Mental Health Matters in a Lockdown

Teena Jha
PTI Photo

PTI Photo

Half-way through the 21-day lockdown, India is getting much-deserved praise for its swift and very apt response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But staying cooped in the house is not doing a world of good to the mental health of a lot of people.

The Indian Psychiatry Society has reported a steep rise in mental problems for people ever since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Its survey shows up to 20% sudden rise in the number of people with mental health issues. That means at least one in five Indians is suffering from mental issues triggered by the Corona virus pandemic.

Mental health experts say that it is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or even angry during such an unprecedented crisis. But the number of mental health patients has grown rapidly since the imposition of the restrictive lockdown or quarantine measures.

More people are now suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, stress, depression, insomnia, emotional exhaustion and fear.

Not just those with pre-existing conditions, other people are also struggling with loneliness, helplessness and withdrawal syndrome.

The biggest fear is confronting the ‘invisible enemy’. Many people are distressed about the impact the lockdown on their lives. While some fear losing jobs, others are worried about incurring business losses.

What to do in a lockdown?

Psychologist Namrata Gupta suggests some effective, free of cost therapies that you can indulge during the lockdown.

The first thing that she says can reduce anxiety is deep breathing. This 5-minute exercise, done at least thrice a day, is the perfect way to calm you down and is very effective for both physical and emotional well-being. It also increases your consciousness and mindfulness by at least five times.

Gupta also suggests a 5-minute exposure to the sun early morning. This, she says increases serotonin and helps you get more restful sleep at night.” During the lockdown, the sun can be your best friend, she adds.

And the most important thing to do is not neglect your daily dose of laughter. Find ways, do things that make you smile. Laughter, Namrata Gupta says, is the best therapy. It helps in releasing endorphins in the brain and remedies all ills.

Every Crisis Is An Opportunity

Ruchi Varma Shankar, a Clinical Psychologist at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Applied Sciences, says: “During these challenging times, it’s important for people to not let emotions override their behaviour”.

She suggests turning the present crisis into an opportunity. She asks us to draw up on our skills used in the past to manage life’s adversaries. Engage in activities that give you joy – like interacting with family members, eating all meals together as a family, playing games with children, pursuing your long-forgotten hobbies and so on…

Utilise the time to read all the books you had been planning to but haven’t been able to do due to work commitments.

Keep busy, have a regular schedule, eat and sleep well, is her advice to all.

Ruchi Varma further asks everyone to help the children and the elderly come out of their confusion. Reduce worry by lessening the time you and your family watch and listen to media coverage that you perceive as upsetting, she adds.

Ruchi Varma says minute by minute updates on the pandemic can be detrimental to the mental health, especially of senior citizens.

Looking beyond families, one can also engage in activities to keep up the spirits of neighbours and friends.

All In It Together

Ever since the Janata Curfew on March 22, people in some localities have made it a regular exercise to come out on balconies for 10 minutes, interact and sing songs in each other’s company. Not only does it help to beat the stress of being locked up at home, but also allows one to know their neighbours better.

Standing in solidarity and in support of each other is the greatest strength that we can lend others. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s #9pm9Minute exercise was also an exercise in reassuring people that this too shall pass, if we stand