Are We Moving Towards an Anxiety Driven State Of Mind?
The pandemic began as a 14 days initial lockdown. Everyone embraced the social changes believing it would be contained in a month or two and that triumph will be near, that the execution will be seamless, and that we would emerge unscathed out of it. Through the past couple of months, no matter who you are and what capabilities you have financially or otherwise, we have all been vulnerable to the virus. As time progresses, each one of us has our own COVID-19 story either from our own experiences or from our near and dear ones. The situation we are all in, which currently seems long lasting, has increased our insecurity levels, impacted our mental state of mind and invariably also our happiness. A recent report by the Indian Psychiatry Society stated that they have witnessed a 20% rise in mental illness cases with one in every 5 Indians suffering from it. The World Health Organization has also asserted that the pandemic will have a significant impact on mental well-being owing to the increase in anxiety levels amongst masses. But as history as witness, humankind has only prevailed when ambushed by crisis be it earthquakes, tsunamis or infectious diseases. As a community, we the human race, have always come together, rebuild, reestablished and restarted our lives.
The bombardment of news containing global and national collapse in the economy and the domino effect of job losses, further contributed to the increased anxiety and fear. The pandemic although has affected us all in our own ways, it has largely impacted those who belong to the lower income groups, COVID-19 patients and their caregivers, senior citizens, children, the unemployed, health-care workers, frontline warriors causing them higher levels of stress and anxiety. I can resonate with this feeling since I see my daughter battling it out each day at the hospital treating patients albeit being at a higher risk of being exposed to the virus. The International Labour Organization’s survey has also found that one in two young people globally are possibly suffering from depression or anxiety. Uncertainty induced by the pandemic has caused a deep sense of being powerless and hence lack of confidence in what the future holds.
How can we overcome this anxiety driven state of mind we have subjected ourselves to? A couple of things I have been following is, first and foremost, taking a step back, analyzing and understanding the difficulties that the whole world is going through. Further, while we witness all these events happening around us, we have to accept that the crisis is here to stay for an indefinite time and by not doing so, we may get swept away in these stressful times. Our mind is our strongest weapon which commands everything we do or feel but it can also be told what to do – it’s obedient like that if we follow through. So we have to teach our mind again on how to stay focused on the things that are within our control. Hence, these days whenever I find myself in a predicament, I simply start jotting down everything that I find as worries, and follow the Stoic approach where I write the best outcome, the worst outcome and the most probable outcome. Mulling on all the possibilities gives my overthinking mind a realistic picture. I also meditate daily, reach out to family and friends frequently, keep myself creatively engaged even during WFH, eat healthy and also actively take responsibility for the holistic health and wellbeing of my teams and employees.
During this period I also realized that while some people are able to manage anxiety and stress by finding their own ways of recreation and diversion, some can continue to foster and grow the uneasiness within, eventually letting it become a part of their reality. It is precisely for this reason that I set up a COVID specific mental health helpline in my organization to make help accessible to one and all. For the readers, remember that we all are human beings and being stressed out or panicked is normal but understand that it’s ok to ask or seek help. Each of us have a different way of coping and persevering through these disruptive times but it’s important to seek help when we feel we have tried our best but need professional support. It is also paramount to identify our authentic support systems. And while they lead us through, we may also cultivate self-help habits to sustain our otherwise irrational fears. If we find our anxious-self spiraling out of control, the grounding method I find instantly relaxing is to simply just focus on my breathing until I feel my body calming down. You can also try meditation or just take a time out so you’re able to even out your feelings and observe yourself as you progress. We frequently address our overall health by conducting regular medical tests, but we forget to ensure we are TRULY fine by addressing our mental well-being as well.
Each of us will have our own journey through the pandemic, but what we don’t realize is how resilient we actually are and how we are surviving and overcoming this exigency each day. What we thought was impossible earlier be it social or economic changes, we have managed to transform and grow through this time in a way preparing for the uncertainties to comes. As we approach the World Mental Health Day on 10th of October, I hope we treat ourselves and others more kindly and give the child in us some room to unleash its creativity and inquisitiveness. This pandemic has led us to come face to face with our anxieties: up, close and personal, making us realise that it is a state of mind and which we as human beings have the power to change. Change is the only constant and hence we have to go on with our lives in this new normal, continue with our jobs but by prudently following all precautions. Let’s help each other since we are fighting the same storm and the only way to triumph is to be on the same team. In helping people and communities, lies a sense of positivity and happiness knowing that you have made a difference to someone else’s life. Let’s not get overwhelmed with the pandemic’s magnitude but value these days as they will be a part of history soon and we know that history is made up of profound stories for us and our future generations to come.
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