The after-effects of the pandemic continue to create ripples in people’s social life. Mental health professionals point out several emerging mental issues, one of the most common issues being a loss of focus and motivation.
According to Kavita Panyam, counselling psychologist and founder–director of Mind Suggest Wellness Centre, Hyderabad, one reason causing mental agony is that people want to return to the normalcy that existed before the pandemic. “A failure to accept the new normal has also led to low motivation levels in people,” she adds. “Old coping mechanisms like diversion activities, hobbies, food and relationships have failed during the pandemic giving rise to more agony.”
Kavita also points out that most people have ‘let go’ of themselves during the pandemic. “Many stopped doing activities they once enjoyed because of which they don’t feel good enough, which in turn makes them experience low levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. This is a freeze response, which occurs when our brain decides that neither can we take on a threat nor can we escape,” she adds.
Shutting off the world
Dr Srikanth Goggi who’s a consultant clinical psychologist and director of GVA Institute of Psychology as well as Vice President, Telangana Association of Clinical Psychologists, shares his views on the root cause of people’s withdrawal from many activities.
“The pandemic restricted people to their homes, and they were devoid of recreational activities, social interactions or travelling, causing isolation and loneliness,” elaborates Dr Srikanth. “People were forced to adjust to the new normal and students were forced to shift to online classes, which initially frustrated them. However, now that colleges, schools and offices have reopened, people seem to have no motivation to go as they’ve closed off to the world.”
Virtual life, the new comfort zone
Dr Srikanth Goggi also points to how people have gotten used to getting the work done online without having to dress up or travel.
“People find travelling very hectic and prefer operating from the comfort of their homes. People have gone into social isolation because of the online culture since the pandemic, which has now become their new comfort zone, so they want this culture to continue. Many of my patients don’t even feel like stepping out or meeting people,” the doctor adds, stating that there’s also a rise in anhedonia among people, which is a condition when people fail to derive pleasure out of pleasurable activities.
The continuing grieving phase
Mumbai-based clinical psychologist and licensed RCI therapist Shrradha Sidhwani says “The multiple losses since the pandemic have taken a toll on society. Many lost their near and dear ones, while some lost their relationships and others, their jobs. Many lost touch with friends, colleagues and even close family members. This has created a vacuum, causing a loss of drive to look and dress well, or care for themselves.”
Getting back to society
With all that’s going on, returning to the regular course of life (the reopening of schools, colleges and offices, etc.) has made people anxious. Some even wonder if their friends will be the “same” and if they can restore their bonds.
Mumbai-based clinical psychologist and licensed RCI therapist Shrradha Sidhwani lists out issues one may encounter when physically returning to society and how to deal with them.
Changed relationship dynamics
The loss of physical contact in the past months has made a huge difference in relationship dynamics.
“People must first take some time to get back to reality, without putting excessive pressure on being perfect. Expect subtle changes in dynamics and awkwardness in conversations. And remember that it’ll take some time to figure the work and home balance,” Shrradha suggests.
Compassion and empathy is the need of the hour
Society is generally very judgmental but such an attitude in the current situation can cause more harm.
“Change in general is difficult for the brain to accept so it may take some time,” admits Shrradha. “Many would’ve experienced several changes in their being owing to the pandemic. While some people may have become introverts others may have become angrier, more hurt, etc. Many others may have even developed new boundaries about what’s okay and not for them. We must, however, be mindful, empathetic and understanding of another’s perspectives while respecting others’ newly established boundaries.”
Change, the only constant
It’s easy to get nosy or picky. Go back to society with a sense of flexibility. Go beyond categorizing people as good or bad, and give them the benefit of doubt and walk in their shoes before making judgements or drawing conclusions.
“Those who are irregular at work are probably dealing with anxiety or aggressiveness and have shut down,” adds Shrradha. “Give them time while checking in on them if they’d like to share their issues. All said and done, the pandemic has changed our perceptions about everything including our patterns and routines. And we must prepare ourselves to accept more such changes to our plan, as needed.”