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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant rise in mental health issues globally. Several studies have reported increased in the prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms during the pandemic as compared to the years before the coronavirus outbreak. Isolation, fear of infection, life uncertainty, and job insecurity are some of the many factors affecting mental health during the pandemic. But life has been more difficult for COVID-19 frontline workers including doctors, nurses, police personnel, Anganwadi workers and sanitation workers. These people have been under tremendous stress since beginning of the pandemic.
In the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the country's 2.7 million Anganwadi workers became frontline responders in their communities. They had to go from home to home, guide people about safety measures and COVID-19 vaccination, while putting their own life at risk. Imagine how stressful it could have been.
To support Anganwadi workers suffering from stress, anxiety and depression, and bring them out of this situation, Poddar Foundation conducted mental health sessions focussed on coping skills. (Poddar Foundation is a registered Trust that has been working on creating awareness on the looming mental health crisis in India since 2016).
Rama (name changed), an Anganwadi worker, started having high BP issues along with increased stress and anxiety following her day-to-day work as frontline responder during the pandemic. After attending the mental health sessions on coping skills conducted by the Poddar Foundation, her condition improved slowly and steadily. Now she is back to her best.
Read on to know the coping techniques she adopted:
According to Poddar Foundation, Rama was first encouraged to talk openly about the issues she was facing. "Venting helps take the feelings out from inside of the person, it helps a person to process them. It's kind of like the pressure cooker analogy: If you don't open a lid periodically, the steam can build up and cause you to feel even more stressed. If you let it out, it can help you process whatever it is you're worried about," said Neha S Shah, Lead Projects at Poddar Foundation.
Meditation was also suggested as a part of the coping technique to help calm down and restore inner peace. Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, one focuses the attention and eliminates the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding the mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being, said Poddar Foundation.
According to Poddar Foundation, Rama was also asked to indulge in deep breathing for a few minutes every day whenever she gets time. She was asked to try breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. Deep breathing can help lessen stress and anxiety. By breathing slower and more deeply from the stomach, the nervous system gets the signal to calm down. Deep breathing takes practice the effects don't show up immediately.
After the coping skills session, Rama felt a lot more relaxed, calm and had an improved mood. She also felt a lot more confident to deal with the daily stress and burnout.
Dr Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee of Poddar Foundation, noted that they conducted the coping skills session to support many others like Rama and bring them out of this situation.
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