Strengthening mental health in times of crisis

We as individuals and as a community have experienced wars, like the Kargil War in 2001, terrorist attacks such as the Mumbai attacks in 2008, natural disasters such as the tsunami in 2004, earthquake in Bhuj in 2000, or the Kashmir floods of 2014, and of course the current lockdown we are facing due to the COVID 19 virus.

In all these situations we can face numerous challenges. Data has suggested that almost all individuals will also face some psychological distress when faced with these emergency situations. Some changes observed are: 

  1. Fear and worry about one's own health and safety, and that of one’s loved ones 

  2. Disturbed sleep and/or nightmares

  3. Sudden changes in appetite (increase or decrease) 

  4. Lack of concentration, or interest in activities that you previously enjoyed

  5. Emotions that we experience when we are grieving such as shock, denial, anger, irritability  and sadness 

  6. Anxiety or panic attacks 

  7. Increased use of substances like alcohol and smoking 

  8. Depressed moods

It is important to remember that everyone would react differently to emergency situations. While there would be aspects that are not in your control, there are still steps you can take to support yourself cope better in emergency situations. Let’s look at some of these ways. 

  1. Being kind and patient with yourself and others around you. There is no right or wrong way to cope during an emergency situation. Do tell yourself that it is okay to not feel your best every day.

  2. Taking care of your body. Now more than ever it would be important to incorporate healthy food and exercise into your daily schedule. Some ways to do this is eating smaller meals a day if you feel like your appetite has changed, or exercising at least 20 minutes a day, or meditating in the mornings. 

  3. While it is good to keep yourself up to date with the latest news about what is happening around you, it can also increase your worry and anxiety. Do make a conscious decision to take breaks from watching, reading or talking about the crisis.

  4. Keeping a regular routine to the best of your ability. Of course, there would be some disturbances to our daily routine, however getting back to some semblance of what we know and are used to, can bring you comfort and motivation.

  5. Reaching out and understanding what you can do to assist others around you. Such as donations, rescue work, or checking up on a neighbour. This way while being helpful we are also keeping ourselves busy in a healthy way.

  6. Stay connected! Connecting with friends, loved ones gives you a chance to vent and feel lighter. 

  7. Talk to a mental health professional! A counsellor will be someone who is non-biased and is trained to help you cope better during these tough times. 

With time and self-care the situation does become easier to cope with and crisis situations too shall pass. 

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