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May 03, 2020 Sunday 01:45:37 PM IST

Covid-19 Pandemic: Time to Lockdown Your Anxieties

Image by Pete Linforth for Pixabay.com

DR ELSIE OOMMEN

As we witness a new pandemic, the Covid-19. The trending words in relation to this outbreak are social or physical distancing, quarantine, isolation and lock down. In simple words, quarantine refers to avoiding contact from others, if a person has been exposed to a virus. To keep the person from spreading the virus, if they have been affected by the exposure.
Isolation refers to keeping a person who has contracted the virus, away from others to avoid further spread of a disease. Social Distancing is simply, keeping a distance from each other; approximately 6 feet as a way to be safe.  Lockdown is a scenario carried out in emergency situations, which prevents exit and entry to and from a place. It limits most of the activities and movements in a country or particular area, except for the basic needs and services.
 Numerous studies have shown that a person in quarantine, isolation or practicing social distancing may experience fear and anxiety. Fear ranges from minimal apprehensions like, thinking and deciding what to wear to stop the spread of the virus, or what to eat to build the resistance of the body; to the fear of dying or impending death. 
To quote from a study published in Psychology Today: “...anxiety disorders already rank as one of   the most common mental health problems globally. According to University of Oxford research, anxiety disorders, the most widespread of mental health disorders, impacted an estimated 284 million people in 2017 worldwide. In the U.S. alone, anxiety disorders affect an estimated 40 million adults according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America”. 
Let us first understand what are the symptoms that people may show if they are stressed. Some people experience disturbance in their sleep, reduced happiness, fatigue and lack of interest in doing things. They can also feel easily irritable, bored and have outbursts out of frustration or anger. Stigmatisation, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), poor concentration, disturbed memory, inefficiency in work can also be signs of disturbance and fear.  
Certains groups of people are more prone to mental health issues during social distancing.  Some of these vulnerable people may be among the elderly population, differently abled people, or people who are genetically loaded to have mental health issues. 
So does this mean that for the sake of our mental well-being we can forgo safety protocols of the government? Absolutely not, we can cope with the pressures of social isolation.

-Be updated on the important information regarding the situation, but limit yourself from over consumption of news. As it can cause more fear. 
-Divert your attention by watching movies, listening to music, reading books or enjoying indoor games (puzzles,brain games etc). 
-Use this time to pursue your talents and passions. 
-Spending time with family, while social distancing, can be a great way for making bonds stronger. 
-Create a daily routine and strictly follow it.
-Establish virtual connection, your face to face interactions may be limited, but you can establish contact with your dear ones by video calls, phone calls, messages and other social networks. 
-Do adequate exercise and if needed take telehealth consultation with your doctor.
-Change your attitude: If you are practicing social distancing or quarantine, consider it your privilege as you are doing good for the society. If you know anyone who is in self quarantine, appreciate them for their bold step to stop community spread. 
-Examine yourself if your worries are genuine. Try not to over generalise matters. 
-Practice positive imagery, mindfulness, relaxation and deep breathing  techniques. Take precautions for the future, but limit your thoughts to the present.




Dr.Elsie Oommen

Dr Elsie Oommen is Consultant Psychiatrist at Medical Trust Hospital, Kochi

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