- The author of this article is Dr. Disha Parikh, Consultant Psychiatrist, The Beautiful Mind Clinic
The COVID-19 Pandemic has waged an outright war against humanity causing significant morbidity and mortality. However, even after the fight has been fought those who have recovered from COVID have show to have lasting mental health effects. Post COVID stress disorder includes anxiety, depression, fatigue, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Our baseline stress levels have gradually risen over the last year. With social distancing, isolation, economic uncertainty, and health uncertainty, everyone has been on an edge. Chronic loneliness, languish and “lack of meaning in life” has been frequently encountered. Working from Home has now blurred the boundaries between personal and professional life and juggling home, kids is proving to be challenging for many. The fact that now for all of us the virus has literally entered our homes or of our loved ones and it has tipped us over. The stress does not end at the report becoming COVID positive to COVID negative. The stress continues to the aftermath.
Individuals even after recovering from the illness continue to have fatigue, confusion, brain-fog, headache, exhaustion, sleep disturbances and anxiety. Those who are at higher risk of mental health issues are those who hospitalized due to COVID-19, who had a severe illness, witnessed death, or lost someone close to them. With respect to occupation, the healthcare workers, the frontline workers, journalists who have a constant exposure to the virus and have been hearing and dealing with it non-stop are predisposed to such stress. They are prone to develop a burn out syndrome which is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, increased pessimism, and detachment towards the job they are doing.
A severe form of post COVID stress is Post traumatic stress disorder. The symptoms can manifest as flashbacks of the illness period, repeated thoughts about illness, physical symptoms such as racing heartbeats, sweating, difficulty breathing. There could be persistent worry about your own health and of loved ones in spite of no physical symptoms. Feeling guilty and blaming yourself for your illness.
For those who recovering from COVID, continued medical care and rehabilitation is important for physical wellness. Alongside securing mental wellness is of paramount importance. Here are some things that can be done to ensure your mental wellbeing.
Self- compassion & Self-care:
First and foremost be kind to yourself. Do not beat yourself for having these symptoms or not being productive enough. Imagine the compassion you would show towards a sick loved one and redirect it towards yourself.
Eat well at fixed schedules and try to get enough restful sleep. These will help to boost your immunity and health status. To improve your sleep, establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Get away from phones and screens 1-2 hours before bedtime. Try to get some physical activity as recommended by your physician or physiotherapist.
Identify, observe your thoughts, feelings:
You may feel angry, tired, restless, anxious, sad, bored. Try to identify them. These emotions may also manifest as sleep changes, difficulty in concentration, appetite disturbances, and social withdrawal.
Pause, reflect, connect:
You may feel the above feelings are sweeping you away and may get you more worked up & overwhelmed. Try to pause and understand that in the face of this crisis, anxiety is a human response. We must accept it and only then we can work on it. Human crisis can only really be solved with human connections. Secure your social support system and strengthen it. Spend time with family members at home. Practice physical distancing and virtual connecting.
Contribute & Give back:
Often our anxiety stems out of helplessness. Limit the time spend on the news and social media. These can get overwhelming quickly and you may feel more helpless. Charity begins at home. Help your family, community and contribute to their well-being in your capacity. Each small step taken will not only help your mental wellbeing but also strengthen community resilience.
Maintain routine & engage in stress-busting activities:
Staying indoors all day long without a structure to the day can compound negative emotions. Focus on maintaining a routine for your family. Include exercise, meditation, yoga and hobbies. These keep stress at bay and keep the immunity going strong. It is makes you resilient.
Stay positive, in a realistic way:
The situation being grim no doubt, show gratitude about the silver linings. Acknowledge the negatives, focus on what you can control about them.
If you feel unable to cope or function despite trying all the above, reach out for help. There are several mental health helplines available at a click of a button. You can contact your family, friends, general physician who can guide you and help you connect to a mental health professional.
About the author:
Dr. Disha Parikh, MBBS (Gold Medallist), MD (Psychiatry) has done her post-graduation from BJ Medical college, Pune from the batch of 2015. She is a Psychiatrist with keen interest for working in Women’s mental health, Relationship counselling and sexual health. She has worked at medical colleges as Senior resident in Mumbai and Pune. She has 8 years of clinical experience overall with avid interest in research in various of fields of psychiatry.
At times, the most difficult place to navigate through is our own mind. The journey is nevertheless worth taking. We are here at ‘The Beautiful Mind’ to be your fellow travellers to reach the destination of mental wellness.