“Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death.” – Jalaluddin Rumi was the famous Poet, faqih, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic from the thirteenth century and his quotes are widely used as a light of guidance.
COVID-19 is re-shaping the global village nowadays and the change is based on fear. Humanity is facing a high-level threat of death as it never been before.
Novel coronavirus or COVOD-19 has infected more than 0.8 million people globally and so far 40 thousand has succumbed to death by disease.
This virus emerged in later days of 2019 in Wuhan – a city in China and then rapidly spread worldwide. It has infected people in at least 160 countries across the globe. Most of the countries, including Pakistan have enforced quarantine to deal with the Pandemic.
Citizens are forced to stay home during lockdown days and governments restrict working Hours. The situation is creating a factor of fear and stress leading to anxiety on people forced to stay at home or those compelled to go out according to their nature of jobs.
Security personals, Paramedics, firefighters, Journalists, and many others are forced to come out from their home when social distancing is essential for preventing the virus, People are afraid that they can become a vessel to transport the virus to their love ones.
Here we discussed the scenario with mental health experts and find out how to avoid stress and anxiety in pandemic days.
Dr. Taha Sabri is a co-founder of Taskeen Health Initiative – a mental health facility that focuses on the promotion of mental health and prevention of mental illness in Pakistan, he believes;
The pandemic is causing an increase in stress, anxiety and mental health problems in people due to:
- Fear and anxiety of contracting the virus
- Fear and anxiety of vulnerable loved ones contracting the virus
- Financial problems due to loss of earnings of daily wage earners
- A sense of confinement due to the sudden transition from active working life to being quarantined at home.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sharmeen added into it and said, “We are in the midst of possibly the first of its kind pandemics to impact the globe at this level simultaneously. Considering the sheer scale of this disaster, it may come with its own traumas and fears since everyone in the world is currently changing their lives around to remain safe.”
“The fact that Corona is a relatively new virus with barely any research done or not much known about it until a few months ago adds to the global stress. Any disaster may increase a population’s level of worry; fear of the unknown tends to compound that.”
“In answering, I am trying to avoid the word anxiety as it would be unhealthy to confuse regular stress or worry or anxious behavior with an anxiety disorder.”
Jalaluddin Rumi advised in his quotation to “Ignore those that make you fearful and sad”. Pandemic is the thing that creates fear.
It is good to be a bit afraid since that fear will make us take the preventative measures necessary to prevent our loved ones and ourselves from being affected by the virus. However, if the fear becomes overwhelming then that could lead to the development of mental health problems. In that case, the person can take certain steps to reduce their stress, Dr. Taha added.
He also gives some tips to manage stress and anxiety during COVID 19. These tips also help to manage the negative impacts of staying a long time in a single place.
- Be aware of the news but know when to switch off and focus on other things
- Only accept news coming from authentic sources like government and world health organization
- Pick up those home-based hobbies and activities you enjoy which you didn’t have time for before
- Use the opportunity to spend time with the people you are living with
- Use social media or the phone to reach out to distant friends, family, and loved ones.
In the meantime, Sharmeen believes that Staying in a single place physically for an extended period of time not only impacts the mind but also the body, but that is being in one place literally, in a small confined space. Our homes, for the most part, allow us more than that. We can move around without lying in bed all day which is actually detrimental for physical and mental health.
Set small achievable targets for yourself. Read. Cook something new. Divide household chores amongst all members, men women and children to get them involved. Spring clean. Donate old clothes toys and unused things to charity. Make a list of all the things you ever wanted to do in your life but didn’t have time for it. Then make another list of everything you would like to do once this lockdown is over. Start making your way through the first list. You have time now!
Light exercise really helps as does prayer. Not only is prayer a great mechanism for stress release, but the light exercise that is involved with prayer also helps increase our blood flow and flexibility. I would recommend the more light exercise of at least 30 minutes every day be added to your routines.
How to manage children in Pandemic days
Dr. Sharmeen advises managing children in lockdown days. Acceding to her, one must play with his/her children. Expecting them to sit quietly and study all day is impractical. They are children and have a lot of energy. Get them involved in household chores and make them fun! It teaches them new skills and keeps them occupied as well. All tasks can be approached as fun or a burden. Right now, attempting to switch the mood to a bit of fun humor and laughter will help your entire home to step out of the fear and cherish their time at home and bring your family closer.
Most of the world is witnessing lockdown but still, there are millions of People in the services sector – forced to go outside due to their nature of jobs, they are afraid of bringing the virus at their home from the workplace. Its continuous fear, and it is important for them to know how to deal with it.
what! if I need to go out daily??
According to Dr. Sharmeen, People in the services sector, Policemen, rangers, army, food stores, banks, doctors, nurses, journalists, government employees, truck drivers and all others on the frontline workers are the new heroes, keeping the world safe and functional in these unpredictable times. It is the pressure of how important their work is in this time that does motivate them to leave their homes. The motivation can be personal-keeping their jobs and families fed- or more ascetic, which is keeping order on the streets or providing medical assistance to all those who need it. There are other diseases and injuries that also occur on a daily basis and doctors have their hands more than just full these days.
From my understanding and I may be wrong- doctors and frontline workers have the highest sense of satisfaction at the moment. Of having done something productive in their day and having made a difference to the world and social structure which helped all of us. However, families are afraid of the well-being of their members being out and potentially exposed to this pandemic, causing their fears to elevate.
Sitting down with your family and speaking to them about the precautions you took in your workday, what you did in your work hours and how you are ensuring your health is taken care of are ways of dispelling fear.
Also sitting with colleagues who understand the nature of your work, be it medical, security, financial or retail, etc., and debriefing, discussing your day, your fears and encouraging each other, supporting each other and being positive without blame or negativity allows a person to feel more fulfilled and confident in what they do and gives them the motivation to wake up the next day and do it all over again.
On a public level, recognizing the bravery of these frontline workers, be they doctors, journalists, policemen or grocers helps boost the collective morale and gives these people the confidence to continue doing what they are and making a difference to all of our lives. Without these people out there, our system would shut down and their efforts at keeping the world running at the expense of their personal safety are highly commendable.
Help me! I need support
In the world full of stress and anxiety, there are Individuals, who already have some psychological issues and they are under threat to have any complications these days. Our experts believe that they should take some extraordinary steps in these days;
Taha advises People suffering from mental health problems to take extra care of themselves. They must ensure that they have a proper routine (sleep/wake cycle), follow a proper diet and practice self-care. If they are using medications then they should be sure to continue. They should do things they enjoy doing and avoid spending too much time-consuming news. If they face any problems then they can still reach out to mental health professionals digitally. They should try to keep in touch with their own professional. If they don’t have one then we are in the process of developing a helpline which they can reach out to.
It is important that they continue with therapy online with their chosen psychologist and stick to the routines that work for them or adjust those routines according to their mobility limitations. Routines are very important, Sharmeen added.
Food does matter
In the end, our experts believe that food played a vital role in dealing with stress. Taha believes a balanced diet is important. This includes plenty of fruits, vegetables along with meat and carbohydrates (rice and wheat).
There has been a lot of panic buying of kalonji and other such superfoods after recommendations in the news. In order to avoid that, I would just like to say that our home remedies, herbs such as turmeric, fresh salads and healthy foods such as fish, eggs, and fruit all play a role in making us feel healthy. When our bodies feel well cared for and healthy, our mind complies and vice versa. In order to avoid sleeplessness and added agitation and stress, I would recommend tea, coffee, sugars, and caffeine be limited post 6 pm though. These food items give us a boost of energy and with the limited physical and mental stimulation these days, it can be converted into stress-energy or sleeplessness by our bodies instead, Dr. Sharmeen ended up with these remarks.