With the easing of the nationwide lockdown, people are eager to back to ‘normal’ life. Perhaps even their fear of getting the coronavirus has gone down in the months that they were cooped up in their homes as opposed to when the second COVID-19 infected person in Nepal was detected and the nationwide lockdown was clamped at the end of March.
However, what we need to remember is that the easing of lockdown does not mean that with it the virus has also disappeared. And experts advise all to balance their mental state with their behaviour when it comes to coping with the fear and anxiety regarding COVID-19.
Dr Shaligram Bhattarai, a clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health and Counselling-Nepal, opines that being a little worried about one’s safety is not bad as it makes one conscious about one’s safety. When people are seen roaming the public places recklessly without any protective gear, being a little worried about the virus is important.
He advises, “Along with being worried, you should also take safety precautions.
If you just worry about your health and are afraid of the virus but neglect safety precautions, that is not going to help you. So, be mindful about what/how you think as well as how you act/behave.”
Dr Bhattarai elaborates, “You should analyse or evaluate yourself — whether your thinking is reasonable, logical and practical, and whether you are taking safety precautions in the correct way or not.”
He continues, “You have to be mindful of these safety measures while meeting and gathering with friends and colleagues, going for tea/ lunch breaks, maintaining social distance, commuting to and from home and office.”
He also observes that many people get anxious also because they do not even have the basic safety gear at their workplaces, or the places they have to visit.
The mode of transportation is also a challenge for many, which makes them anxious about their health security and of their loved ones.
With number of COVID-19 infections increasing every day, we do not know who is walking around carrying the virus. And this makes us anxious while stepping outside the house.
As per Dr Bhattarai, people being anxious about getting infected is normal at present, but doubt and overthinking will fuel more fear and anxiety. And if you get more anxious, that can also cause mental health problems.
He points out that increased anxiety can cause panic attacks, restlessness as well as physical health problems such as severe headaches.
“Anxiety can also make people discouraged, and they may not be able to do their work properly as they would not be able to give their full attention and dedication to the work at hand. And prolonged anxiety can lead to depression,” he cautions.
The best way to cope up with such anxiety and further consequences is by taking immediate actions of safety measures such as applying hand sanitiser or washing hands immediately if you have doubts that you may have been exposed to the virus.
Such coping measures will help reduce such fear and anxiety to a large extent, he assures.
“Rather than just getting panicky and anxious, you need to find solutions.
And for that, you should be aware of the safety measures and also follow them correctly,” he advises adding, “But if you make sure that you have gone anywhere outside of home safely, you need not worry much.”
However what he stresses on is that “we have to cope with the context, and for that we have to accept the current circumstances and move ahead with awareness as well as safety measures”.
Stating that many people drink and smoke to cope with their anxiety, Dr Bhattarai calls that bad or negative coping.
“Instead you can console your mind and overcome the anxiety by simple stretching, walking and observing things around you, taking in fresh air, taking deep breaths, listening to affirmations, reading motivational books, dancing, singing, doing yoga, meditation, exercise or anything that makes you feel better,” he recommends.
How to ensure sound mental health
• Important to balance mental state with your actions to cope with virus fear and anxiety
• Being a little worried about your health is okay
• Match your worry with your actions — do not neglect safety precautions
• Be mindful of following safety measures all the time
• Be careful about overthinking and being too doubtful as this could cause mental health problems in the long run
• Find solutions; don’t just panic or get anxious
• Take immediate actions to ease your anxiety — if you think you’ve been exposed to the virus, wash your hands immediately, or apply a hand sanitiser as a coping method
• Do not take refuge in negative coping like drinking and smoking
• Go for a walk, just stretch or take deep breaths if you feel overwhelmed with doubts and anxiety. Just indulge in things you enjoy to calm your mind
A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 22, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.