Mental health in the pandemic: it’s no Rubik’s cube


(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Emna Makhlouf, a 23-year-old Tunisian and a fifth-year medical student, a poet and an arts lover. 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.

Ages ago, during the “Hectic-ozoic” era of our lives, when we used to practice drowning in oceans of deadlines as a worldwide hobby, how many times have we wished for a break ? Well, it seems the universe has given us just that. Or maybe just like in those hamburgers adds, it didn’t turn out the way it was meant to be.
The good news is first, you are not alone in this and second, unlike our hunter-gatherer ancestors’ fight for survival, ours doesn’t have to be that toilsome.

Here are a few tips to smoothen down the edges of the Rubik’s cube. You’re free to use one at a time or try combining the four of them in your day. Our mantra is : No pressure.

1.Embrace the gray zone:

If you’re at work though minus the commuting eternities, no longer know where you’re standing in space-time and what you can/want/supposed to do, congrats! You’re in the privileged gray square of the chessboard.
This is nothing new, though. All life has ever been, IS A GRAY ZONE and we are meant to learn juggling with its nuances along the way.
Consider this period to be a free trial and you will get back to the premium version sooner than you thought.

2. This is NOT a competition:

Read this as many times as you wish:  no pandemic ever came with a productivity-meter.
While it might be neuron-stimulating thus good for mental health, to catch up with your endless list of movies, enroll in online courses, visit museums virtually, it can easily become an overstrain when seen through a lens of comparison. Just remember you are not meant to step out of this with a thousand new skills. You’re just meant to step out of this. Full stop.

3.Hug yourself:

Which brings us to practicing self-parenting that just comes down to respecting your unique journey and appreciating your own efforts. Human contact is a scarce resource nowadays, but anything from setting a sleep time, to cutting down carbs, to committing to a daily 30-minutes’ physical activity is a hug to yourself.

  1. “We’re all in the same basket”: As the French saying goes. If you were an apple stuck in a basket with other apples, you might as well come together to keep doctors away. Because, first, it is comforting to know that you are not alone in this struggle and second, altruism is a self-multiplier.
    Strengthening the values of community and engaging in common efforts to ease the burden on everybody is, not only a clever survival strategy but also a mental health support. Volunteering, calling a friend, seeking help, practicing vulnerability as well as active listening, are all ways of exploring and celebrating our humanness in times of crisis.

I know. It is all easier said than done but this is just a bud of reflection. There are no deadlines, nor any boxes to check. It is a personal journey, make it yours.

About the author

Emna Makhlouf is a 23-year-old Tunisian and a fifth-year medical student, a poet and an arts lover. Writing and travelling are her biggest passions. They go hand in hand in quenching my thirst for exploring the diversity of the human nature. She is also an activist within civil society, mainly in the fields of human rights, peace and women’s rights. She would also like to engage more in the struggle against climate change,
especially from a feminist perspective. Pursuing psychiatry and above all, contributing in making the world a better place are her dearest ambitions.

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