Tuesday, June 22, 2021

This too shall pass

It is said that risk and uncertainty are the two biggest challenges people are facing today. Risk means danger, and uncertainty is a sense of moving into the unknown where one feels the loss of control. The former has a known probability of occurrence whereas in the latter this is not true. Humanity may have rarely experienced such a collective sense of vulnerability where both body and soul are involved. Last year we all experienced this, and when we thought things were getting back to normal, the second wave of COVID-19 has hit us bringing normal life to halt again. While the risk magnitude of the Coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented, there is an uncertainty surrounding almost every facet of it. Maybe it is the threat of contracting the virus and subsequent death, economic losses, job insecurity, social isolation or the social stigma, the pandemic has caused deep psychological impacts on our lives, and continue to do so. It has led to an increase in fear, anxiety, stress and depression, sparking a major global mental health crisis. According to psychiatrists, there is a universal presence of heightened anxiety due to pandemic mostly affecting poor, unemployed, people with COVID infection and those who have psycho-social issues such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, depression, loneliness, etc. People are confused and lost. How can they prevent themselves from sinking into the pit of despair? It is imperative that we take a look at guidelines, SOPs and other resources to see how possible measures could be undertaken to reduce the increased psychological distress. Indeed the pandemic has been a situation that would test the strongest among us, let alone those more vulnerable to depression, paranoia and suicidal tendencies. While protecting physical health from the virus attack, we have also to take care of our emotional well-being and contain the fear and stress to a level that is adaptive. No doubt it is so difficult to stay physically fit when we are forced to stay indoors but physical fitness is not just crucial for a healthy body but imperative for a healthy mind and emotional well-being. It has been said that stress and anxiety are two main factors that can decrease our immunity. We should not ignore it at all; their symptoms can lead to other health issues. Several experts and organizations have stepped forward with awareness and counseling programmes, for those finding it difficult to navigate the psychological challenges thrown up by the pandemic, to help them nurture their mental health themselves. We have seen webinars, workshops, lectures, on mental health, stress management and other psycho-social concerns being organized by various institutions and universities last year also. Psychiatrists and psychologists can help people to stave off boredom, provide practical advice on stress management techniques and coping with fear. Of course, the psychological fallout due to COVID-19 cannot be merely solved by counseling but through a multi-dimensional approach ~ one important issue includes the financial support to deserving people. We need to ensure that those who are marginalized and isolated, facing the worst effects of this crisis get help. Yes, life is full of ups and downs. There are good and bad times, success and failures. They are inherently a part of nature and we cannot stop them. But there is a powerful force called hope, which can pull us from the depths of despair. Even when things get murkier and uncertain, hope always persists. Moreover, humans have a wide range of adaptation strategies in response to environmental changes. When times are hardest we gain inner strength and toughness. Even if the pandemic is brought under control, its psychological effects are going to linger for many years and it may take time to return to normal life. What life may throw up should make us strong and give us the courage to stand and fight not only for ourselves but also for others. Let us reaffirm our resolve to come out of the present crisis at the earliest. We will be stronger and more resilient if we take care of one another. Tough times don’t last and this too shall pass.