Feeling restless, tensed, or worried all the time? Concerned about a loved one who is hospitalised? The unexpected rise of Covid-19 cases has increased the stress levels and affected the mental health of people across age groups. Neglected mental health problems can escalate and may cause serious disorders like depression or anxiety disorders. Psychologists suggest that one of the best strategies for managing emotions is to name them and discuss them with your loved ones. These are tough times for everybody, but don’t let it bring you down. Here is what you can do to manage your mental health better.

The second wave of COVID is upon us. But more than the virus, it’s the fear that is even more dangerous. Fear is the emotional response to a perceived threat while anxiety is the anticipation of any future threats. It is comparatively easier to avoid viruses, but the psychological “virus” of fear is most contagious! Fear of loss (e.g., loved one/economic/occupational/status) is one of the most prevalent fears. Chronic or extreme fear has a direct effect on our health. Fear leads to excessive functioning of the sympathetic (fight-flight) nervous system. Physically, it weakens the immune system, causes headaches/body-pains, cardiovascular problems (hypertension, angina), and gastrointestinal issues (ulcers, irritable bowel). It can also lead to accelerated ageing and premature death. Emotionally, it causes disorders like panic attacks, anxiety disorders, dissociative states, obsessions, PTSD, depression, or even severe mental illnesses like psychoses.

How to address the fear of your mind because of the second wave? How to avoid anxiety? How to maintain mental health. How to avoid stress?

To fight fear, it is important to strengthen the parasympathetic (rest-digest) nervous system. Some of these methods are:

  • Relaxation techniques – Deep diaphragmatic breathing, guided meditation, yoga, stretching, jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation method
  • Self-hypnosis techniques like visualizing a happy place or positive affirmations
  • Keeping a gratitude journal – write three good things that have happened to you that day before going to bed.
  • Maintaining a thoughts diary – Scrutinize the negative thoughts that your mind is throwing at you. Look at the evidence, is it really true?
  • Not being “perfect” all the time – Do not compare. Be kind to yourself. Be compassionate.
  • Communicating your fears – Take the help of a mental health professional, if needed.

Mental health tips

Here are 5 simple tips for all age groups for keeping yourself calm and maintaining your mental well-being in the times of COVID:

  1. Eat small, regular meals – Avoid over-eating or fasting for long periods. Strictly avoid nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and other addictive substances.
  2. Develop a routine – Schedule a regular work pattern. Then, unwind. Take breaks. Develop a hobby. Do something fun after your daily work is over.
  3. Get plenty of sleep – But also, exercise daily. Practice deep breathing, yoga, stretching, and relaxation techniques.
  4. Connect positively with people -Share something positive or humorous with your friends and family. Avoid viewing/sharing/forwarding negative views or news. Repeatedly remind yourself of the important and positive things in your life.
  5. Take this opportunity to help others – Do not entertain the victim’s role in your mind. Take charge of your thoughts and emotions. Stay calm. If unable to do so, seek help from your nearest mental health professional.

Psychological Myths and Facts

Here are some common myths and facts about mental health that need to be cleared:

Myth: One should keep smiling and be happy all the time.
Fact: Suppressing negative emotions such as sadness or grief, with a fake smile can actually make you feel worse. Accepting and expressing your emotions in an appropriate manner is more useful.

Myth: Venting your rage will help you to overcome anger.
Fact: Rather than calming you down, venting positively reinforces your anger, causing you to become angrier, and for a longer period. Taking a break from the triggering situation, channelizing your anger into an activity such as exercise, and identifying the true reason for your anger is far more effective.

Myth: Drinking alcohol reduces anxiety.
Fact: Drinking alcohol does not reduce anxiety or protect you against COVID-19 infection. In fact, it can be dangerous as it lowers immunity and increases your risk of health problems.

Dr. Shaunak Ajinkya – Consultant – Psychiatrist at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital shares some great tips above about maintaining your mental health and staying resilient in these unprecedented times. Our Department of Psychiatry is available to help people feel better with online as well as offline consultations for all our patients. Do not suffer in silence, remember that taking care and seeking professional help for your mental health is as important as treating your physical health. Please visit the below website for further information:

https://www.kokilabenhospital.com/departments/clinicaldepartments/psychiatry.html

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