Mental Health amidst a Pandemic

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Things haven’t been great lately; my anxiety levels are skyrocketing and my productivity level is touching sea bed. My heart is always pounding, I have no clue where life is going. Life has become that episode of Vampire Diaries where Damon and Bonnie are stuck in a prison world and the same day keeps repeating. I’m pretty sure, I am not the only person juggling with anxiety and depressive phases. If we look around the world, mental health issues are soaring up. According to statistics, there has been a 25% rise in mental health cases. With the majority population stuck in their cubicles, it is getting tough to keep a healthy and balanced mental health.

Recently Antoni Guterres, the United Nations secretary talked about the importance of mental health on a social media platform. He quoted that there is no health without mental health. He also brought into light the cases of two COVID-19 nurses who had to work long shifts, wear masks all day and on returning home they had to isolate themselves from their loved ones in order to protect them. We cannot even imagine how heartbreaking it would be to work under such stressful situations and not being able to be with one’s family physically. You can talk all you want on cell phones but there’s nothing like a warm hug. The power of touch is very significant, it can do wonders. If deprived it can make us miserable as well. The cases shared by Antoni Guterres were only two but think of all the doctors in the world. Think about the unparalleled stress they must be undergoing.

There is also a stigma going around against all the COVID-19 survivors, the trauma they are going through is equally worse. The doctors on the frontline are facing discrimination as well. We need to look at the facts, in total 2.17 million people have recovered from Coronavirus. The mortality rate is 3.4% as quoted by WHO. Then comes, the commers like us who are caged inside our houses, while writing this I am very well aware of my privilege that I belong to a family that has a house and the economic capacity to self-quarantine, it takes great economic power to be able to sustain without having a fixed source of income due to the collapsing economy. I acknowledge my privilege and I nowhere intend to mock the people who are struggling for the basic necessities. If you are reading this, you have internet access and are already privileged. Despite every facility, not being able to receive adequate sunlight and fresh air will have its consequences. There is a 44% rise in panic attacks and they have the biggest risk of reoccurring. Depression and domestic violence are rising at a rate of 27% and 9.5% respectively.

Let’s dig deeper into some basic science. Sunlight is our savior, it helps our bodies produce dopamine, a hormone that keeps our mental health in check. If the dopamine level drops down, we can undergo a psychotic breakdown which can only be treated with western medicine. All mental health disorders are linked to reduction or excess of hormones which are usually in an optimum amount. Anxiety is caused due to low activity of neurotransmitter GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid), schizophrenia due to excess activity of dopamine and depression due to low activity of serotonin. When we exercise or do any physical activity our body releases endorphins, these are the happy hormones of our body. In the lockdown, both our physical activity and motivation to work out has stooped low. Thus, depletion of happy hormones and lack of proper sleep. We have all the time to catch up on the sleep we missed during the hustle life but we still fail to get proper sleep. This is a common problem for the majority of youngsters. Routine disruption leads to anxiety. There are people who are forced to live with abusive partners and domineering parents. All these are enough problems to scar us for life.

If I was writing this a week back, I would have wrapped up my article here by putting a sadistic quote. Since I recently started practicing mindfulness and have come across plenty of solutions to fill the void of boredom and nothingness during this self-quarantine period.

The first and biggest one would be taking breaks from social media binges. We don’t just binge Netflix but social media too, the amount of time spent on social media is flaring up. It is important to catch up on what our acquaintances are doing but it is equally important that we do not strain and stress ourselves with unlimited access to the internet. Taking a social media detox and actually living your life as if cell phones did not exist can help too. Just shut your phone and invest your time in nourishing yourself. If you feel you cannot do it, start by taking baby steps. Set targets for yourself. I keep taking social media breaks and it makes a huge difference, even if it is for a day.

Stop stressing about the pandemic.

This is not the first pandemic and definitely not the last. Stop speculating the worst possible outcomes. All of this is momentary, it shall pass. Also, try limiting the amount of news intake. Keep a tab on numbers and rules if any, but don’t stress over it. You stressing over it will not fix it, things will heal with time.

Try finding new hobbies

Keep yourself busy with activities and try finding new hobbies. Remember you do not have to be brilliant at your hobby. You don’t have to make a living out of your hobby. If you love painting and it brings you joy, you are under no obligation to capitalize on your work. The biggest problem with our era is to turn every single thing into a money-making factory. Don’t let the capitalist world scam you. You can try all new things, be it learning that guitar lesson you never had time for, reading that novel you kept delaying because of work schedule, dancing for joy or absolutely anything.

Work out

Every single day, try your best. Even if it is for five minutes. Sweating and physical activity will be the key to your happiness. Your body needs you the most right now, it is in loss of endorphins.

Don’t miss the sun

Try and get at least 30 minutes of sunlight every day. Dopamine production is very important for your body. Also, focus on having a balanced diet and a proper sleep schedule. Do not eat junk every day, carbs actually make us lazy and unmotivated.

Set small targets

for every single day and write it down. Even it means bathing or making your bed. These can be your accomplishments for a day you thought you cannot even drag yourself out of bed. These targets will keep you going. Give your heart and soul to your targets.

Stay connected to your friends.

Even the ones who haven’t spoken to you in a long time. Call them, Text them, be the bigger person and gulp your pride of not texting first. We are all equally vulnerable to death right now. This is not the time to hold grudges.

Start painting.

I know I wrote about it above but here’s a deeper meaning to painting. When you paint, your subconscious is reflected in it. You express your emotions. We don’t always have a chance to do so. Not everyone is in the right mental state to express all emotions but you can paint and let it all out. Your painting needs no meaning, it just has to destress you.

There are plenty of other things to do. Help with the house work, with the house helps not coming, cleaning your house can also help you clear your mind. Invest time in attending online courses.

Start a self-care session

and it is not only limited to women. We are in the 21st century, both men and women need to care for their bodies. Start journaling, write your emotions and pour your hearts. I recently started journaling and I am amazed at the number of things I had to write. You don’t have to write every day. Write whenever you feel like. The last would be to start meditating. Practise mindfulness, focus on the present. It is the best gift of life.

I would like to end on the note that don’t stress yourselves. It is not worth it. Enjoy the present. Express gratitude towards your privileges. You don’t have to do any of the above listed things if your heart doesn’t want you to. Just live the moment well.

This mental health awareness month, let’s pledge to take baby steps to improvise our mental health.

Let us focus on things that make us happy rather than fixating on the negativity. Manifest your dreams. Do everything, just live well.

Source- BBC, New York Times, The Hindu

Shrishti Singh

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Shrishti Singh

I am a political science student. I love reading. My ultimate goal in life to fight patriarchy to it's roots.

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