it difficult to deal with the loss of family members, employment, and income. Based on various studies and surveys, many articles were published over the past year, focusing on stress during a pandemic, its impact on mental health, surveys, and solutions. Many health insurance plans, in the US, even started offering virtual counseling sessions for those who needed it and that’s when I realized how badly the stress was affecting some. We were just lucky, to have not had any personal experiences, until this year. And in this year more than the last one, I believe people are in a greater need of support. Here what I have been doing to Stay Sane. Do take a moment to read an excellent article by a relative: Riding out the storm: Taking Care of your Mental Health while being diagnosed with COVID in the second wave.
While thinking about this topic, I did some research and found articles posted by the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) about some of the problems caused by stress and tips to cope with it. Here are a few common issues: extreme emotions such as fear and anger, changes in energy and appetite, difficulty concentrating, sleep issues, and worsening of existing physical or mental health conditions.
Experts say that the following can help us all cope with stress (pandemic or other):
- Taking a break from watching, reading, or listening about the pandemic (it has definitely helped me over the past few weeks)
- Taking deep breaths or practice meditation if possible
- Eating healthily and exercise regularly (since going out is not advisable, turn to YouTube or fitness Apps for interesting in-home workouts)
- Avoiding excessive alcohol and substance abuse
- Getting vaccinated (when available)
These are general tips and if you feel that they are not helping enough, please contact your doctor for further guidance or reach out to a mental health professional. Here is a list of resources for India:
Either way, remember that when it comes to health, you are responsible for yourself, others can only advise. Until I write again, Stay Home, Stay Safe, and Stay Healthy!