Post-lockdown

Life after Lockdown: Don’t Let Your Guard Down Just Yet

As countries begin easing out lockdown, we are entering a world of new normal. If you think your life is going to be just like it used to be before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, you are probably mistaken. The researchers are trying hard to develop a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine as quickly as possible. But meanwhile, we need to be extra careful and be mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared to manage life amid coronavirus scare. This definitely entails drastic changes in our daily routines and habits, and at the same it requires some constant and continued efforts on our part as well. Here are a few things that we have to keep in mind as we now enter the post-lockdown phase. But before that let’s first remind ourselves that the purpose of lockdown, among other things, was to raise public-awareness about how grave the COVID-19 situation is. Therefore, even after the lockdown gets over, we cannot let our guard down just yet because the virus is still around.

hand-disinfectionFrequent reminders: As the lockdown ends, we are going back to our jobs and businesses. So we are now bound to spend more time outside our house, working, commuting, etc. As the activities become regular and part of our daily routine, complacency may set in leading to carelessness in following the health guidelines in all seriousness. We may no longer wash our hands as frequently as before or may overlook wearing mask or observing personal distancing while talking to our co-worker. This could increase our chances of exposure to the virus. Therefore, what we need is constant reminders. Placing sticky notes on your computer at work-place for reminding you of staying safe by wearing face-mask, gloves, or using sanitizer, can be of great help in this regard. Make sure that these reminders are conspicuous enough to grab your attention.

The office-management should place such reminders at various places in the office, such as on every table of the office canteen, inside and outside common restroom, at the entry and at each employee’s desk. You can also set wallpaper on your phone and computer to remind you of following the preventive measures set by the health department.

Herd-Behavior: Once you go out to work after lockdown, you are at risk of falling prey to a behavioural pitfall called herd-behavior, which could be more dangerous if you are surrounded by people who are a bit easy-going. Herd behaviour is a phenomenon where an individual’s thoughts and behaviors get aligned to what majority of the group thinks or behaves. Being aware of this phenomenon will help you stick to your beliefs and actions and maintain healthy behavior. Challenging herd behavior will require recognition of the phenomenon and being ready to stand out.

A new normal: Post-lockdown, you are going to enter a world of new normal where you have to greet your colleagues and seniors at work-place from a distance and without a handshake; you have to stop touching your face to avoid infection; and you have to limit socializing with your family and friends. All of these are easier said than done because these are habits that we have acquired over a long period of time and making a change in them requires a constant effort. However, until there is any cure for corona, we have no other way but to accustom ourselves to this new normal. During this phase, we might also have to add an activity or two, to our daily routine, such as taking a second bath as we come back home from office, before joining our family members. Remember all this will take time to become part of our daily repertoire, so a few slip-ups are bound to happen, which could add embarrassment to the self or bring quick judgement from others. Don’t let it affect you and cause anxiety. Remember! a habit takes on an average two months to form. So don’t let a few goof-ups derail you or demoralize you.

Don’t get offended: We also need to be more accepting of our friends and relatives who turn down our offer of a quick meet-up in order to maintain social distance. Don’t criticize them for being overly cautious. Remember! when your friend or a family member chooses to maintain distance from you, it is not just for his or her own safety, rather it shows the concern for your safety as much. So, next time when your office colleague wishes to sit on a table at some distance from yours for lunch, don’t get offended; rather appreciate and respect his wish to maintain social distancing. Don’t let this temporary phase affect your permanent and long-term relationships with your colleagues, friends, and family members.

Beware of the Health-Belief Model of Perceived Susceptibility: You also need to be aware of the health-belief model that prevents people from following a healthy lifestyle or giving up a risky health behavior (smoking, drinking, etc) even though a competing evidence is present, as they believe that they somehow are not at risk or it cannot happen to them. The same goes for coronavirus situation too. Therefore, don’t let this belief set in that you probably will not get COVID-19. You will have to constantly challenge this belief and remind yourself of this belief model.

Follow the Health-Belief Model of Perceived Severity: There is another health-belief model of perceived severity which suggests that individuals who perceive a given health problem as serious are more likely to engage in behaviors that prevent health problems from taking place. Accordingly, if you keep considering coronavirus a serious health condition, you will probably engage in behaviors that prevent it from occurring.

Don’t panic, take responsibility instead: Now that the lockdown is gradually being lifted in various parts of the world, the responsibility of fighting this pandemic lies with you. At present, you are the controller of the behavioral choices you make and it is up to you whether you choose to follow the government advisories or not. This is the time to show your real self. Take this responsibility with full determination and don’t panic. Believe that you have every control over the situation as long as you follow the guidelines. Having a sense of control will prevent undue worry, stress, and anxiety. Remember! post-lockdown, the control lies with you.

mental healthDon’t neglect: As we fight this deadly pandemic, we might be neglecting some other health conditions that warrant our equal attention. Psychological impact of COVID 19 alone requires a great deal of attention and need to be addressed as soon as possible. Anxiety, panic attacks, depression, risk of self-harm, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are some of the common outcomes of any natural disaster, COVID-19 being no exception. Some of you might have postponed your regular visit to your physician at the cost of your physical well-being. Whatever may be the case, it is imperative that you seek professional help to deal with your psychological or physical issues in order to ensure that your mental and physical health doesn’t suffer amid this COVID -19 crisis.

Six Psychological Steps to Take in Corona

Source link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/get-out-your-mind/202004/six-psychological-steps-take-in-corona

Simple tools and techniques from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

stairsThe Corona pandemic is putting us all in front of new challenges. There are economic challenges, because entire businesses can no longer operate, putting millions of people out of work. And there are health challenges – not only due to Corona itself, but because the pandemic strains the resources of our healthcare system, leading to the illness and death of people who otherwise would have received proper treatment.

And as if this wasn’t enough, we also face mental health challenges. Because of Corona, going outside is no longer “just going outside”. Instead, every trip to the supermarket is now a calculated risk, where we try to avoid contact with other people as much as possible. Meanwhile, we also need to make sure we do not accidentally touch our own face. Leaving the house thus means having to be constantly alert.

We not only fear getting infected ourselves, but that our loved ones get infected, and that we end up losing someone close to us. In fact, it is very realistic that we will experience some form of loss due to Corona, and it is important that we prepare ourselves for loss. The constant stress paired with the uncertainty of the future creates a harmful context, where psychological ailments thrive. For this reason, now more than before, we need to be attentive to our mental health. In the following, I’ve compiled six psychological steps you can do to effectively deal with the challenge of Corona. Let’s begin.

Step #1 Connect With Feelings

When we are entangled in difficult emotions like fear, sadness, or even panic, life becomes hard. Every little step becomes a chore, and our entire focus then revolves around stopping “bad” feelings. Meanwhile, we also stop doing things that would actually help us (e.g. like proper eating and exercise), and put our lives on hold.

In the middle of this pandemic, it’s important to not let our emotions run the show. This does not mean pushing bad emotions away – this has never worked well in my experience – but allowing ourselves to feel emotions, without having to act on them. Do not attempt to force “good” feelings, but try staying with your emotions in an open and compassionate manner. Hold them, like you would hold a small, anxious child. Be kind. Listen to your body. Then see if they actually contain information you can use in the next steps. For example, fear or sadness might be a good way to support connecting with others or taking steps to protect their safety.

#2 Connect With Focus

When the future is uncertain (as it is right now – more than before), our minds like to run wild. We imagine the wildest scenarios of what will happen, and how the pandemic is going to affect us. For instance, many people worry about supermarkets closing, and thus resorted to panic-buying products in bulk, like toilet paper, wine, and even condoms (yes, really). Incidentally, many of those same people are now realizing that this didn’t happen and some are even trying to get their purchases refunded (condoms, anyone?).

When your mind runs wild about all the ways of how things can go wrong, slow down and plant your feet in the now. Literally! Stand up, take a breath, and then notice your feet and how they hold you. Now that you are “grounded,” focus your attention here it matters. This is not about pushing unhelpful thoughts away. The thoughts are here, and that is alright. But instead of letting them take over, let unhelpful mental chatter pass, and focus on what is there to be done, here and now. There are many additional techniques for this, and they are worth checking out.

#3 Connect With Others

Social distancing is no fun. Due to Corona, we can no longer see our friends and families in the same way that we used to, which creates a big challenge. We are social animals after all, and the importance of physical touch for our well-being has been well documented. For the time being, we need to give up (or at least limit) touching others.

However, just because we limit contact, does not mean we need to give up connection. The New Zealand Minister of Health, Dr. David Clark, made an important distinction in a public address, where he emphasized the need for physical distancing, not social distancing. We need to maintain physical distance, while staying connected socially. Through the internet and telephones, we can do this more easily than ever before. Call your loved ones, make time to attend to them, while maintaining six feet of distance.

#4 Connect With Presence

It is astounding how much the world has changed over the past weeks and months. Just two months ago, everything still seemed like it has always been. And you might even find yourself longing for the days when you could mindlessly scratch your nose, and carelessly shake hands. Naturally this is no longer possible. And it is unclear how long this last, and how much longer we will need to continue to adapt to Corona.

Right now it’s easy to wander off with your mind – to romanticize the past, or to paint grim pictures of the future. And when you caught yourself wandering like this, make sure to gently guide yourself back. You are needed right here and right now. Life is happening right in front of you, and the better you can attend to your life right now, the better off you – and everyone you come in contact with – will be. Ground yourself in the presence, and gently guide yourself back whenever your mind has wandered off.

#5 Connect With Values

The Corona situation has forced us all to restructure our days. The morning coffee at McDonalds? No longer possible. The daily commute to work? Not a good idea with public transportation. In short, a big chunk of our lives is out of order, and many of our habits that once filled us with pleasure and meaning are suddenly no longer an option.

This creates a problem. Many people can no longer do what is truly important to them, and for some, it is like taking their purpose, their lifeblood. In this stressful time, it is crucial that we reconnect with our goals and values, and with whatever lies closest to our hearts. Again, there are many techniques to do this, my favorite you can find here.

#6 Connect With Action

Many people have now more free time than ever before, because they are working less, and spend less time visiting their friends and family. Naturally, this opens a big window to finally do the things we always wanted to do, but never quite found the time for. And yet, most people do not tackle their goals.

Instead, they resort to just functioning, going through the motions, and continue putting things off. There is no strict schedule that they would need to stick to, and no colleague or friend to hold them accountable. And so a day in pyjamas on the couch it is.

I get it. It’s hard. And this is exactly why we need to create accountability by choice and start taking action. Move towards your goals in tiny, small steps – bit by bit. This is not just about achieving a specific outcome, but merely taking steps with purpose can do wonders for our sense of competence and self-efficacy. Corona is posing a challenge to us all, and we can come out stronger than ever if we are willing to show up as whole human beings, connected to our feelings and to others, focused on the now and the possibilities it contains for values-based action, and then moving forward in a way that reflects who and how we want to be.

 

Psychological War — DSM (Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Times have really changed during the last couple of months. Countries all over the world are battling a viral pandemic that is not only affecting the human body, but the mind as well. The virus is causing great damage to not only the elderly but young folks with no comorbidities. More hospitals in the U.S. and Italy are seeing younger people being admitted and even intubated! This virus is causing panic and skyrocketing anxiety levels; it has become a psychological war.

via Psychological War — DSM (Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Attacked By Pressure — DSM (Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Pressure is the feeling of discomfort, worry and even fear. Many of us feel pressure on a daily basis: bills to pay, relationships to live up to, jobs to hold onto, material to study up on, expectations to maintain, etc. Pressure is a natural feeling that accompanies our everyday lives: it’s part of motivation and drive but can also be associated with anxiety and panic.

via Attacked By Pressure — DSM (Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Self-Help Techniques to Manage Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common yet most debilitating mental health conditions that can range from worry to full-blown anxiety disorders. There would rarely be anyone who has never worried about anything in his or her life and therefore, occasional worry or fear is rather a part of normal life.  We often worry about the wellbeing of our loved ones or we may fear for our own safety too. Sometimes we worry about our financial situations or our work while at other times we are just concerned about our future. These occasional worries are not always bad; in fact, they are somewhat good for our survival. They help us prepare ourselves to deal with life’s challenges. However, worries can sometimes take acute form and become unbearable, excessive, irrational, or even uncontrollable and are accompanied with physical symptoms such as increased palpitation of heart, sweating, and trembling. If you too are experiencing these symptoms, you might be suffering from full blown anxiety disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) recognizes seven primary types of anxiety disorders: phobic disorders of the “specific” or of the “social” type, panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). GAD is the most common of these anxiety disorders and is characterized by chronic excessive worry about a number of events or activities. The subjective experience of excessive worry in GAD is accompanied by following symptoms:

  • Restlessness or feelings of being keyed up or on edge
  • a sense of being easily fatigued
  • difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • irritability
  • muscle tension
  • sleep disturbance

However, an individual who worries a lot does not necessarily suffer from anxiety disorders. Sometimes having an unhealthy lifestyle can make you feel anxious. Following are some self-help techniques that can help you keep anxiety in check and manage symptoms of anxiety, though these must not be considered a substitute for professional help or treatment:

Exercise/Running: Performing regular exercise and going for jogging or brisk walk has been scientifically proven to help allay anxiety symptoms. Exercise releases chemicals, i.e., endorphins in the brain that can counter symptoms of anxiety and improves mood. It also helps in lowering stress hormone cortisol that is secreted when we are anxious. Several studies have shown overall benefits of exercise on mind and body. Exercising for half an hour four times a week has been recommended for those suffering from anxiety.

Socialize: Meet people you trust and share your thoughts and feelings with them. Isolation and loneliness has been shown to increase the symptoms of anxiety. You can also talk to your trusted friends over phone and share your worries with them. Since anxiety is often based on irrational thoughts, talking to others can bring sense to our unwarranted thoughts. Suppressing and keeping your thoughts to yourself, on the other hand, can make them overwhelming and difficult to deal with. You can join some support group also, where other anxiety patients like you share their thoughts, feelings, progress, etc. Make socializing a part of your daily routine no matter how difficult it sometimes may feel.

Muscular relaxation technique: Try Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation technique.  Since individuals who experience anxiety symptoms tend to have high arousal, progressive muscle relaxation technique can help release physical tension.

Sleep: Lack of good sleep can aggravate the symptoms. So in order to keep your anxiety symptoms under check, get qualitative 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night.

Deep breathing: Breathing from your gut has been scientifically proven to lower the arousal level of body. Hence, deep breathing exercise can help calm your body and mind. Use deep breathing to relieve immediate symptoms of anxiety like hyperventilation or shortness of breath.

Stay in the present: Anxiety disorders are often future-based, which means, you tend to worry about the things that you feel are going to happen. So in such instances, try to focus on the present. Ask yourself about what is happening at the moment. Mindfulness can help you stay in the moment. Mindfulness is a technique where we are made aware of what is going on around us through our five senses. What do we see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. A regular practice in mindfulness can help you ease anxiety symptoms.

Train your mind: Anxiety is often based on thoughts; therefore, in order to deal with it, one has to work on one’s thoughts. Be accepting to the fact that you cannot actually control everything. Try to do your best instead of striving for perfection. Research studies provide evidence regarding link between perfectionism and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones and try to maintain positive attitude about life.

Challenge your thoughts: Most of the worries and fears in anxiety are irrational and without any base. Identify your apprehensions and challenge each and every single thought that comes to your mind.

Eating healthy: Avoid consuming alcohol and caffeine and focus on eating a well-balanced diet. Eating healthy food helps maintain healthy mind and body. Stay hydrated. It may seem like too simple a remedy but staying hydrated can go a long way in managing anxiety. Whenever you experience anxiety symptoms, drink water as it helps lower the arousal.

Use art as mode of expression: Art therapy has also been found to help relieve anxiety symptoms. Use dance or painting as a mode of giving outlet to your thoughts and feelings. It can also help you take your mind off your worries.

Professional help: If you feel that your anxiety symptoms are interfering with your daily functioning, don’t hesitate to take professional help from a psychiatrist or psychologists or other healthcare provider in your community. Professional treatment mostly includes medications for severe symptoms, along with cognitive behavioral therapy.

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