Thank you for reading the news about Covid-19: Don't let the pandemic effect your mental health and now with the details
Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - You wake up five minutes before the alarm rings, make yourself a cup of coffee while catching up on the news, get dressed, grab your stuff and rush out for work. Fast forward to today, now that you've been locked down at home for more than two weeks. For workaholics and couch potatoes alike, such an immense amount of inactive time could be a nightmare. Although we've mastered the art of 'top-half dressing' and playing video games behind Zoom, we still haven't paid enough attention to what's most integral yet most ignored - our mental health. How is our body and mind reacting to the sudden change of pace, the instant enclosed lifestyle and the lack of human contact and communication? City Times caught up with some mental health experts in the city, to come up with a few pointers to work with.
1. Acceptance: We have been receiving ample unsolicited advice which asks us to avoid listening to the news because it can get depressing. However, the better way to approach this is to be constantly updated with what's going on in the world, accept the concerns we are facing, and tackle the challenges in the aftermath head-on. It is also immensely important to keep away from panic-causing WhatsApp forwards and identify fake news to avoid getting anxious over non-existent threats. Dr. Shaju George, Specialist Psychiatrist at the Dubai Community Health Centre, tells City Times: "Although bombarding ourselves with the negatively-highlighted news is of no use, it is important to adopt coping techniques. Deep breathing exercises such as the '4-7-8' method will help alleviate stress instantly, along with daily physical exercise, group activities, proper diet and ample sleep."
2. Reconnect with Nature: It is not for nothing that some of the world's greatest poets found inspiration in nature. With work-from-home and online classes in full swing, screen time has surely become the norm of the day. It becomes imperative to imbibe some aspects of the pastoral lifestyle, like waking up with the sun to the cacophony of chirping birds. We barely get time to pay heed to the breeze and the rustling of the leaves (excuse my poetic digression) while we drive off to work in the hustle and bustle, but maybe we can use these days to this end, be it from our tiny balcony garden, peeking out the windows in time for the sunrise or to feel the lovely night breeze, or even gaze up at the stars.
3. Meditate: This could be the perfect opportunity to introspect and bring about some long-awaited resolutions to life. With a little determination and will power, meditation and yoga are fairly simple to put to practice within our homes. It would additionally help us to refocus our energy onto constructive tasks, and also anchor the day's work. One can easily find tutorials and meditation guides on the internet, like that of former monk, Jay Shetty, who has been posting short 30-minute meditation sessions for each day of the lockdown.
4. Say No to Productivity-Guilt: Ever since the lockdown period began, there have been numerous social media posts and articles encouraging us to use this time productively. However, some people can find the pressure to always be productive quite overwhelming. It is important to understand that it's perfectly alright to sit back, relax and do nothing for a while. Dr. Sarah Rasmi, CDA-licensed psychologist and Managing Director of the Thrive Wellbeing Centre, Dubai, told City Times, "We are living in times that are uncertain and rapidly evolving, and we are donning so many different hats. The manifold expectations may eventually lead to procrastination, which throws a wrench in our productivity. Routine is key to counteract uncertainty, but we should be kind to ourselves too. The best way to do this is to take five minutes off when we feel overwhelmed, and focus on some alone time and give ourselves breathing room to repair and recharge."
5. Communicate: Although we predicted that we would go back to pre-technology era modes of dialogue and conversation due to the lockdown, ironically enough, we have grown even more aloof and distant with an absolute dependence on smartphones, streaming services and online meetings. It is of utmost importance to make sure we talk to people in our house, and keep verbal communication alive with our friends and relatives over the phone. Keep these conversations light-hearted and pleasant, and avoid referencing misinformation or rumours with regard to Covid-19. Dr. Rasmi explains, "We have been advised to socially distance ourselves, which is a physical requisite. However, we should ensure that we remain socially connected in our mental space while being socially distanced."
6. Stay open to Positivity: Any ray of hope would definitely do wonders in our life. From YouTube creators to late night TV show hosts, musicians and celebrities, the world is doing everything to keep us cheerful and smiling in the face of unprecedented difficulties. Instead of being cynical of their efforts, give in to the rhythm and laugh out loud. Relieve the tense atmosphere with another shot at a classic lame joke, or an indoor game of Dumb Charades and Pictionary, guaranteed to give some comedy gold that you can cherish later.
Dr. George adds, "If you do experience any kind of distress, the UAE government has allowed psychologists to make therapy available online (@HappyUAE). It is essential to seek help if one continues to have repetitive symptoms despite making lifestyle changes." If you have been suffering from any kind of mental distress or difficulties, please ensure that you talk to a certified counselor or psychologist.
Hang in there, we're all in this together! We'll all come out of this smiling, happy and reassured of the triumph of love and laughter over the darkest of times!
City Times reader Mahima Ann Ninan loves reading and writing and tries to imitate Shakespeare, but thine acts
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