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Why COVID-19 lockdown is wreaking havoc on our mind and what we can do about it

Avoid information overload and exercise regularly to get rid of anxiety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. © Shutterstock

Recent research shows that there has been an increase of 20 per cent in mental health issues amidst the COVID-19 lockdown. We help you take charge of your mind in these anxious times.

Mortality isn't the only evil of a pandemic. It is always accompanied by an unscalable aftermath. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has swept the whole world, has also come with its own set of unpredictable consequences. The panic of catching and spreading the COVID-19 infection is shooting up while borders and businesses are shutting down, leading to immense insecurity and depression. On the other hand, an overwhelming sense of loneliness is gripping everyone amidst this isolation, forced by the highly contagious novel coronavirus. All these, combined together, have brought about another challenge: Rising burden of mental health issues.

A recent survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatry Society (IPS) revealed that there has been a 20 percent rise in mental illness cases amidst the coronavirus outbreak. "We are apprehending that the coronavirus outbreak is going to bring about a mental health epidemic soon," says clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Prachi S Vaish.

REASONS BEHIND THE RISE OF MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES

Surprisingly, Kerala had witnessed seven suicide cases in the first 100 hours of the COVID-19 lockdown and the reason was non-availability of liquor. Recently, a 37-year-old person suspected to be suffering from COVID-19 also attempted suicide while a 32-year-old man from UP allegedly killed himself as he was missing his wife, stuck at her parent's place due to lockdown. All these reflect the mounting psychological burden that everyone is experiencing amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.

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The spike in mental health issues has been spawned by certain fears, insecurities and uncertainties. According Vaish, "The primary fear is that of catching the infection and passing it on to their own family members. This is especially true for a lot of healthcare workers. They are afraid that they can pass it on their family members and especially kids. Then there is the insecurity of job loss. Founders of start-ups are especially affected by the COVID-19 lockdown and this has led to a lot of distress among them."

Also, people who were already suffering from mental health issues are finding this situation extremely difficult. "This is because they are confined to their houses and not getting access to medicines. In many cases, the prescription cannot be renewed without seeing the patient physically. So only teleconsultation doesn't always help," adds Vaish. Another unfortunate consequence of the lockdown is that the condition of people who have been living with abusive partners has worsened. They are experiencing more domestic violence, which is, in turn, wreaking havoc on their mental health. "Going out for work gives people a respite from their abusive partners. The lockdown has robbed them off that much-needed break. Staying in a toxic situation for 24 hours is affecting their mental health," explains Vaish. "Even kids are calling up to say that their dads are beating up mom and they don't know what to do," she adds.

4 WAYS TO DRIVE AWAY YOUR ANXIETY

The global pandemic of COVID-19 appears to have bogged us down beyond repair. But all isn't lost yet. We can take charge of the situation even now if we pick up life skills to cope with our fears and anxiety. Here are four tips to help you.

Avoid information overload

While working from home amidst the COVID-19 lockdown, we are anxiously waiting for more news. 24/7 news about more cases and deaths are escalating out panic. There's no denying that it is crucial to stay informed amidst an outbreak, but there's a limit to our brain's capacity too. "We need to reduce our hypervigilance. Every time a new case comes up, the fear also spikes," says Vaish. Shut your gadgets and give yourself a break from 24/7 news.

Practise breathing exercises

Anxiety brings about the worst possible outcomes to your mind. This can lead to panic attack, an overwhelming emotion that sometimes make it difficult for us to breathe. If you experience this amidst the COVID-19 scare, breathing workouts will come to your rescue. Years of research have proved the power this mind-body technique in calming our mind. As you take deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nose, say this to yourself, "I cannot change the situation around me. But I can definitely control my own actions for a better outcome. I am, and I will be okay." a tell yourself that you cannot change the situation around you Avert Anxiety Attacks Using Breath-Work.

Exercise, exercise, exercise

Neuroscience suggests that your anxiety levels can be effectively brought down by aerobic exercise. What is more important is that the effect of reduced anxiety lasts hours after the exercise too. A study published in the journal Brain Plasticity finds that this is the result of the release of certain brain chemicals during a session of aerobic exercise. These chemicals include endorphins and serotonin among others. Another Harvard Medical School research suggests that that aerobic exercise not only distracts you from stress. It controls the fight or flight response of your brain.

Stay connected to your close ones

Yes, that's a must. Amidst social distancing, we are all bogged down by loneliness, which, in turn, can lead to stress and depression. Pick up the phone and make a call. Discuss your worries with your friends and close family members. A video call will help you more in these days of isolation. Planning virtual meet-ups with your friends through apps will also go a long way in curbing your anxiety.

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