The nerve-wracking Coronavirus outbreak has taken the world by storm and has left everyone bewildered and panicky. Masses have resorted to panic buying and hoarding, rumour mongering, nonchalant travelling and many other bizarre ways to settle their anxieties. A once healthy person is now worrying and those already battling various illnesses are the worst hit. While, the ones fighting serious physical ailments are at an increased risk of developing the symptoms upon contacting the virus, those with a history of mental disorders are now facing newer kinds of challenges. Many people who already had general Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (especially, contamination OCD), a mood disorder like Depression, or any such illness, prior to the epidemic, are now experiencing a relatively tougher phase. Quarantine may also affect people who revel in social settings; extroverts, the aged and those battling loneliness may experience difficulty adjusting to a time, that calls for ‘social distancing.’

Whether or not you are a person with any major health issue(s), the following guide will surely help you stay calm and ready, during these challenging times. Read on, to learn about the ways to battle the mental toll taken by a pandemic, such as the COVID-19:

1) Using social media to socialise – Now is the time parents wouldn’t stop their children from being on the phone, for that is the only mode of communication left! Using social networking sites to stay connected with friends and relatives, voice/video calls with loved ones, and using technology to stay in touch, is the added benefit of today’s era; a facility which our predecessors could not avail. Physically meeting up with friends is not advisable right now. One can easily use the internet to share one’s joys and sorrows with one’s pals, or even use it as a way to attend online therapy sessions, or, access other resources of help, if need be.
2) Self-care – Devoting time to taking deep breaths and/or meditating is the way to go. Find time to exercise at home. All of this helps ease the mind. Eating healthy, sleeping on time and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is always a wise thing to do. Using the free time (due to ‘lockdown’) as an excuse to lead an undisciplined life or neglecting one’s health, is an absolute no-no, especially in a time of a gargantuan crisis.
3) Hobbies – We all know at least one activity we enjoy doing, and if you don’t know of any yet, now is the time to experiment and find out what interests you! With schools and colleges shut and most offices requiring work form home, people might be left with more free hours which can be productively spent indulging in music, art, dance, writing- anything you had been making excuses and putting off, but now have the time for- like an old high school talent that has long been forgotten or a newly found zest for something which does not require going outdoors. Indoor games like board games, are also a good idea.
4) Maintain a routine – Uncertainty is said to be a source of fear for most humans (even those not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder) and by coming up with a well-planned routine and sticking to it, one can help eliminate uncertainty and indecisiveness about what to do next. By staying busy doing something worthwhile, one will also be saved from wasting time worrying purposelessly, engaging in futile deeds or falling into old ill habits like substance abuse, mental compulsions, self harming activities, etc. Now is also the time to catch up on the innumerable pending tasks (if any) one had been saving for later.
5) Differentiate what is in your control from what is not Think of the things that you can do, and focus on those. Like, washing your hands and reminding others to wash theirs (while also ensuring that people with contamination OCD do not overdo it). Incessantly worrying about issues out of one’s area of control, like this virus and its implications worldwide, will only make one feel helpless. Keeping in check the things one can do something about will help one feel in-charge. Do whatever you can and tell yourself that you have done enough. Fretting about the unmanageable is only going to hurt you.
6) Take regular breaks – Every now and then, take time to unwind and take a break from watching/reading/listening to news about the virus, including on social media. Learning new tidbits about the epidemic repeatedly can be disheartening. Focusing all of one’s energy on one topic can be draining and the mind needs a variety of thoughts or it may start obsessing over that one topic, causing the brain to atrophy. A timely digital ‘detox’ can work wonders for those easily affected by over-stimulating situations.
7) Stay informed and updated – “Ignorance is bliss” but no longer. This pandemic calls for awareness, fact check, staying up-to-date and spreading correct/relevant information. Not only can one use the internet to stay tuned for updates from credible sources like WHO, the government, etc., but one can also use the internet to forward correct and important news/messages/videos, instead of sharing memes and hoax messages. One should always fact-check before forwarding something and not share inaccurate data, while also not withholding crucial information. Staying aware helps eliminate confusion and chaos.
8) Do not draw assumptions – To ensure the observance of peace and co-existence among communities, it is vital to note that the coronavirus can affect anyone, regardless of one’s nationality or ethnicity or status. Keep in mind that those infected have not done anything wrong. Likewise, taking the virus lightly, thinking that it only affects a certain kind of people, is downright ignorance in the face of crisis. No one ‘deserves’ to catch the virus, but at the same time, sadly, no one is safe from it, either; and hence, the necessary precautions should be taken.
9) Declutter your home – Make a good use of this time by redecorating your place, arranging stuff clustered together, sorting out what is needed and giving away what is not, and adding personal touches to your home. Sitting in a bedroom looking brand new due to some minor changes is a wonderful feeling, and so is eating on a new tablecloth. Little changes here and there can help declutter your home, and in turn, your mind. (However, it is important to keep in mind, for people with OCD, not to turn this into an OCD-ritual.)
10) Practising gratitude and keeping things in perspective – In the face of adversity, it is important to remind ourselves of the good things in our lives, and count our blessings. While this is not to emphasise that one should live in denial of the reality or negate the problem, this only means that one should also, simultaneously, remember the positives and be grateful for them. With gratitude, comes ease and peace of mind and a sense of wellness. It is also important not to turn nihilistic or pessimistic at a time, such as this. By maintaining a positive outlook, despite the hardships, it gets easier to tide over the crisis. Embrace the storm with a smile.

It is indeed, a time where every man is put to the test. Life is hard. Let’s not complicate it further. Let’s look at what is in our hands to ensure a safe, peaceful and mindful living for ourselves and others.

Take care – Girl Extraordinaire

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