The lockdown can be either a source of stress and anxiety or our spiritual and mental growth, depending on how we approach it, says Nikita Mukherjee
Our mental makeup is how we think, feel, and act. Mental health, thus, is decided by how you cope with stress. It is of utmost importance to take care of mental health because we perceive this world through our mind. In case of poor mental health, we will go astray and will not be able to experience life in its real sense,” says Mr Santosh Joshi, Life Transformation Coach, author, speaker, mentor, and founder of SKY Healing.
Mental illness is like a monster embedded deep inside us, which suddenly comes out and takes over our existence. It’s like an invisible wound which no one can see but the pain of which can only be felt by the sufferer.
Unfortunately, with the recent Covid-19 pandemic gripping the entire globe, mental problems are witnessing a surge across the world. Due to lockdowns and suspension ofeconomic activities, people have been forced to live in their homes for extended periods with little to no scope for outside movement. The fear of contracting COVID-19, combined with financial worries, fear of job loss, savings depletion, and an uncertain future are making people fearful, upset, and anxious. Monotony and boredom as well as unaddressed relationship issues are raising their ugly head, only to make people feel suffocated and emotionally unstable.
This bleak situation is adversely affecting the mental health of people. “I think the two biggest reasons for our mental health to deteriorate during the pandemic is the fear of death which comes along with various uncertainties related to our dreams, ambitions, health, finance, career, and jobs; in short, our future,” says Dr Pulkit Sharma, a clinical psychologist and author from Pondicherry.
Moreover, in a generation where people are habituated to going out and spending maximum time outside their homes, a lockdown has made everyone restive. Nobody has any idea of how to pass their time and are complaining mostly of getting bored, which is gradually causing a mental breakdown.
“A pandemic first enters our mind before it enters our body. As soon as it enters our mind, it causes fear, insecurity, loneliness, anxiety, depression,and stress. These problems, if not addressed, may cause serious mental health issues,” says Santosh Joshi.
So what can be done to eradicate mental health problems, if not the virus, in such critical times?
Learn a new skill
Many people complain about getting bored of sitting idle, which makes them anxious, lethargic, and, at times, depressive. Keeping yourself busy by learning a new skill will eliminate boredom as well as keep you relaxed, calm, and composed, eliminating the possibility of a mental breakdown. Skills like cooking, painting, or learning an instrument (subjective to one’s liking) will not only keep you engaged but will also develop your personality during this quarantine. Reading books on a variety of genres and researching will subsequently enhance your knowledge and make you wiser and smarter, which can pay off later in life. “I acquired a new skill—video editing. I thought that it was the best time to bring out my hidden talent and polish it. And guess what! Not only is it keeping me busy but is also paying off in terms of my mental health as I am hardly stressed,” says Shivam Choudhary, a former hotelier.
Work out to beat stress
Taking care of your body by working out, doing yoga, and consuming healthy food during the lockdown will not only make you fit but will also keep you mentally stable.
Physical exercises release a lot of happy hormones like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These brain chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood. Regular exercise can positively impact serotonin levels in your brain. Not only does exercise fill you with positive energy, but it also helps you shed extra weight, making you feel confident and look fitter.
Yoga and pranayama too are excellent tools to stay in shape and feel positive and happy. Pranayama increases the absorption of oxygen in the body, releases toxins, improves blood circulation, and activates the chakras (energy centres). With no urgency to go out, one can invest time in practising these important lifeskills and benefit from them.
Meditate and keep yourself busy
Meditation is a great way to calm your anxieties and access the state of peacefulness which exists within each one of us. If you do not know how to do it, you can enrol for online spiritual classes, webinars and events which can give you insight into knowing your inner-self , and how to keep your mind calm and relaxed. “Meditate every day, develop a healthy routine for yourself, have a good sleep, exercise, drink enough water and don’t fall into the trap of junk food, though it is a comfort food, as it will aggravate the situation,” says Santosh Joshi. Also, indulging in creative activities like DIY, painting, re-decorating and re-organising your house will not only revamp your place but will also rejuvenate you from inside.
The quarantine period can also be used to finish all our pending works which were left unfinished due to our otherwise busy schedule. From completing an unfinished project to binge watching all those pending TV Series and movies, there’s nothing you’re really short of doing. With so much negativity around during a pandemic, the least an individual can do is to invest their time in doing entertaining and productive activities which will keep them upbeat and positive.
Stay away from negativity
A pandemic is a time where everyone is stressed due to factors like the economic crisis, government restrictions, large scale casualties, and fake news which create needless confusion, fear and anxiety. All this negativity can affect your mental health and activate your panic mode. Komal Bagri, who is currently pursuing a PhD, says, “I try to stay away from social media and news channels as much as possible as they largely circulate news reports which are very disturbing to read and see. I take things at my own pace and meditate as much as possible to deflect negative thoughts and stay peaceful during such harsh times.”
Dr Pulkit wants everyone to understand that social media is a part of our lives but not our life itself. “Nowadays, the majority of the population are addicted to social media and spend all their time on their phones, whether they are bored or busy. It is harmful not just for our physical health but also our mental health because of the kind of information which is circulated through such mediums. That is why I have restricted my social media usage to a maximum of just 1-2 hours everyday. I also sign in and sign out every day from all my social media accounts in order to avoid the constant, unnecessary notifications.” He further explains that just like we schedule our other activities like working out and reading, the use of social media too should be scheduled similarly. Continues Dr Pulkit, “This way, we will be able to focus on other important priorities, which will automatically keep our mental health in check.”
Connecting lives and spreading love
Earlier, we hardly had time to catch up with our family and friends because of our busy and hectic schedules. But now, the pandemic lockdown gives us a lot of time to connect with others. We are isolated with our families, and this allows us to spend quality time with them. Connecting and communicating with family and friends can keep us calm and relaxed, which is a much-needed requirement of the present times. Moreover, addressing our mental condition and openly seeking help and support can go a long way in overcoming stress and soldering bonds with our loved ones. Counselling our friends and family members can brighten up their day and even make us happy. “It is important to listen to others, reassure them, and give them hope during such hard times. Let others speak their heart out and give them a sense of being. Keep your own perspectives of the situation aside, listen carefully, and try to understand others and look at the world through their eyes,” explains Dr Pulkit.
A new world, a new us
While we all agree that Covid-19 has shaken our lives and changed our routine completely, we cannot waste our time complaining about everything and getting anxious and depressed. According to me, this is the best time for self-evaluation and self-introspection. If we all look at the pandemic from a positive point of view, the lockdown is more like a much-needed break we always wished for. Taking some time off the radar and concentrating on ourselves will not only keep our mental health in place but will also make us wiser and stronger individuals in times to come. “Stay calm, have faith, patience, and self-belief, believe in the larger plan, believe that everything has a deeper meaning, hone your skills, upgrade yourselves, and plan for the future. Meditate every day. Practice SKY healing, a breathing technique. It will not only help you keep fit physically but also mentally,” emphasises Santosh Joshi.
Dr Pulkit Sharma believes that it is a golden opportunity to re-evaluate our lifestyle and think about what really matters. “Don’t lose the wisdom gained. The pandemic has served as a basis for all of us to realise that nature is the ultimate force and something we shouldn’t meddle with. Once the pandemic gets over, I hope everyone becomes smart enough to not rush into the old materialistic lifestyle and, instead, concentrate on the simple things in life.”
On another note, the outbreak of coronavirus has been really beneficial for nature. From improvement in the air-quality index to clear blue skies, animals roaming freely on the roads and rare birds in sight, the contagion has managed to save Mother Nature, which was destroyed by humanity for its materialistic gains.
Global crises are a wake-up call for everyone living on this planet. They give us the space to think about where we have gone wrong as a global community, re-evaluate our choices, and understand the true meaning of our existence. Hopefully, if we take proper care of ourselves and our mental well-being during these times, we will step out as wiser, stronger, and better individuals who will stop taking advantage of our privileges and become more compassionate beings.
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