The mind games the pandemic plays

Some days I feel really scared and nervous about the future and other days I feel motivated and hopeful. It’s hard to get out of bed and feel motivated to do anything,” said Hailey Bieber on Instagram recently. Adding his bit to the conversation, her husband Justin said “There are days when I feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and then there are days when I think when is this going to end?”

The celebrity couple is far from alone in experiencing ups and downs in their ability to cope with life as it is emerging.

“Close to 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. And now, billions of people around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health” says Dr Charan Teja Koganti, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, KIMS Hospitals. 

In fact, mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health. “Countries spend just 2 percent of their health budgets on mental health,” Dr Koganti laments. We’re living in unprecedented times. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. “The levels of anxiety, hopelessness, fear, isolation, loneliness, uncertainty and emotional distress experienced have become widespread. It’s time that we realise that mental health is a basic human right,” Dr Koganti, notes.

Feeling stressed, depressed, guilty, or angry is common during an event like an infectious disease outbreak, even when it does not directly threaten you. “In the last few months I observed certain changes in the mindsets of people — excessive worry about one’s own health and the health of loved ones, and about one’s financial situation or job; changes in eating patterns; worsening of chronic physical problems like hypertension, cardiac conditions, diabetes etc. worsening of mental health conditions like OCD, anxiety disorder, panic disorder etc.; increased use of substances like tobacco, alcohol etc.; and changes in mood, including mood swings, irritability, low mood, low energy levels etc.,” he says. The pandemic has disrupted the daily routines of most people, and has made it harder for people to remain productive. But Dr Koganti feels “Setting a routine is important. This will help you stay productive, even if your productivity level doesn’t remain consistent with pre-pandemic levels. One must also set limits on how much time is spent reading or watching news about the outbreak, as it can fuel anxiety and fear.”


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