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Mindfulness in times of a Global Pandemic


Authored By- Riya Jariwala


Keywords- Mental Health, Covid-19, Coronavirus Pandemic, Anxiety, Depression, Society.


Abstract-

The Coronavirus Pandemic is a unique and rare situation, seldom heard of let alone be witnessed by people. The problems and difficulties associated with this pandemic were perceived as merely theoretical till this escalated into a global phenomenon bringing all economic and social activities to a standstill. Most common people are still unaware as to the modus operandi to be used to tackle with this. While we suffer from a global health crisis ahead of this virus, several invisible mental health disorders loom in the background for all of us owing to the social distancing norms and lockdown regulations.


This article is an attempt to educate and engage the readers about the mental health issues that arise during a pandemic. While doing so, efforts are made to promote mental health wellness and mindfulness.


Introduction:

As we move towards an increasing threat to our immunity and our breathing faculties ahead of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we must also understand and value the significance of our mental wellness. The legendary Greek Philosopher Aristotle aptly said-


“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual.”


These extraordinary times have separated the society and the individual to such an extent that most of us have to now lead a secluded life locked in our homes. For many, the circumstances are so grim that they are unable to even enjoy the company of their family or loved ones, for instances, Covid caregivers such as doctors, nurses, helpers in hospitals, police forces on duty etc. This has brought to light our internal anxieties and created an uncertain scenario with no optimism for a better future ahead.


Covid-19 and Mental Health:

Mental Health conditions such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders are common. These overwhelming situations can often be stressful for many people due to varied factors, such as job-loss, financial losses, worry about one’s own health or the health of their loved ones, separation from family or loved ones etc. The impact of these stressful situations vary from person to person. For some, this may result into change in sleeping patterns, such as loss of sleep or wakefulness while for others this mundane way of things may result into fatigue and lethargy. In addition, it may cause a change in eating patterns, substance or alcohol abuse, loss of concentration, suicidal thoughts, anger issues etc.


While examining the issues surrounding the pandemic, we must also bear in mind that the response for this crisis shall also differ from person to person depending on several factors such as their gender, emotional background, financial dependency, age, nature of work, risk factors etc. The most essential quality that all of us should constantly try and achieve is ‘Tolerance.’ During these difficult times, we must recognise these temperamental variations among people and persevere to become tolerant.


The Ministry of Home Affairs and Family Welfare has suggested a few ways of dealing with this situation and maintain our mental wellness. It has advised on engaging in a routine, rediscovering old hobbies, exercise and other distractions in the forms of busy lifestyles, work, entertainment. Furthermore, it has also suggested abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs as well as advised against relying of misinformation and rumours surrounding the virus on social media platforms[1].


It is important that problems are addressed appropriately by making help centres more accessible, counselling and therapy less stigmatised and societal and familial pressures cooled down. There can be no single approach towards dealing with this situation, so while some of us may spend our time at home pursuing our artistic passions or lost hobbies, some may exhaust themselves in their work trying to distract themselves from internal inhibitions, others would feel the need to vent out issues from time to time and feel too overwhelmed to get any work done at all. None of this is wrong since there cannot be a single way to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. We should encourage every kind of behaviour and embrace the virtues of ‘tolerance’ by becoming non-judgemental.


Conclusion:

As the number of corona cases increase, so does the associated anxiety. For the general public, the mental health effects of coronavirus are as essential to address as the physical health effects and a range of personal, professional and policy measures ought to be undertaken. WHO’s 31-point guidance specifically targets the general population; healthcare workers; health facility managers; childcare providers; older adults, care providers and people with underlying health conditions; and those who are living in isolation to try and contain the spread of the pandemic[2].


The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts; not the rumours and misinformation

- said WHO


We, as a community, must ensure that people around us are constantly reminded of a bright future that lay ahead of this challenge.


Mental health initiatives should be encouraged on all levels. Having realised the urgency and gravity of the present situation, many Non-profit Organisations have undertaken initiatives to bring people at ease and relieve them of their anxieties and depression through guided meditations, yoga, free therapy using digital platforms.


Mental Health is not a destination, but a process. Gradually, we must recognise and emulate our habits. We should trace our way back to our natural instincts, our inner desire and rekindle little pleasures that we were too busy to find in our fast-paced lives.

It is rather a necessity that in these trying times, we embrace our mental health issues with a keen eye and open arms. This can only be possible if we remove the societal stigma surrounding mental health issues and normalise mental health revival strategies such as awareness, counselling. An inclusive and positive environment without fear of judgement or censure is key.


“ At the root of the dilemma is the way we view mental health. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, It’s still an illness and there should be no distinction.[3]

This must particularly hold true in times that expect our sincerity, tolerance and patience.


[1]https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/MindingourmindsduringCoronaeditedat.pdf [2]https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059542 [3]Words of Michelle Obama.