COVID-19: Coping with Stigma, Anxiety, Fear and Mental Health Issues

The pandemic that we are witnessing is causing damage of historic proportions, Whether the lives lost to the disease, people losing their jobs, weakening the economy due to lockdown.

But one of the areas which have been affecting a great deal is the Mental health of a large number of people due to the pandemic and its restrictions.

Today I want to address Some of the issues which are being faced by many people around the globe but have been flying under the radar.

This pandemic has been hard especially on people who were already suffering from chronic mental illness like Schizophrenia, Anxiety, Depression, etc.

There has been a sharp rise among the youth falling into depression, due to various reasons such as being in isolation for months, not being able to meet their loved ones, fear of getting the virus, Uncertainty of what is to come, losing their jobs or not being able to generate an income due to the restrictions.

Stigma and Discrimination

Stigma in the context of the current pandemic is a negative perspective on people who may have contracted the virus. Or having pre-conceived notions that a certain ethnicity or a community might be more susceptible or contracting and spreading the virus.

This leads to many people being labeled and discriminated against because of the false beliefs that certain races are responsible for the virus or people who may have contracted the virus are perceived with hatred and shame as if it’s their fault for falling sick.

Let’s get one thing straight, The virus doesn’t care who you are, whether you are black, white, Asian, Middle-eastern, Rich, poor, whatever. It does not discriminate, So why should we?

Impact of Stigmatization

  • It can lead to fewer people getting tested in fear of getting a positive result and hide their symptoms to avoid discrimination from society.
  • It can stop people from seeking appropriate health care for their symptoms in anticipation of causing public embarrassment.
  • Social Stigma can lead to unnecessary external stress, depression, anxiety apart from being sick itself, making it harder for a person to recover, since he/she may feel isolated from society.

We all play a role in it

  • Avoid referring to people who contracted the virus as “cases” or “victim” by doing so you are alienating them from society, which causes a negative impact on their mental health.
  • Educate yourself about the disease with authentic facts, not opinions. When you are well informed about how this disease operates, it leaves less room for uncertainty and fear of contracting the virus.
  • Avoid sharing unverified news articles, since it can cause fear and panic among people and can get circulated quickly in social media groups.

Social Anxiety

Due to numerous travel restriction that we are seeing around the Globe, a lot of people are not able to meet their loved ones, go back to work, study, etc. which has led to a lot of anxiety among the youth especially, because of the uncertainty of the current crisis itself.

It has caused a feeling of helplessness since this situation is something that is not under anyone’s control, people are reliant on government officials to make decisions for them which impacts their life significantly, like easing up travel restrictions, lockdown, quarantine measures, being allowed back to work, etc.

Hence the overall nature of this crisis has affected people in different ways causing a lot of panic and anxiety leading to depression and suicides in some cases.

What can we do to cope with it before it gets worse?

Get into a routine.

It’s imperative to have a daily routine, I understand many of us are under lockdown, which means not being able to socialize, meet your family and friends, travel, etc.
Having daily schedules makes the day more structured, organized, and gives you a sense of predictability.

Since you can’t control what is happening out there, but you can control what you do with your day and prioritize the things which are important to you.

It can include your hobbies, like reading, exercising, things you want to work on in your life, learn a new skill, get creative.

Cut down on your daily news.

I know it’s important to stay informed about the current events happening in the world, yet during the crisis, as we are going through right now when we are at home most of the time. it is crucial to find the right balance between staying up to date and being overwhelmed.

A constant stream of negative information can have an impact on our mood, elevating stress levels, increasing anxiety, or causing lack of sleep.

It does not add any value to your life. I am not saying that you must read positive things all the time, yet it’s important to be mindful about what we expose our brains to and not let it get overwhelmed by external factors.

Limit what you watch and read : Try incorporating a news curfew if you will, For example, after 9 pm you won’t read any news, or you only read it once or twice a day and get any important updates in one “news reading session” rather than checking for new information every now and then.

This allows you to strike a balance and also lets your mind to focus on other aspects of your life.

If you are in a WhatsApp group where your friends or your family members keep sharing news articles from unverified sources, Go ahead and mute it for now.

Declutter your mind.

We live in a world, where our brain is constantly overstimulated by our surroundings, like Social media, News, WhatsApp messages, TV, etc. We constantly flood our brains with information throughout the day.

This is why we see so many people multitasking nowadays, it has become difficult to concentrate on one thing at a time because we get endlessly distracted by emails or notifications on our phone and our brains have gotten used to being fed at different things at a time.

Therefore we must find ways to declutter our mind, by taking a few minutes every day to be mindful and meditate. and let go of all the worries and stress and simply be in your body and breathe.

Take a walk in somewhere you are surrounded by nature, Eat your food mindfully, Write down your thoughts. All these are excellent ways to be present within yourself and give your brain the space that it needs to process the events of the day.

Get your information from reliable sources.

Whenever you want to get the latest information about the COVID crisis, Rely on a few reliable sources like WHO, CDC, or the websites set up by your local government.

There are a lot of conspiracy theories and fake news floating around the web, When you expose yourself to such media, it creates a feeling of uncertainty and panic and it makes us unsure about what to believe in.

Trust on a few select reliable news or information outlets, which are run by credible individuals and journalists who do their research and only publish authentic facts about the current pandemic.

P.S. WhatsApp groups are not a reliable source 😛

Moderate your social media consumption.

During times like right now, when most people are at home all the time. It can be tempting to keep on scrolling on Instagram or Facebook every 5 – 10 minutes. Keep in mind it’s not adding any value to your life except for being a source of entertainment and drawing comparisons with other people.

I am not against all of these things, yet I believe social media should be consumed in moderation. Its effects can be detrimental to your mental health. It can lead to an increased sense of Insecurity, Fear of missing out (FOMO), stress, feeling of isolation, and loneliness.

Think about it, Would you rather spend most of your day looking at other people’s picture and counting and comparing your likes or would you use that time to grow as a person each day little by little, by adding a skill, learning more about a topic that you are curious about. you decide which is better.

Similar to watching and reading news, try to limit your social media consumption to 30 minutes or less in a day.

Stay connected.

Ever since the pandemic began, almost all countries had implemented some sort of a stay at home order. Which forced people to remain home at all times.

It created a feeling of loneliness among the youth especially the ones who live on their own separate from their families.

Long periods of isolation can be detrimental for our brain which is why it’s important to stay connected with the people you love, your family, friends, partner.

Whoever the person or persons that bring joy in your life. having a sense of belonging helps a great amount in tackling stressful times.

Just a simple chat or having a laugh with your buddy helps maintain a healthy mental status.

So take out your phone, and talk to people if you are one of those who are experiencing loneliness and a feeling of despair.

Get professional help when you need it.

If the amount of stress you are experience starts to affect certain aspects of your life, like work, relationships, it is important to seek medical guidance from a professional, there is absolutely no shame in it.

Many people experience chronic depression, yet very few admit it.

Just like when you get sick you go to the doctor, similarly, when you are constantly under duress and are borderline chronic depression, it means your mind is experiencing an illness and you must not ignore it and take action right away.

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