In these testing times, watch out for mental well-being too, advise Pune doctors
Continuous surfing of news about the rising numbers of infected people across the globe worsens pre-existing mental health conditions like anxiety, say expertsUpdated: Mar 23, 2020 16:31 IST
PUNE: Medical experts have urged the public to pay as much attention to psychological health as physical well-being to deal with the unprecedented situation caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Continuous surfing of news about the rising numbers of infected people across the globe; the barrage of ‘info’ on social media about the pandemic; fear of illness and death, the loneliness because of social distancing, and the loss of routine can trigger stress, or even worsen pre-existing mental health conditions like anxiety, say experts.
“Psychological preparedness in the face of the new challenges the coronavirus pandemic has thrown up is very important as mental health is an important part of one’s overall well-being,” said Dr Kaustubh Joag, a city-based psychiatrist.
He stressed on curtailing the relentless exposure to news, to the ‘score’ of COVID-19 cases and to non-reliable sources of information. “It creates panic and adds to anxiety in an already stressful situation. It is advisable to stick to information coming from the government, health departments and bodies like the World Health Organisation (WHO). Checking news from authentic sources two or three times a day is enough to keep oneself updated,” he said.
Dr Joag said one should acknowledge the anger, sadness, confusion, fear or helplessness that one would feel in these testing times. “It’s natural to feel all or some of this. There’s nothing wrong if you feel these emotions. It doesn’t mean you are weak. This sudden change we’ve had to impose on our lifestyles means that there will be physical and mental repercussions,” he said.
He suggested that in this altered situation, it’s best to use strategies like planning, having some routine and scheduling the day to feel as close to normal as one can.
Psychiatrist Dr Nischol Raval said, “Regular exercise, good eating habits, learning something new, upgrading your skills, keeping yourself meaningfully engaged are all different ways of keeping emotionally healthy.”
He noted that physical isolation need not mean loss of social connectedness. “Use technology to socialise. One can be physically distant yet closely interact with others these days,” he said.
Dr Joag agreed that talking with friends and family can be a great asset at mitigating stress and anxiety. “Of course, there are single persons and also those for whom family is not a safe space. For them, the standard advice still is to stay connected to a circle of trusted people. One shouldn’t lose that sense of social connection.”
The medical experts stressed on keeping a check on alcohol consumption, binge eating and excessive screen time.
“These are ways to distract ourselves from uncomfortable emotions, when we should be facing them head-on. Do not try to escape them, learn to manage them,” said Dr Joag, adding that everyone needs to be reminded that resilience is a salient feature of human beings.
For those with mental health conditions
For those with pre-existing mental health conditions, doctors have advised continuing treatment without break. “Don’t stop medication or therapy. Be in touch with your doctor over WhatsApp/video calls or through online consultation,” said Dr Raval.
People who have severe depression with suicidal thoughts or hopelessness are more vulnerable during such times. “Keeping in touch with their mental health professional and family support are very important. Many psychiatrists and psychologists are now offering online consultations and we also have helplines like icall,” Dr Joag said.