Communication key to beating lockdown trauma
“Silence prevails outside my home. The vacant roads with barely any pedestrians or cars look like a scene from a horror movie. Though there is so much silence, I fail to bring peace & resilience inside my home.
“We, the whole family, huddle inside our homes, watching and worrying as the coronavirus pandemic hovers around and there is extension in the lockdown period. Though this sounds logical in response to the swiftly escalating Covid-19 pandemic at the moment but psychologically we are unable to accept it.
“My husband and I have almost reached the last sequence of a separation movie, where we shout and scream at each other because of the growing insecurities that we have in our minds due to this sudden change in our life. We, as parents, are not sure whether we would be able to revert to the economic security that we were enjoying for so long. It is a battleground now with complete intolerance of each other.”
This is the expression of Mr Sen, who works as a marketing manager in a reputable firm.
Mrs Bose, a resident of south Calcutta, is feeling depressed. She was eagerly waiting for her son’s placement. She is spending sleepless nights now as the economic impact of Covid-19 has shattered the hopes of many job-seekers.
Both are worried that the current situation would further increase the skyrocketing unemployment prevalent in the country. They are voraciously gobbling up every available piece of news about efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
Tina is feeling restless. Her exams have been postponed for an indefinite period. She is confused about whether to start the new syllabus or continue with the preparation for her incomplete examination. She fails to motivate herself to go through the same syllabus again and again.
Rinki is afraid of her alcoholic and abusive husband. She is not getting respite from her husband because he, too, is locked in the same house 24 hours a day. She bears the brunt of her husband’s anger and insecurities. She is eagerly waiting for the lockdown to end so that she gets a moment of peace again in her life.
Rahul is going through intense trauma. He cannot stop washing his hands every 15 minutes and is constantly anxious about death and separation.
Rahul was a carefree youth who wouldn’t ever think about death. Now, sitting in one corner of his room, he cannot control his thoughts about this illness. He is glued to the television screen at all times.
As the lockdown was extended, there has been a surge in insecurities among people. An invisible curtain has been pulled down and people are feeling helpless, restless and uncertain about their future. Majority are having difficult-to-control bouts of panic, dread, and despair.
Apart from the physical effects that are associated with Covid-19, we need to be cautious about the psychological and social effects that this virus is about to create, which would have a long-lasting effect on people.
This needs to be addressed immediately for the well-being of people across the country. The immunity of a person also partly depends on his/her mental state and hence, we need to know how to deal with anxiety.
Awareness about the disease, its treatment mode, the probable quarantine phase, the governmental strategies need to be addressed in detail. It is time to realise that mental disturbances arising out of Covid-19 pose a real issue.
We need to focus our attention towards people who already live on the margins, many of whom rely on consistent, face-to-face support for survival.
The cost of this virus would not be limited to deaths but would create a negative impact in the form of child abuse, domestic violence, hunger and long-term educational and behavioural problems.
Fight quarantine blues
The media can play a major role. News should focus not only on deaths but emphasis should also be laid on stories of recovery. Frequent news of effective treatment techniques and interviews of individuals who have recovered could cut down the growing fear and insecurities.
People need to get as much information as possible from reliable sources so that they are not affected by fake news circulating on social media.
Trust and assurance that regular supply of food materials is adequate in the locality would stop people from visiting markets frequently and chances of being exposed to the virus would reduce.
Helpline numbers should be made available so that people can get both physical and mental support.
Job assurance without curtailing wages of employees is essential.
It is not only the poor people who need assistance. Individuals from all economic and educational backgrounds might need psychosocial assistance and support. The growing anxiety, stress, insecurity and depression need to be addressed.
Everyone should try to increase their communication with loved ones through mobiles, video-chatting and other facilities so that the physical distancing does not create social distancing in the long run and an apathy towards meeting people.
Psychological effects like panic attacks, severe depression, crushing bouts of anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and thoughts of self-harm and suicide could rise if the lockdown continues for an indefinite period.
Learn some new skills
Focus on the positives
Being in quarantine would save one’s money. The restricted movement would decrease one’s spendthrift nature and help save money in the long run.
Bad habits can be got rid of at this time. Youngsters will be able to discard their habit of having junk food regularly.
Youngsters can cultivate an interest in cooking. The bond between children and parents will strengthen as they stay together for long hours.
In the busy ambitious life, people had hardly found any time for themselves. They can now enjoy their own time and start exploring themselves.
The same world feeling: as the virus is affecting all people throughout the globe irrespective of class, creed, religion and economic status, people can develop “One world” feeling and accept every human being as they are.
The quarantine effect can reduce the cut-throat competition as students have learnt that life itself is more valuable than career and competitions.
Open up your mind. It is time to relax and feel happy, to be part of a huge environmental transformation that is taking place throughout the universe. Feel the unity that underlies the illness.
Things to do
- Try to connect with friends or relatives when you are bored.
- If you are working from home, focus on work. Opportunity to work from home should be welcomed.
- Share your anxieties with your family and friends. If needed consult a professional.
- Take care of your body and mind.
- Spend some time to cultivate your hobbies, explore your potentialities and relax.
- Try to have a good night’s sleep every day.
- Try to control your anger and frustration through physical exercise, meditation and relaxation therapy.
Ishita Sanyal is a psychologist and founder-director of Turning Point, the mental rehabilitation organisation