The cheerful mind perseveres and the strong mind hews its way through a thousand difficulties.
― Swami Vivekananda.

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COVID pandemic: Is it a bend in the road or end of the road?

COVID pandemic: Is it a bend in the road or end of the road?


covid mental health

 

Written by

Gayatri Uppalapati,

Consultant Counselling Psychologist


        Coronavirus has turned our world upside down. Are we looking deeply into the mental health consequences of COVID?

        We know there is more e reported depression, anxiety, substance abuse and dependence and a mountain of loneliness. There are more relational issues and parents are struggling with children and the dilemma of what will happen when school begins? People have become afraid of one another.

        Even if we happen to meet our acquaintances, friends, colleagues, outdoors we only greet them from a distance, unlike before. Children coping with remote learning and staying indoors. Elderly are missing the regular walks, the essential sunlight and relaxing with their friends over a walk or a chat.

        We are all suffering from a Pandemic shock. We are all juggling between several roles and trying out to balance life peacefully in a Pandemic.

Stressors from COVID affecting our life

        A Pandemic is a new and unprecedented situation. We don’t have anyone to talk to who’s experienced it before in their lifetime. We don’t have a roadmap. We don’t know where to go with this. There is ambiguity and uncertainty around a pandemic.

        So, all our learning to cope with the situation is through some knowledge from the experts in the respective fields and then through our own life experiences resulting from trial and error. 

        This is what makes a pandemic challenging to cope with because we don’t know whether to go by hear and say or trust in our own instincts along with following what the experts say. This confusion is one’s cognitive framework adds further to the existing uncertainty of a pandemic making it challenging to cope.

        However, the stress one experiences during a pandemic can vary due to life events or situations, individual and personality differences. Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand, so higher the stress one experiences higher is one’s anxiety.

Stress from life events or situations:

1         The current situation is more stressful for people who are not able to fulfil their basic needs. For example, people who struggle to bring food on to the table for their family.

2.       It’s also stressful for people who are trying to figure out what’s essential? Is it essential for me to have a stock of everything at home or is it essential for me to get on with the bare minimum requirements at home? What’s essential? – balancing all the roles or managing a few roles perfectly? Stress can be determined by one’s ability to sustain with limited resources.

Stress from personality differences:

        In the current scenario, where people are struggling to cope with the pandemic across the globe one needs to understand if they are experiencing Productive or Unproductive anxiety.

1. Productive Anxiety: 

        An optimal level of anxiety is needed in any challenging situation to cope with it better. So during COVID how do I know if my anxiety is productive or not?

  • ·  One’s anxiety is productive when one is anxious about the pandemic but it helps him/her to make lifestyle changes to cope with the pandemic better. For example Washing hands, wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, maintaining hygiene standards at home, focusing on balancing the roles than on perfection, asking help from family members when required.
  • · One experiences productive anxiety when one can distinguish between what’s in their control and what’s not in their control. One remains functional without being excessively worried about things that are not in their control. For example, one doesn’t focus on when the pandemic ends? Instead one focuses on how to protect themselves and their family? They are clear to what extent they need to balance the roles without stressing and stretching themselves beyond what is required.

 

covid mental health
Creating a favourite little corner in the house with adequate sunlight (ex: balcony, next to a window, backyard, terrace etc.) is very much in our control. Making it possible is very much in our hands, we need to just start!


COVID mental health
Personalize your favourite corner reflecting our hobby, time to practice our hobby


2. Unproductive Anxiety:

        The anxiety one experiences is unproductive when it interferes with their functionality and makes them worry excessively about what can happen?

        How I have become a Victim? How things are not in my control? How and when will this end? How’s the future going to be? One goes through an information overload (exposure of 24x7 media coverage) of the pandemic, as a result, they are not productive in their day-to-day routine, don’t cater to the roles and responsibilities.

        An anxious person's field of vision is internal, as a result, an anxious person is lost in his/her own thoughts and fears. He / She no longer lives in the moment. They are oblivious to “here and now”. Living in the moment is the key lost by an anxious person which unlocks the door leading to the world of mindfulness. Time to introspect. Did I lose the key too?


Stress  from Individual differences:

1.        People who shy away from change, experience stress and cause stress to others during the current pandemic situation.

        Although it’s often easy to say one wants to change, successfully making a change is hard. Our thoughts and emotions often prevent us from creating behavioural change, even when it does improve their lives. Few such resistant thoughts can be:

    • This will never work.
    • I can’t handle doing something different.
    • It will be too hard.
    • It’ll be too stressful to give up the things I like.
    • What I’m doing now isn’t that bad.
    • I don’t deal with change well.

Some of the best things in life come from our ability to conquer a challenge through hard work. Prepare a plan for the change, implement the change one small step at a time and stay consistent.  Any psychological work starts from working on our thoughts which will help us cope with our emotions and exhibit a more productive behaviour.

It’s not that some people have will power and some don’t…….

It’s that some people are ready to change, and others are not.

       -JAMES GORDON

                     

Thoughts indicating resistance

Thoughts indicating acceptance

I have to play so many roles

I have to focus on BALANCING AND NOT ON PERFECTION in all the roles. I can always seek help from family members. We are all in it together SUPPORTING each other

I will get sick

I will self-isolate and follow the preventive measures thereby DECREASING the chances of getting sick

I am stuck at home

I get to be SAFE in my home and spend time with my family

I don’t know when this ends and things become normal

That’s not in my CONTROL but as of now I need to follow the SAFETY measures and protect me and my Family

There’s too much uncertainty right now

Everything is not in my control but my ACTIONS are in my control. Doing what I love the most and STAYING CONNECTED with loved ones will help me cope better.

 

Simple ways to tackle the stress


    
    We are all battling with a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty without a roadmap or where we are heading? We all possess some degree of mental strength, but a pandemic challenges us to put in some more psychological work to improve our mental strength.
  Any psychological work would require one to manage thoughts, regulate emotions thereby resulting in positive behaviour.

 

So, let’s all begin the psychological work from our cognitive framework. Let’s all vow to make a choice to look at the pandemic as:

A BEND IN THE ROAD AND DEFINITELY

NOT THE END OF THE ROAD


About the author:

Gayatri Uppalapati,

M.A., M.Phil Counselling Psychology, MHRM

Consultant Counselling Psychologist

Click here to find more about her or to contact her.

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