Sustaining Mental Health Through The Pandemic

Psychologist Mehezabin Dordi practices at the Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, where she assesses, formulates and implements comprehensive therapeutic interventions for patients with psychological / psychiatric problems, as also those undergoing organ transplants and other physical afflictions. Having counselled over two thousand COVID patients and caregivers, she has delivered multiple trainings and webinars. Connect with her: 

An ancient African proverb says, “When there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.” Times are hard and it can get challenging sometimes to come to terms with the reality of the day. We have been living with the pandemic for two years now and one of the biggest impacts of the global covid-19 situation has been the toll it’s taken on collective mental health. Unfortunately, this effect on our mental health could outlive the disease itself.

The fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, isolation and stigma around covid-19 has spared no one. Kids haven’t been able to attend school or see their friends; many adults are dealing with financial crisis, while the elderly are isolated from their usual support network. Measures adopted to slow the spread of the virus, namely the lockdown, had affected our overall physical activity levels, our eating behaviours, our sleep patterns, our relationship with addictive substances, including social media. Excessive use of social media and news also has a negative effect on our mental health.

So, what can we, as individuals, do to take care of our mental health even as we navigate our way through this? Having successfully counselled numerous patients through the pandemic, I’ve compiled and recommend the following 7 tips that have proven immensely beneficial to all:

GET THAT BODY MOVING: Exercise is foremost! Now, there’s even stronger evidence for the positive benefits of exercise on Mental Health. Studies show that exercise improves mood and vigour, when done 3-4 times a week, for 20 to 30 minutes.

THE FOOD WE EAT: The second most important component is paying attention to our intake. Studies on relationship between diet and mental health have steadily increased over the last decade. Research shows that there is increased risk of developing depression and anxiety when consuming highly processed foods. On the flip side, studies have also emerged showing the link between a healthy and balanced diet and good mental health.

SLEEPING WELL: When the mind is not at rest, sleep suffers greatly. It is estimated that over a third of the adult population experiences sleep difficulties. In the first half of 2020 alone, worldwide Google searches for ‘insomnia’ increased majorly. Lack of adequate sleep adds to our physical and mental health burden. Since Covid-19 has disrupted our daily routines, our sleep hygiene is also suffering.

To improve your Sleep Quality, include keeping a routine, eliminate screens at least an hour before bedtime, incorporate some form of mindfulness or relaxation into your routine – be it yoga, breathing exercises or guided meditation.

BEING EMOTIONALLY SELF-AWARE: Now this tip can be slightly tricky. Tough times sprout tough emotions, so it’s crucial that you remember to be compassionate to yourself. As humans, we all go through ups and downs, which sometimes make us experience negative emotions. That is normal. Don’t criticize yourself for feeling these emotions. Understand where they come from and then let them go.

CONNECTING WITH OTHERS: While being compassionate to ourselves is essential, being connected with others is equally important. Research shows, loneliness is a fertilizer for other diseases – it can accelerate many physical and psychological problems within an individual’s body. Positive social connections – with friends, family, colleagues and health care providers – prove helpful, even if it’s not on person and simply over the phone or a video call. Those dealing with more serious mental health challenges should avail of easily accessible online services and support.

NURTURING A POSITIVE MINDSET: This is not about putting on those rose-tinted glasses and ignoring the issues at hand. Optimism is about making mindful choices that move toward the best possible outcome, under the given circumstances.

DEVELOP A ROUTINE; CULTIVATE HOBBIES AND INTERESTS: Routines are beneficial to all – children and adults. It empowers you with a sense of being in control of your time and your life. A structured day reduces anxiety. Though it is not possible to eliminate stress, we can mitigate it by committing to de-stressing activities in our routine which could provide us a sense of happiness and peace.

Hopefully these tips could prove helpful to you too, as we get through this home stretch of the pandemic together!

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