Coronavirus Outbreak: Quarantine Takes a Toll on Mental Health. Find Out How to Stay Happy

The last few weeks have been tough for everyone; our world has turned topsy-turvy. We are filled with uncertainty, especially with the outbreak of new cases every day. In such times, it is difficult to stay calm and keep your mental health in check. There are many who already face anxiety issues, and the problem seems to only get worse. 

Besides, during this self-quarantine period, working from home has become the ‘new normal.’ While this seems to be the most viable contingency plan for businesses, it is taking a hit on work-life balance for most of us. The boundaries are quite blurred, making it stressful for many.

Mental health experts suggest it is critical to acknowledge this time in your life, and that it is beyond your control.

For Delhi-based marketing professional Ridhima Behl, 25, the reality didn’t strike the first few days, but that’s not the case anymore. “I have been working from home for a week now, and my experience has been quite mixed. While I am spending some time on self-care, it is getting increasingly difficult for me to keep a work-life balance. My biggest concern is that I’m overthinking and becoming more anxious.”

Ridhima is not the only one. TIME Magazine says that the coronavirus outbreak and rising panic may led to anxiety pandemic  at a large scale. But there are ways to cope. 

A sense of control

Mental health experts suggest it is critical to acknowledge this time in your life, and that it is beyond your control. “It means a new rhythm, but also gives you a chance to do things you wouldn't have time for otherwise, like reading, cooking, gardening, meditating, etc.” says Shevantika Nanda, a psychologist based in Delhi-NCR.

While maintaining a routine at this point would be hard, the need of the hour is to have a sense of control in some area of your life. Shevantika advises, “Wake up and go to bed at a fixed time every day. Treat your work hours like you would if you were going in to work; make some time for exercise regularly. Check the sources of news you get, and limit the number of times you check the news in the day.” 

Worrying for family

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released advice on protecting your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. It has asked people to stay away from rumours and misinformation. However, for people like Antara Dey, a 24-year-old Indian student pursuing her masters in Australia, the web is her only source of information to keep track of what’s happening in India. While staying away from family is anyway hard, these hard times have raised her anxiety about her family and friends back home.

Talking to MAKERS India over phone, Antara said, “Sometimes I just break down thinking of how my family is doing. In India, these things can catch up really fast. I am particularly worried about my grandparents there. My sister is in Class 12; her classes have shifted online, and there’s so much pressure. Today is also her 17th birthday, and there is no celebration in the current situation.”

For individuals staying away from their families, stress and anxiety is higher as they feel clueless and helpless.

While a lot more people living away from their families can relate to Antara’s situation, the key to deal with this crisis is to practice self-care and compassion. Family and Child Psychologist Preeta Ganguli tells MAKERS India, “Focus on sustainability over perfection in these times. You cannot do it all and are not expected to. Seek help from your family members, work out, meditate, and connect with people beyond your home - on online venting or party sessions. Take care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup!

With an increasing number of people practicing social distancing all over the world, this is the time to revive connections. Shevantika recommends video calls with friends and family, as it may help you feel a little less disconnected from your loved ones.

“These are uncertain times for everyone. Most people struggle with the adjustment; it is important to acknowledge your negative feelings and talk to others about them,” says Shevantika.

Seize the day!

There is so much information floating on social media that it is important to use the medium in a mindful manner. Shikha Piplani, a digital marketing professional, feels that with easy access to information, people tend to believe anything that comes their way.

“That creates a lot of stress and confusion in their minds. We need to be extremely responsible before sharing any piece of news. Read carefully and try to spread positive messages as much as possible,” she urges.

There are some triggers on social media that might cause anxiety. In such cases, it is best to take some time off, and maybe mute certain hashtags or unfollow accounts. According to trauma and family counsellor Akanksha Singh Chandele, those who have experienced trauma in the past can get triggered easily in these times.

“The best practice in such situations is to engage in activities that keep you in the present as much as possible. Now is the time to 'be and do' what we have control over, and not to dwell and mull over what we cannot control,” she says.

With weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic ahead, it is important to keep exercising, eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and being in the present.


(Edited by Athira Nair)

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