Doctor Blogs

Mental Health in the COVID Era
by: Dr. Jaya Sukul
Clinical Psychologist

‘What's the importance of having a choice?’ someone asked, ‘It allows me to decide what
makes me happy or sad’, I replied. Choice is essential for letting us have control over our
emotions, our decisions and ultimately our life. The 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic and the
subsequent governmental restrictions such as the lockdown encompassing the regulation of all
non essential activities took away the freedom of choice from individuals. Though the
restrictions were essential and completely justified yet lead to a great deal of unrest in the
population; the feelings of insecurity related to health and economic survival to a lack of
recreational activities affected the mood and the mental health of the population. The lockdown
stole that choice of movement and confined us, even though it was for our own benefit yet not
deemed to be fit to make the choice, gives a barrier to the human mind causing psychological
distress and eventual suppression of basic urges i.e. recreation or any such non essential
activity.
Stress is not necessarily a bad thing, it often motivates us to do the things which we need to get
done. Stress also isn't the only cause of mental health issues, our mental health is not just
related to stress or intelligence, multiple factors play a role in impacting our mental health!
Distress is the type of stress which is harmful for us, it incapacitates us to do things we need to
do, we want to do, and what we like to do. There are no rules to how much stress one should
take, the thumb rule to stress management is that any level is a bad level if it causes
impairment.
The COVID Era, unfortunately has imposed stress which is outside our control. The only thing
we are left to do, is to manage the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on our physical health,
mental health, emotional health and social health. The major impact has happened on our sleep
cycles, as we stayed locked indoors, binge watching through the night with limited physical
activities our bodies forgot the difference between day and night, there disorders are also know
as Circadian Rhythm disorders which impact our overall wellbeing including mood, body pains,
quality of sleep etc. Anxiety and Depression have been on a rise throughout the lockdown due
to lack of recreation, uncertainty and fear, we have observed that due to a rise in anxiety a lot of
people have also developed obsessive compulsive behaviour leading to over sanitisation and
hypervigilance further deteriorating their mental health.
The major brunt of the pandemic has been felt by the children, often we don't understand the
stress along with the stress relief going to school brings. Children are always hearing ‘ why are
you in stress and life is long, when you go up you’ll know what stress is’ but at their age what
they are experiencing cant be discounted because the worst is yet to come. The online modality
of classes has also given rise to clinical conditions such as ADHD and ADD as the brain gets
accustomed to the highly stimulating screen, and real life becomes boring. It is not easy to be in
an ‘online class’ with no breaks as this class offers no interpersonal contact and moments of
break that the ‘offline class’ offers. Its important to understand the value of recreation, physical
contact and safety of everyday life and be patient to get over these hard times. We have remain
motivated, patient, learn to listen and learn to express to handle the crisis in a more harmonious
way.