Finding calm in the COVID-19 chaos 

covid stress

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Unaiza Naeem,  a 19 years old first-year medical student at Dow Medical College, Karachi,
Pakistan. 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.

It is 2:00 am, and you lurch in your bed for the umpteenth time. You fret over the monotony of your life, isolation has turned you into a recluse, and you are irked by being withdrawn to your home all the time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to subsyndromal mental health problems. Hinderances faced in quarantining, especially by families from the low socio-economic backgrounds, manifest as anguish and grief. Adolescents and old people have been identified as vulnerable groups that have shown risky behavior, including suicidal tendencies. Burnout among frontline workers and massive unemployment due to the economic recession has caused depressive episodes. The widespread fear of the virus that has intensified symptoms of those with pre-psychiatric disorders and many are facing appetite disturbances and insomnia.

Medical misinformation and exaggerated news are rampant, and this is causing panic. To combat this dysmorphic mental state, each of us needs to be conscious and selective of the content we consume online. To distance oneself from this emotional climate of chaos, seeking help from community forums on the internet can be a primary step. Safe counselling services can be availed via electronic devices and online therapy sites such as “Betterhelp” are also outlets for emotional first aid. Excessive binge watching is also toxic and one must indulge in reading motivational material which can have therapeutic effects. Time saved by avoiding social media can be spent in solitude, which can help rationalize the situation and build mental strength. Meditation can help cope too. Spending only ten minutes of a day in a meditative exercise such as yoga can instill impulse control.

Family interaction is also proven to be curative. Engaging in activities such as gardening, cooking, watching a movie together or playing board games while helps in psychological recovery, it also paves way for an honest conversation which allows to share discomfort, find common ground and an atmosphere of love prevails among the family members.

Wearing a facade of positivity while maintaining a strict schedule can be nerve-wracking, a feasible normal routine must be followed that does not aim to maximize productivity, rather sets realistic goals. It is not necessary to emerge from this pandemic with a lofty accomplishment or having learnt a new skill. Meanwhile, decluttering a space in home, listening to podcasts, reaching out to a friend or simply solving a puzzle are some subtle pursuits to keep sanity intact.

To adopt a positive approach, we must validate our negative feelings and then seek to untangle the turmoil. A technique that can be used is journaling our raw emotions. Writing down one’s thoughts helps get them out of your mind, helps track day to day symptoms and gives you better control of yourself. The best intervention we can have in this crunch time are self-help strategies, prioritizing ourselves and then seeking to heal others while reaffirming our faith that this adversity will soon end are viable ways of lessening the burden of mental health problems incurred in this COVID-19 mayhem.


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About the author

Unaiza Naeem is 19 years old first-year medical student at Dow Medical College, Karachi,
Pakistan. She has been associated with science and creative writing clubs at school and
college and has been actively engaged in volunteer work at medical school. She has recently ventured into science journalism and taken keen interest in neuroscience and have been involved in reading and writing research articles related to this subject. She hopes to pursue a career in medical research.

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