SHEIKH UMAR AHMAD
Almost 3 months into it, we are yet to experience the worst as the cornavirus cases increase day after another. The main strategy that is actively being talked of is social distancing. The outbreak of coronavirus disease is stressful to people due to the curfew-like situation and people confined within their homes. Fear, anxiety and panic can be overwhelming at times. Panicking, rumour mongering, and feeling paranoid can’t ease the stress but certainly can deteriorate the already worsening situation. When an atmosphere of uncertainty and never-seen-before situation exists all over the world, we in Kashmir are also trying to adjust to it, though we are known to have experienced the most turbulent times. But creating an atmosphere of confusion, we are just making it more worrisome for all of us here.
With a global health emergency to deal with, we have no other choice but to behave. No matter how resilient we think we are and how much co-existentialism is in our culture, many of us will feel the emotional toll of this seemingly ever-changing and alarming situation. To further add to our woes, thousands if not millions are already facing uncertainty over their livelihoods. There are relentless reports of mass suffering, deaths, and economic recession. Our society is already facing the brunt of economic distress, inflation, unemployment and, above all, political instability. So, how do we protect our minds in such times of chaos?
A situation that’s out of control is one of the most common triggers for feelings of extreme anxiety. Our brains feel as though we are standing at the top of a bottomless pit and can’t see a way out of it. This virus is new, and many of our questions will remain unanswered. One way to handle uncertainty is to anticipate stress. If you prime yourself to expect things to be difficult, it makes it easier to cope with. Say out loud that you are about to encounter a difficult time. We simply do not know what will happen – and that is OK. If it makes you feel stressed or worried, recognise the feeling and perhaps note it down. Acknowledging the truth of the situation helps the brain accept it and move on.
We can better prepare ourselves for this situation by vowing that the more dreadful it turns, the more valiantly we will fight it together. Merely exaggerating the facts will only lead us to greater disaster. We all know how difficult it is to be caged in our homes, but we are helpless. At the same time, we have nothing to lose if we follow the advisories and instructions issued from time to time. By socially distancing ourselves for the time required, the virus can be defeated by us together.
Aside from panic, this new situation can trigger feelings of sadness and, in severe cases, depression. Maintaining our regular routines is essential for our self-confidence and purpose. Make a habit of daily exercising, as physical movement releases chemicals in the brain that are essential for improving the mood. Confining oneself to dark interiors without any personal space can worsen the mood. Also, do something collaboratively to reinforce the fact you are all in this together. There is no denying that the current situation is deeply concerning – but it is also a much-needed opportunity to catch up, have time to reconnect with families, friends, and build connections with neighbours. We know that we all are in it together. Either we defeat it together or taste defeat together.
—The writer is working as Senior Research Fellow at Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM) Jammu