Anxious? Stressed? Pregnant? Psychologist Answers Lockdown Woes

Chennai based psychologist Padmavati answers questions on anxiety and panic during this coronavirus pandemic

Updated
Coronavirus
7 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Producer:
Smitha TK

The coronavirus pandemic has locked everyone inside their homes and this has started a conversation about mental health. Many have complained about anxiety pangs and the uncertainty about when the lockdown will be lifted is adding to their woes. And then there is fake news that is fuelling panic.

The Quint reached out to people across various age groups to understand what were the issues they were dealing with. Several people complained of insomnia, frequent mood swings, obsession to clean and erratic food and sleep schedules.

Ms Padmavati, Director of SCARF (Schizophrenia Research Foundation), based in Chennai, has been in touch with resident associations across the city and said their helpline has been constantly buzzing with queries. She has answered all the questions, which are relatable for majority of the population in the country.

‘I am an introvert and I have become more so since this lockdown. I am hooked on to social media validation and now I am afraid to step out to the outside world. How can I overcome this addiction and the need for such validation?’

He or she need not worry about being an introvert. I am sure this (lockdown) has reinforced his characteristics. We must understand that this is a new normal. Social distancing is being observed physically but we are actually having more social interactions with all these social media platforms.

When the person is actually resuming their day to day lives, over a period of time, he or she will fall back on what they were once before.

‘I am very insecure. Now I don’t even know when this lockdown will end? I have a decent job, good house, my family is safe back home but I am constantly flustered wondering if I will lose everything. I read news everyday that heightens my anxiety.’

We are getting hours and hours of not so good news. We are only getting to know about the number of people who are affected, the number of people who are dying, so on and so forth.

There are good things also that have happened in the community. Maybe you can refrain from watching news too frequently. Maybe you should also choose an authentic channel and not really channel surf. It would be a good idea to screen the WhatsApp messages you are receiving and most importantly, not forward those messages.

Go on internet free time. Take a break every few half hour or an hour so that you are not forced to look into the phone for a WhatsApp message, getting on to Facebook and other sites and maybe you should not be spending too much time in front of the television.

The most important thing is to have a routine. Getting back as and when you like and going to bed at any time, maybe the breakfast, lunch, dinner times should be as though you go to work.

Even AR Rahman was talking about how even though he is working from home, when he is going to his work spot, he would go as though he would go to work.

‘How to deal with anxiety attacks when you are alone?’

For somebody living away from family, it is not just the individual being anxious. There could be a mother or father back home who is constantly asking ‘Are you safe?,’ ‘Are you well?’

So all this can reinforce the anxiety. Maybe ensure that whenever you are talking to your family back home, you should convey something positive like - ‘I got my vegetables today’ or ‘I spoke to a few friends today or ‘I completed so much work today.’ This will reinforce positivity and a feeling of accomplishment for both the individual and the family back home.

How can you handle claustrophobia during this lockdown?

The person actually experiences a lot of anxiety in a closed space. So yes, it is hard because you are not able to get out of the house but what you can do is to make an attempt to use some open spaces around. If you are living in an apartment complex, you might want to take a stroll around the apartment. Spend some time on the terrace. Physical exercise will definitely help. Especially pranayama will certainly help in reducing the symptoms of anxiety.

Talk about it more or they can call this number, there are psychologists available who will be able to help

For several pregnant couples out there, the anxiety pangs is not helping them stay calm. What can they do? A patient wrote about how his wife has a miscarriage because they were unable to do regular tests. Now the couple is blaming themselves for this and the woman is in depression. How can one handle this?

Depression post miscarriage is a very natural outcome of the event. They should probably go back to OB-GYN to understand why this happened ti ensure this doesn’t happen again. Certainly, I am sure this is not because of COVID-19 or because of the lockdown. The lockdown was just four weeks old and ante natal checkups happen once in a month.

Preventing exposure would be the thumb rule in any pregnant woman.

The guilt and consequent blaming of oneself, for any kind of negative adverse event that has happened in their lives, but reassure them that all is not lost.

How can people handle harassment and abuse during this time locked inside the same house with the abuser?

Domestic abuse is not uncommon in our country. When the man goes out for work, there are so many hours of freedom for this woman who faces harassment.

Especially in the lower economic category, when they are living in a small one room tenement, it is very hard for them to actually protect themselves. She must be encouraged to seek police protection and now we know how all over the country, the police are out on the streets.

Talk about it to neighbours, talk about till somebody responds. This is a good time when the mother and child can empower themselves. One other reason why people have been talking about this kind of abuse is because of the lack of availability of alcohol. That’s one reason why some men will have withdrawal symptoms. Of course, now they would have gotten over the withdrawal because that lasts for 8-10 days. So this is the right time for the woman to take action.

An economy policy analyst wrote that his job is to be updated about fallouts and dips in the market and realtime trends and this is very depressing. How can he make sure to not let his professional life get to him?

He should have a dedicated space in his house where he does his work and there are non work spaces at home. He has to strictly keep to work hours so that this doesn’t carry forward home.

The economic news is quite depressing and there are also days where it appears to be turning around. Maybe he could use this opportunity to, maybe even using social media, to talk to people about how to view things differently.

‘Earlier, I could walk down to the shop outside for a tea or a cigarette and now I am cooped up in my room. Even if I Netflix and chill, the laptop is a constant reminder that I am wasting time and not working. By night, I am tired but not able to sleep stressing about how I need to do the same the next day.’

Maybe he has to go off-gadget, off-internet for a while. Spend some time, maybe just walking around. Spend some time with yourself. Learn to become your own best friend.

There are a lot of homemakers - women - complaining about how they are working longer hours, constantly have to keep making tea and coffee and snacks for the family.

The extra work should only be in terms of sweeping, swabbing, cleaning if there was a maid (earlier) to come in to do it but other than that you got to keep to your time table. Make sure you stick to a certain routine.

‘I am a YouTube and social media influencer. I used to travel the world and fir the last few months, I have been built up my number of followers. But since the lockdown, I have an absolute creative block. Now I am afraid if I have just.lost this as a profession in my life.’

I will urge this person to live for the day. This does not mean your inherent abilities to create are going to be lost. Maybe he can learn how to cook. Again that requires creativity.

Making a collage of pictures that he has, I am sure he has a lot of still photographs (from his travels). He can look at some thematic collage with which he can use to communicate positive messages. It is not all lost. If I may even reiterate, it is never lost really. It is always there. You probably just need to repackage this.

One work of advice you would like to give all our frontline warriors - doctors, police, government officials, media professionals - because they too are human, and they are also going through a lot during this lockdown.

Healthcare workers never intended to give up their lives to save lives. They are people who have been pushed into this situation where we have to act in emergency. First thing I’d like to tell them all, is a big thank you. I know there are enough people out there saying thank you, but it is never enough.

To the police, even politicians, policy makers, colleagues in the field of healthcare services, if they do find that the stress is getting to them, they should talk to a mental health professional. They can be reassured that they will not be labelled. And if it is a professional person, then there are more chances of you being listened to and not judged.

To sound a little dramatic, re-energise them to get back into the forefront and attack more coronaviruses.

Your word of advice out there for everyone to stay at home, stay safe and stay happy?

Stop thinking negatively. Look at all that’s positive that’s happening. And when you search for it and find it, acknowledge it. And then maybe this whole period will become.less stressful for everyone

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