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What are the things I can do to help myself and be positive?

The unprecedented times of Covid-19 have not just affected our immunity but have worn out our minds and thoughts. Now, our solicitudes revolve around the uncertainty of our well-being along with our loved ones too. Furthermore, the lockdowns and reiterated regimes have led to procrastination and overall loss of enthusiasm to productivity. It is not just you or me but a lot of us. Besides, public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. Faced with new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues, it is important that we look after our mental, as well as our physical, health.

Mental Health in Covid Times

According to a report of the Hindu, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress have been among the most common problems reported by callers to the Social Justice Ministry’s mental health helpline. According to officials, many states are seeing a huge rise in calls during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 26,047 calls were received by the KIRAN helpline till April 30 from September 16, 2020, according to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities data. 

The helpline — 1800–599–0019 — was launched by the Ministry on September 7, 2020, as a mental health rehabilitation service. Callers are counselled first and are connected with psychiatrists and other experts depending on the need.

The majority of the callers had been from men, mostly from the age group of 15 to 40, the Ministry’s report on its functioning from September 16, 2020, to January 15, 2021, had said.

The news consumption from television, social media, and newspapers can be overwhelming. The most common emotion faced by all is Fear. It makes us anxious, panicky and can even possibly make us think, say or do things that we might not consider appropriate under normal circumstances.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of the importance of integrating mental health into preparedness and response plans for public health emergencies,” said Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at the World Health Organization. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide while the demand for mental health is increasing, according to a WHO survey, released last year. The survey of 130 countries provides the first global data which reflected the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding.

And the pandemic has escalated the demand for mental health services. The lockdowns, loss, fear has resulted in many facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection ̶ they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death.

According to WHO survey which was conducted from June to August 2020 among 130 countries across WHO’s six regions evaluates how the provision of mental, neurological and substance use services has changed due to COVID-19, the types of services that have been disrupted, and how countries are adapting to overcome these challenges.

Countries reported widespread disruption of many kinds of critical mental health services:

  • Over 60% reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people, including children and adolescents (72%), older adults (70%), and women requiring antenatal or postnatal services (61%).
  • 67% saw disruptions to counseling and psychotherapy; 65% to critical harm reduction services; and 45% to opioid agonist maintenance treatment for opioid dependence.
  • More than a third (35%) reported disruptions to emergency interventions, including those for people experiencing prolonged seizures; severe substance use withdrawal syndromes; and delirium, often a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
  • 30% reported disruptions to access for medications for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
  • Around three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services (78% and 75% respectively).

“Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “COVID-19 has interrupted essential mental health services around the world just when they’re needed most. World leaders must move fast and decisively to invest more in life-saving mental health programmes ̶ during the pandemic and beyond.”

The second wave has worsened the mental health of people. Not just the rising numbers of cases and deaths, the second wave has also led to increase in anger levels, frustration and low feelings in individuals. Even the bests amongst the best are feeling down. 

Stress can cause the following:

  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances

It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is okay to feel upset. Acknowledgement is the first step towards healing. Understanding the needs of your mind and body can help you seek help for managing your mental health. 

Below are ways that you can help yourself, others, and your community manage stress.

Focus on facts, reject rumours and theories 

  1. Knowledge is power: The more you know about a certain issue, the less fearful you may feel. Make sure to access and believe only the most reliable sources of information for self-protection. 
  2. Say no to Whatsapp Forward: Do not follow sensational news or social media posts that may impact your mental state. Do not spread or share any unverified news or information further.
  3. Follow Heath Advisory: Stick to the known advice- hand hygiene and keeping a physical distance from others. It is being careful about yourself, and also about care of others.
  4. Limit your screen time: Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed, but hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
  5. Indulge in hobbies: Try to do some other activities you enjoy, exercise, draw, paint, cook,

What is NOT advisable?

 1. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. The use of tobacco or alcohol or other drugs to cope with emotions or boredom can worsen physical, mental health and reduce immunity. People who already have a substance use problem may require professional help, especially when they feel low in mood or stressed.

 2. Do not shun or judge people with a Covid infection. While you need to maintain a physical distance and keep yourself safe to prevent such infection, remember they need care and concern. If you know someone who might have the infection, tell them about precautions, and how to get medical assistance, if required. 

3. If you happen to get infected with Corona, remember most people get better. Do not panic. Practice self-isolation and take medications that are advised.

Are you handling emotional problems properly?

  • At times of anxiety, practice breathing slowly for a few minutes. Try and distance the thoughts that are making you anxious. Think of something calm and serene, and slow down your mind. 
  • When feeling angry and irritated, calming your mind, counting back from 10 to 1, distracting yourself helps. 
  • Even when feeling afraid, deal with it by asking yourself: 

a. What is under my control?

 b. Am I unnecessarily worrying about the worst thing that can happen?

 c. When I have been stressed in the past, how have I managed? 

d. What are the things I can do to help myself and be positive?

 Feeling lonely or sad is also quite common. Stay connected with others. Communication can help you to connect with family and friends. Call up people whom you haven’t spoken to and surprise them. Discuss happy events, common interests, exchange cooking tips, share music. If any of these emotions persist continuously for several days, despite you trying to get out of it, start sharing with someone.

Are you recognising mental health problems in your near and dear ones?

 Just as you can recognise your own mental health problems, be sensitive to such problems in your near and dear ones, which may include: 

  1. Changes in sleep patterns
  2.  Difficulty in sleeping and concentrating 
  3.  Worsening of health problems 
  4.  Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs Be supportive to them.

 If the problems persist, please contact the helpline (080- 46110007) or contact your doctor or a mental health professional.

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