As news and discussions on Corona virus dominate our screens, on TV, newspapers and e-papers and even social media, we all feel a sense of unease and anxiety.
Governments and health organizations are all issuing directives on how to reduce the spread of the virus via social distancing, social isolation and quarantine; it is imperative that we do not ignore our mental health.
First of all, let’s accept that humans are social animals, we all crave some contact even if it is with just a few close individuals. Hence, apart from the constant COVID -19 updates ‘overkill’, we cannot discount the impact of loneliness or reduced contact on our mental health.
reasons why coronavirus outbreak can make your mental health worse
• going into survival mode
• feeling hopeless
• worried loved ones will die
• increased health anxiety
• being alone with your thoughts
• financial uncertainty
• not knowing when it will end
— Mental Health Notes™ 📄 (@depressionnote) March 22, 2020
Here, I would say staying positive is important during this time of crisis. I’m sure staying positive is a tough feat but we can work towards it. Constant exposure to COVID-19 updates can cause anxiety, stress and panic. Worrying about ourselves and our near and dear ones can be consuming and can even lead to panic attacks. Stress can actually impact your immunity making you more susceptible!
Remember, out mental health is directly related to our physical health. If our mental health is adversely affected, it will also negatively impact our physical strength and immunity – which is vital in today’s world.
So how do we work towards reducing our anxiety and stress?
I will reiterate some basic ideas shared by many mental health professionals and explore how they might work for us!
Firstly, limit your exposure to news and updates. Unfortunately, the loud and brash talk shows aired continuously on our news channels feeds this anxiety. So limiting your exposure to once every 2-3 hours or 2-3 times a day will only benefit us. Also. Make sure that your source of information is reliable and not based on propaganda.
Secondly, use this time to reconnect with yourself and enjoy the little things in life. For instance, if you enjoyed cooking, baking, arts and crafts or any other activity/hobby that you did not have the time to engage in due to work – pick it up again!
If you enjoy tea or coffee, take time and enjoy the smell and taste of these without interruptions!
As Pakistanis we can enjoy the flavors of spicy homemade chaat or sweet halwa! Maybe think about cooking these with your significant other or children as helpers.
Pamper yourself during this time as well. If you found it difficult to find time for a massage, manicure, or any other self-care activities, now is the time. Including finding time to exercise and home. You can use YouTube videos to for workout regimes or yoga workouts and just move!
We can work towards reconnecting with others. Think about messaging or calling your Nani, Dadi, Khalas and Phuppos – especially if they live abroad. This is the time to reach out and strengthen our relationships. We have become so involved in this fast paced world that some relationships have taken a backseat – now can be the time to change that. Spending more time with your spouse or kids is beneficial as well.
Make it a chance to spend quality time with your family. I say, hold a dance party with your children – it’s a good workout and keeps the kids busy!
Take this time to read. Explore the written world and the countless realms created by authors. Reading will not only remove us from the current situation for some time, it will also open your mind. So a win-win!
Read books where the author has created an alternate reality such as Harry Potter, it can remove you from the despair and transpose you to a world where positivity and love wins; or read the biography of Edhi, it just might inspire us to help those in need during this time or at least appreciate them.
If reading is not your thing, go back to the screen and watch programs that interest you. We have access to good quality shows via Youtube, Netflix, Amazon and others. Being a Pakistani, I would definitely recommend watching Pakistani drama that are loved world over! Google names and you will find numerous dramas with different themes and sometimes noble messages.
Additionally, a shout out to artists world over who are using social media for online concerts – a heartfelt shout out to them!
The idea behind all the above suggestions to promote positive emotions in us. Let me now talk about why these positive emotions are important.
The hugs and family time mentioned above, releases hormones like oxytocin in our body. This hormone helps reduce our anxiety and stress – thus improving our immunity. Don’t forget that stress adversely effects out immunity and reducing this stress is vital.
Research has shown that experiencing positive emotions improves our resilience, and resilience is linked to a healthy immune system.
For instance, women who experienced more depressive thoughts and negative emotions were found to have fewer immune system cells as compared to those who experienced optimism and positive emotions. Similarly, another study showed that HIV+ men who showed optimism tended to live longer with healthier immunity to fight off illnesses than pessimistic HIV+ or AIDS individuals.
Mental health is a vital part of public health.
We're asking psychologists and therapists to pitch in and volunteer their services to help with New York's #Coronavirus response.
To sign up, visit: https://t.co/4LJxeIdhRE
Stress and anxiety are very real.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 21, 2020
To circle back, a healthy immune system is important during these trying times. Hence let’s work towards experiencing positive emotions and spreading the positivity with others. Singing in the balcony – as done by Italians and followed by Pakistani’s on March 23rd are good examples of this.
I will end by saying that, sometimes despite engaging with others, reconnecting with relatives, enjoying ‘me’ time and other such activities, our anxiety can be all-consuming. Sometimes, we might not even understand why we are feeling this intense anxiety or stress or what we can do to reduce it.
Here there is no harm or shame in seeking professional help. Reach out to counsellor who can listen to your feelings without judgement and bias. Counsellors can enable you to better understand your feelings and aid in the formation of positive emotions. So reach out when you need – make it your strength and keep yourself safe and healthy!
Falak Zehra Mohsin is Founder & Counselor at Holistic Minds (facebook page:@H0listicMinds), Visiting Faculty at IBA (Karachi). Twitter: @Falak_Z_M. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.