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This article was originally submitted by Umer Jaleel Rana
I came home tired from university, threw myself on the bed and took a deep breath. With so many pending tasks on my mind, I felt drained out of energy; craving for a long break. But what was about to happen next was not something I desired or had imagined in my wildest dreams. I turned on the TV and found out about the closure of educational institutions; due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Within a few days, the crisis spread panic in the country. Everyone began to gather necessary items in their homes in order to lockdown. This was followed by the shortage of masks and sanitizers; which furthered fueled up the problem.
News full of scary stories as to how this virus was causing the collapse; of the world’s finest health systems, were all over TV. Economies were going down and the whole world had come to a halt. This all seemed like a scene from one of those Hollywood based World War movies; where the world comes to a sudden halt.
But unfortunately, unlike the enemies in movies, we were faced with an invisible one.
At first, it seemed that the only problem was the virus and the crumbling economies; but there was a painful hidden effect waiting which no one had predicted. The hidden effect was no other but the deteriorating mental health. Panic combined with lack of freedom to go out created an aura; of stress and uncertainty.
The isolation imposed by quarantine left people feeling that they have no control over the situation and they felt cut off from the rest of the world. Time seemed to creep by much more slowly after being confined to the homes for a long period of time. Even if staying home offered more time with other family members, the sense of isolation and cabin fever was very powerful.
A review in The Lancet analyzed the results of past studies to get a better idea of how COVID-19 may impact those who are quarantined. The review found that psychological distress is common both during and after periods of quarantine.
People commonly experienced:
- Post-traumatic stress symptoms
- Depressive symptoms
- Low mood
- Emotional disturbance
- Emotional exhaustion
The fear in the atmosphere combined with social distancing is proving detrimental for mental health.
The urge to get back to normal life and to live freely once again is creating restlessness among people. Quarantine is making people feel like being in a self-created prison.
Now the question arises how to deal with this issue that is constantly eating us from inside. We all are in this together and we have to fight it because surrendering and letting fear and boredom overcome us is not an option. We need to analyze the crisis and address it accordingly.
Some of the distress of being quarantined stems from boredom and frustration. Finding ways to stay occupied is important, so try to maintain as many of your routines as you can. Keep working on projects or find new activities to fill your time, whether it’s organizing your closet or trying out a new creative hobby. Getting things done can provide a sense of purpose and competency.
Here are some things to do in order to fight boredom and fatigue!
Eat regular meals and exercise:
Make sure that you eat healthy and regular meals and do not forget to exercise; it will keep you active and will lighten up your mood.
Stay connected with loved ones:
Check-in with friends and family each day by phone. Use different forms of communication including; phone, text, email, messaging and video call. Try supporting others; reassure a friend who feeling stressed out or worried.
Structure your day:
Plan your day. Set a routine and work accordingly. Having a plan as to how to spend your day and then meeting your targets will; make you feel accomplished and will keep you busy. Not having a plan will lead to wasting time which might lead to a sense of fruitlessness. If you have office work or online classes then do not perform these tasks; from the comfort of your bed. Try to arrange a desk and chair so you could sit attentively and feel purposeful; performing these tasks while lying on the bed will make you feel unproductive.
Have a reserved list of activities; for days when you do not feel active and productive or are in a low mood. You then force yourself to perform these set activities; as a result, this will cheer you up. This therapy is called behavioural activation.
And, here are some things you should definitely avoid!
Do not use your mobile phone immediately after waking up:
According to Dr Nikole Benders-Hadi; an American Psychiatrist, “immediately turning to your phone; when you wake up, can start your day off in a way that is more likely to; increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed.”
By checking social media, email, or messaging right after waking up; you let other people’s opinions, requests, and advertising into your mind; which pollutes your thinking. Your thoughts, ideas, and focus are immediately hijacked by; the new messages, emails, and notifications that you’ve received. In other words, your mind will be occupied with other people’s agenda — not your own.
Instead of starting your day proactively; focusing on your own goals, you’re being forced to react; to other people’s stuff. Think about it – you wouldn’t let hundreds of people into your house; blasting their requests and opinions at you. So why would you let them into your mind through a device?
Furthermore, according to Dr Nikole Benders-Hadi, “The information overload that hits [you] before you’re fully awake, interferes with your ability to prioritize tasks.”
Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19:
Seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps; to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports; about an outbreak, can cause anyone to feel worried.
Do not use mobile phones right before going to bed:
Checking your phone stimulates the brain so we are more active and awake. The blue light from the screen suppresses melatonin; a hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle. So when your body runs low on it; you can experience insomnia and tiredness during the day and irritability. All these factors result in a lack of peaceful sleep and relaxing sleep.
Undoubtedly this crisis is a big one but we will have to stabilize our emotions; in order to protect our mental health. We are in this together and we will fight this together. In this increasingly challenging time, we need to become each other’s strength.
In the end, I would thank all the health workers; for risking their and their families’ precious lives to save ours. It takes a heroic spirit to serve humanity under such crisis. Our health workers have definitely proved that ‘Not all heroes wear capes’.