Pandemic: another look at the self

depressed bed

(Yuris Alhumaydy, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Bárbara de Oliveira Arantes, currently in the 3rd year of Medicine at the Pontifical
Catholic University of Goiás (PUC-GO). She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

An Indian fable tells that, once, the spirit of a sleeping man, without knowing that he wandered through paradise, lay under the wish tree to rest. When he woke up, hungry and thirsty, he wished for food and drinks, requests that were met immediately. However, the man soon began to suspect that something strange was happening and asked in fear if he was dreaming or if it was a trick of some ghost. Taking his words as order, the tree made what was in that man’s mind a reality and then ghosts appeared. Already terrified, the man deduced that those ghosts would kill him, and so it happened.

This story, although simple, brings us an important teaching: we attract what we desire and through words said or thought we shape our conscience and our will.

Now, in times of pandemic and social detachment, more than ever, we have met with ourselves. Since the beginning of the quarantine, people who can stay at home, are spending most of their daily time inside their houses, alone or with family members, with less chores and more questions to think about and rethink. This fact corroborates for us to get in touch with our “I” and internal issues more deeply and, due to circumstances, negative thoughts and feelings tend to arise.

This increase in idleness is an anxiogenic factor and a trigger for mood disorders such as depression, as well as anxiety disorders, including OCD. This is all compounded by the unexpected situation, the lack of certainty about the future, the hundreds of people dying daily around the world, the fear of being infected or that a loved one will be infected with coronavirus, the public health system without structure to meet the demand of cases and laboratory tests, ICU beds and PPE insufficient.

Thus, the question of how we can take care of our mental health in this adverse moment comes up. It is essential to share experiences, express our feelings and anxieties, whether with family or friends, but preferably with a trained professional, a psychologist and/or a psychiatrist. After all, we are all in the same boat and unity is strength. It is also important, during this period, to organize an agenda with household chores, with home office and with a few hours of study per week.

In this agenda, we must not forget to dedicate part of our day to self-care. Reading a book, watching a movie, meditating, stretching, practicing physical activity, taking care of the skin and hair are activities that can be considered. It is necessary to understand that not every day will be productive, even with more free time, but rather that the sum of the actions and efforts of each one comes to minimize our suffering and so that we can use the wish tree to our advantage.

About the author

Bárbara de Oliveira Arantes is currently in the 3rd year of Medicine at the Pontifical
Catholic University of Goiás (PUC-GO). She’s a member of the International
Federation of Medical Students Associations of Brazil (IFMSA Brasil), and acts as a
local coordinator. Bárbara is also the administrative director of the Academic League of
Neuropsychiatry (LANEP) and is very fond of debating on the subject of mental health.
Thus, she thought it was validated to write this article due to the great negative impact
that the current pandemic by SARS-Cov-2 has on the mental well-being of people all
over the world.

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