In any epidemic, it is common for individuals to feel worried and stressed. The uncertainty, lack of proper treatment, and the fear surrounding quarantine can affect people and you may even experience quarantine depression. Some common thoughts, problems, and behaviors include fear of the unknowns such as illness, infection, social isolation, loneliness, and even financial concerns. Taking care of your mental and emotional health during COVID is absolutely necessary and there are many self-help measures that every person can resort to.
Specific mental health issues that individuals may face
These issues can be specifically problematic for individuals already suffering from mental illness especially anxiety disorders (e.g., Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and depressive disorders.
- Insomnia or disturbed sleep
- Heightened anxiety regarding well being of self and loved ones
- Mistrust of others and their health conditions
- Increased preoccupation with cleanliness
- Catastrophic thinking due to uncertainty
- Desire to use alcohol and drugs
Quarantine and Its Implications
Quarantine is done when a suspected case or a person who may have been exposed to the contagious disease is kept away from others or their movements are restricted to reduce the risk of infections to others.
Since we all are social beings, quarantine can be an unpleasant experience as it involves separation from loved ones, loss of freedom, boredom, uncertainty about the outcome, lack of comfort and some bit of crowding with unknown people. It can also be stigmatizing for the person and their family members. Even after quarantine is over, the person may continue to face social isolation, numbness anxiety, indecisiveness or insomnia.
Over the years, multiple studies have shown that individuals who have been quarantined show higher rates of:
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder/Acute Stress Disorder.
- Symptoms of depression like sadness or irritability, insomnia, erratic appetite, social withdrawal, decreased interest in pleasurable activities, guilt and constant fear of quarantine happening again.
- Higher rates of suicide have also been reported in individuals who have been quarantined. On 18th March 2020, a man suspected of COVID and quarantined in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital committed suicide. In another incident on 19th March 2020, another man tried to commit suicide at home.
Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Around the world, these are testing times for each and every one of us. We are overloaded with information, both that’s true and those that are rumors. Each day, without being aware, we interact with a number of people (e.g., housemaids, drivers, office staff, etc.) or cross 100’s of them while walking on the road, taking public transport, etc. As human beings, we like to believe that things are under our control, at all times. And pandemics and natural disasters take that control away.
At such times, it is not only important to take care of your physical health, but also your psychological health. Following are some of the tips that can help:
Understand the risk
Stay up to date regarding COVID-19, but trust only authentic sources. Following are some of the authentic sources of information:
- Advisory issued by apex government institutes like AIIMS
- Government orders
- Website of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
- Website of the World Health Organization
Take Digital Breaks
Refrain from being glued to news channels 24/7 as it can cause a lot of covid anxiety. Do not believe every message or tweet circulated in social media. Here is a list of facts and myths around COVID.
- Facetime/Skype with loved ones
- Telephone or text messages
- Online games with friends
Take up a new hobby or finish work you have been postponing
Distract yourself by working on a hobby or developing a new one (read a book, watch movies, gardening, cooking, art, poetry writing). Do work around the house that you have been postponing all these years due to lack of time. It is a good way to distract yourself from any coronavirus stress or anxiety that you may be experiencing.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Adequate and healthy sleep cycle
- Daily schedule of working and resting
- Eating nutritious food
- Exercising/yoga at home
- Practice meditation/relaxation
Do not be afraid to discuss your anxieties and fears with loved ones. It helps to ventilate and talk things out. You could also use Wysa to talk about your feelings.
Be optimistic and maintain a sense of hope. There are a lot of good things happening around as well; pollution levels have gone down, you are getting to spend time with yourself, kindness is at its best. Many people have been cured!
Maintain hygiene, but do not be preoccupied with it ALL the time. Be mindful of washing hands, and not touching metal surfaces, do not cough or sneeze without tissue paper.
- Make a list of helpful contact numbers and emails – places providing healthcare or quarantine services
- Keep enough supply for prescription and non-prescription medicines to last at least a month
- Keep enough groceries and non-perishable items to last for a month
- Talk to family and friends nearby about how you would support each other, in case one household is quarantined. For example, dropping supplies outside the front gate.
Parenting during COVID
- Explain the situation to the child in a language appropriate to their age-level. It is important not to create panic in the child and at the same time, making them realize the brevity of the situation.
- With young children, it is a good idea to play games and get involved in their activities.
- Slightly older children/adolescents can be engaged in the household activity (don’t forget to appreciate them for their efforts).
- Child/adolescent should be encouraged to maintain some form of daily routine (e.g., personal hygiene, spending a few hours to catch up on their academics and indulging in extra-curricular activities.
- Do NOT stop them from interacting with their peers online or playing games, but enforce limits to the same or make it contingent upon them completing their other responsibilities. You can read all about taking care of your children during COVID here.
Here is the message from our clinical lead, Emma Selby, to ensure better health, education, and emotional wellbeing of your children.
Use Self-help tools
There is a list of clinically approved apps that has been put together by ORCHA – the global leader in health app evaluation. They have recommended Wysa to cope with stress or anxiety issues. They also recommend Fabulous for help with habits at this time and eQuoo to gamify your emotional fitness.
Important information about COVID
The novel Coronavirus also known as COVID-19 was first discovered in Wuhan, China in 2019 and spread to the entire world causing a pandemic. The disease becomes a pandemic when it spreads across multiple geographic locations. Throughout history, humans have witnessed pandemics such as smallpox, tuberculosis, cholera, HIV/AIDS and the latest being COVID-19.
Since the infection is still new, all the modes of transmission are not known. The infection typically spreads from one person to another via respiratory droplets produced during coughing or sneezing. Also, it has been seen that touching surfaces that may have the virus and then touching your face, mouth, nose can lead to the development of the infection. Usually, the symptoms start appearing after two days and take about 14 days for a person to recover.
Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Muscle pain, mucus/running nose, and sore throat are less common. Although the majority of cases have mild symptoms, those who are susceptible (old age, pre-existing health issues, compromised immune systems) may develop complications like pneumonia or multi-organ failure.
As of March 21, 2020, there are 2 million confirmed cases from all over the world, which have resulted in more than 10,000 deaths (approximately 4%) and about 85000 have recovered (about 39%) according to WHO.
Both the World Health Organization and Centre for Disease Control, (CDC, USA) recommend social distancing, frequent washing of hands and refraining from touching one’s face as ways to prevent the infection. Masks are usually recommended for the person who shows symptoms of infection and not for the general public.