Mental Health Amidst Pandemic
Here are a few ways which will help you take care of your mental health
COVID-19 has brought a huge change in our lives. It has drastically impacted the way we live and perceive situations. We have seen too many deaths as a nation, not just due to the pandemic but also lack of resources, inaccessibility of timely care etc. The collective trauma we are going through has impacted our physical and mental health. According to an Indian newspaper, suicide is the leading cause for over 300 ‘non-coronavirus deaths’ reported in India due to distress triggered by the nationwide lockdown.
Physical and mental health are very closely related. So, while taking measures to save oneself from Coronavirus by sanitizing and keeping distance, one should also take measures to protect their mental health. Mental health deterioration has a huge impact on our immunity as well. This directly affects the intensity of the disease and time of recovery.
Some tell- tale signs of deterioration in mental health are fatigue, loss of interest, sleep or appetite changes, shift in mood etc. If you find yourself experiencing these things, here are a few ways which will help you take care of your mental health:
Make time to unwind
Just as you recharge your phone every day, it is crucial to take time out and replenish yourself. It is essential to have a certain time dedicated to processing and managing emotions and soothing yourself. So, every day, for some time, sit with yourself and engage in things that help you pause and reflect to shift to conscious living.
Sleep helps to rejuvenate body and mind when body repairs damage and boosts immunity.
According to a survey conducted by American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 56 per cent indicated that they have experienced an increase in sleep disturbances, sometimes referred to as 'COVID-somnia.' Those aged 35-44 had the highest rate of COVID-somnia sleep disturbances at 70 per cent.
It’s important to have a sleep schedule where you have a pre-bed routine. It could include reading, or any other pleasurable activity that doesn’t involve gadgets. This routine should be calming because you are preparing your body to slow down. It’s always better to go to bed only during bedtime as it helps our body make the association and sleep comes easy. Sleeping and waking up at the same time also familiarizes body and get used to that routine.
Gut health determines our overall health. Eating nutritious food rich in omega-3 fatty acids support a healthy brain and also keeps mental health problems at bay by reducing anxiety. It can be especially important for those at risk and vulnerable to mental issues. So, include nuts, seeds and plant oils in your diet. Also, including food rich in Vitamin C helps to increase production of white blood cells which are key to fighting infections and improving immunity. Studies suggest that the best way to enhance your mental health with food is by having a good relationship with it. Studies have even found that healthy diets can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Unhealthy diets have been linked to an increased risk of dementia or stroke. Eat with a good intention and see the difference yourself!
Practice thought management
Second wave of COVID has led to a lot of fear and made people insecure about safety of their loved ones. So, to manage stress due to these overwhelming thoughts, thought stopping technique can be used. Whenever an unhelpful thought comes to mind, just stay 'stop' loudly. It can also be paired with an action like pinching yourself, pulling your earlobe etc. This works well to stop recurring thoughts.
We all have been connected to each other virtually which can also get draining at times. We can break the monotony by finding creative ways to stay connected with loved ones by having zoom dance parties, listening to songs together, jamming with friends on video call, writing letters to loved ones etc.
Being social beings, communication, be it verbal or non-verbal, keeps us going.
Being kind and empathetic to others is the key to effective communication. It is always better to ask the other person if they just want to be heard or need advice. This can put both the parties at ease.
Communication is also about the way you talk to yourself. So, ensure that you are as kind to yourself as you would be to your loved ones and engage in ‘positive self-talk’.
Psychological first aid
Create a psychological first aid kit which includes elements to soothe different senses, like stuffed toys for touch, hot chocolate for taste, pictures for sight, essential oils for smell and your favorite music. Each of the elements can be changed according to the individual preference.
It is always a good idea to reach out and seek support. Talk to people you feel comfortable with. It might help you feel better. Isolating yourself does no good, so make the extra effort to seek support and don’t hesitate in reaching out to a professional.
All of these techniques can help you cope with stress effectively. Taking care of yourself by making extra efforts to pamper yourself and also paying heed to your emotional heeds only makes things better.
So, experiment with these ideas and see if they work for you. Be kind to yourself and show yourself compassion like you would to any loved one going through crisis. Only when things change inside you, do things change around you. Even when we do not have control over the situation, we do have control over the way we manage our thoughts and emotions.
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