Why we need to be grateful to Covid-19?
Mental health has never been a priority in developing countries like India and until now, there was almost no large-scale discussion about the same. There is a lot of stigma around the issue and seeking support from a psychologist is considered as a sign of weakness. Since the beginning of this pandemic as the corona virus cases increased, cases of anxiety and depression also increased. People from different social strata and professional backgrounds have been experiencing bouts of anxiety, which has led to several discussions over importance of mental health. Covid-19 has played a very important role in starting these discussions. While keeping themselves safe from the virus, people in India and around the world have spent an exceptional amount of time in isolation. As the distraction of our chaotic life faded, and social distancing and isolation became the new normal, solitude reinstated our deepest insecurities and fears. As people gained insight to their own self, they started understanding the importance of mental health. The discussions started by social media influencers, celebrities and mental health professionals gained its popularity with public. In addition, for the first time people began talking about mental health as not mere absence of a mental disorder but a combination of psychological and social well-being. It is also imperative to understand why covid-19 has led to increase in cases of depression, anxiety, and overall decline in mental health. Some obvious reasons are fear of getting infected, social isolation, lack of medical services, loss of job and dropping GDP of the country. Another reason is the unpredictability and uncertainty of expiration date of the virus nor there are any clarity about the vaccine. Unpredictability and uncertainty are two factors that contribute to anxiety in general; a very simple example would be increased anxiety when one is unable to predict whether they will pass a test or not. There are psychological theories that talk about unpredictability and uncertainty being a catalyst to anxiety. And even after 6 months Covid-19 has been a grim reality and has led people experiencing anxiety to reach out to mental health professionals. Covid-19 has also contributed in bringing attention to the concept of self-care and positive psychology. Now that people are becoming aware about the importance of mental health, they want to work on it and are looking for guidance from various sources like internet, books, magazines and mental health professionals. While it is important to understand that there is no fix that works for all, there are certain activities and habits that one can incorporate in their day-to-day life to better cope with anxiety around the pandemic.
Some of the practices that one can incorporate in his/her daily life that focuses on growth, self - awareness and happiness are:
Mindfulness: An exercise that works on the principle of being in the present and observing rather than judging one’s thoughts and surroundings. There are multiple components of mindfulness starting from deep breathing to focusing on sounds around and observing as well as describing natural objects.
Gratitude Journal/Jar: A practice is based on looking for positives like things/people that you are grateful for. Gratitude journal/jar facilitates a positive perspective because while writing the journal one looks for things that he/she is grateful for or something that makes him/her smile. It helps an individual to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
Good day diary: Writing a journal or diary that focuses on the positive events of your day. You can take out 5-10 minutes at the end of each day and think about your whole day looking for something good or positive that happened. It can be as small as eating chocolate, talking to an old friend or watching your favourite movie. This will help you focus on the positive aspects of your day and thinking and writing about them will make you relive that moment.
Walk in the park: Walking and observing nature or the things around you will help you detach yourself from your thoughts and emotions for a while. If going out in a park does not sound safe, you can do this on your terrace or balcony. Taking a 10-15 minute break from your work or other chores and simply walking in open air observing the surroundings will help release the tension that your body has been experiencing while working from home, attending online classes or cooking so many meals.
As the country struggles to combat the pandemic, covid-19 has brought mental health to people’s drawing room discussions. People have started reaching out to professionals and talking about their struggles with mental illness. Mental health professionals have also increased their reach, free consultations are available and many new applications have been launched to make seeking support easier and affordable to the masses. While this is not enough, it definitely is a welcoming step towards increasing awareness and decreasing stigma about mental health.