New Delhi: The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered lives globally. While the novel coronavirus is a great threat to the physical wellbeing of people, it has also wreaked havoc on the mental health of numerous people.
According to a study published in The Lancet, 18 percent of COVID-19 patients developed a mental health issue — like depression, anxiety, or dementia — within 3 months of diagnosis. So, COVID patients are doubly vulnerable – it is vital that we look after both their physical and mental health.
People who haven’t contracted COVID- 19 are also experiencing high levels of pandemic-induced anxiety.
According to a health survey by Practo, there has been a whopping 665 percent rise in mental health-related queries since last year (October 2019 to September 2020).
The term “pandemic anxiety” has been coined to describe the distress people are in as a result of adapting to the “new normal”.
Dr Miloni Sanghvi, psychologist and outreach associate at Mpower, Mumbai shares the side effects that one might be experiencing due to anxiety.
1) Anger: Circumstances that feel like a threat can not only make us feel anxious but can quickly transform into a secondary and more outward emotion– anger. Both anxiety and anger are reactive emotions that root from a loss of control and the removal of choice and freedom; situations that lead us to feel trapped or helpless may make us feel anxious and angry.
2) Sleeplessness: Feeling troubled by financial, emotional, relational or even medical matters can lead to sleep disturbance. Moreover, the lack of boundaries or schedule– our own as well as our parents’, spouse’s, child’s –can lead to an upheaval of a healthy routine, leading us to compromise one entity we see as a luxury– sleep. Spending more time on screens, especially at night, has also been a driver of sleep deprivation.
3) Loss of focus: As we prescribe to a lifestyle of mindful actions and decisions (remembering to wear a mask, sanitising your hands regularly, choosing where to go/ what to do during the pandemic, deciding if a plan is considered safe, etc.), we are using our mental bandwidth to go through a mental check-list ensuring that we take the right action, taking the necessary precautions and are consequently on constant high alert. Things we carried out on autopilot now require considerable thought and risk analyses; this can eat into our capacity to attend to other aspects of our lives in an intensely focused way.
It’s evident that pandemic anxiety is making us angry, sleepless and unfocused. This is not only exacerbating our mental health but also impacts negatively our immunity and physical health.
Here’s how we can cope with the side-effects of anxiety:
-To stay on task, use physical prompts such as a planner, post-its, to-do lists, shopping lists that will serve as reminders during the day and keep you on task.
-To enhance your focus, separate your work into smaller tasks; break your work down into simpler discrete tasks rather than trying to multitask, losing your focus and feeling like you haven’t achieved much.
-To implement a routine and place some healthy boundaries, set digital reminders e.g. sleep time, taking a break, limiting time on social media/ the internet.
-Take a break from social media, if you begin to feel anxious/ unsettled (or try a “digital detox”); limit your time on these platforms or allow yourself a specific time frame to browse through social media platforms.
-Distinguish anger from anxiety; understand what emotion/ insecurity you are really feeling that is masked as anger; think about what is affecting you at a deeper level and acknowledge how this is making you feel.
-Seek support, speak to someone about what you are experiencing in order to release your anxiety, relieve yourself and feel supported. Whether confiding in your loved ones or meeting a mental health professional, use conversation to explore, understand and overcome your emotional distress.