Trying to prevent the spread of Covid-19, has most of us working from home (WFH) and self-isolating. However, it is also important to consider the mental health consequences that could come with being quarantined for an indefinite period. After all, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
“Boredom and isolation will cause distress; people who are quarantined should be advised about what they can do to stave off boredom, and provided with practical advice on coping and stress management techniques,” a February 2020 paper published in The Lancet, a medical journal, stated. Vikram Beri, founder, BetterLYF says, “Depression adds anxiety and that can easily clutter our minds and impact our cognitive functioning. Irrational decisions affect self-care, irritability affects relationships, and anxiety impacts our physical health. All these combined can make this period difficult to deal with.” He adds, “For extroverts, social isolation and quarantines can drain their energy and impact emotional and mental well-being. In these times, emotional health needs to be given priority along with precautionary measures for physical health.”
Dealing with loneliness
Ankit Verma, 33, an advertising professional from Goregaon, Mumbai, considers himself an “extrovert”. He says, “I love going out and meeting friends. If this goes on for too long, I’ll lose my mind.” To deal with this, Ankit hosted a quarantine house party by going live on Instagram. “My friend and I were getting bored at our houses and thought why don’t we do a quarantine house party. I put up a story on Instagram to inform my friends about it, and at around 3.30pm, she and I went live and started dancing. Others joined in, and suggested songs, and danced in their own houses. I came up with the idea because I was missing my friends and the camaraderie,” Ankit says.
While this is one way of dealing with being quarantined, Chennai-based Nevin Thomas, who has been on self-quarantine for a week, says, “A lot of people think the process of being alone would be easier for me, an introvert. But it’s not. I miss my 5km walks, I miss that brief conversation with the guy at the tea shop, and the outdoors. There is this general perception that introverts would find this easier. But it’s hard for everyone.”
Nevin, who has finally got the chance to check out Tiktok has been drooling at how creatively people have been using the app. Taking some inspiration, he made a short video with the help of Photoshop. The 29-year-old used a popular gif from the TV show Narcos, featuring Pablo Escobar. Nevin cropped his head from a photo onto the ‘lonely Pablo meme’. For sound effects, he put Akon’s Lonely, as a background song for the video. “I am struggling with the whole isolation thing but the good thing is I feel like I am back to my elements,” he chuckles.
Keep calm and quarantine
Social distancing can affect mental health if it continues for a prolonged period, says Kavita Mungi, a Mumbai-based counsellor. She adds, “Mental strength differs from person to person and people who live alone without families can be affected adversely. They should keep interacting with family members, and keep communicating via social media with the outside world.”
Referring to incidents of coronavirus infected patients allegedly running away from quarantine, Geetanjali Saxena, another mental health professional from the city, says, “It’s the isolation which is making most people run away from hospitals as they are not able to face the reality of self-quarantine. People are afraid to be alone.”
Online therapy to the rescue
Two sisters who are trying to make an impact via an online platform, Mudita and Divya Chandra are urging people to reach out for help. “During this pandemic, we have been working with individuals and private groups over Whatsapp and encouraging online meetings over platforms like Zoom,” says Divya. Claiming to be a part of a lot of private groups, their numbers are varied from 60 to over 600 people, with age groups ranging from 25 to 35 years for men and 30 to 70 years for women. “Indians in particular are very community oriented and rely heavily on those around us for validation,” says Divya, and adds, “Thousands of studies show that stress contributes significantly to lowering your immune system. So, we have 16 sessions over a 3 day period which are all workshop style and not just people sharing their opinions. Mudita and I design each session to be a transformational experience and ask our experts to share two or three tangible tools so that the audience can take something home.”
Online counselling platform, BetterLYF boasts of having over 15 experts who hold a Master’s degree in psychology. Even here, the number of 20 to 45-year-olds swarming the site consist of the majority. “We saw a 30% increase in new clients in the past 10 days, which is similar to statistics from overseas. Also, there has been a 15% surge in existing clients returning or emailing our counsellor everyday with concerns around anxiety, uncertainty, and disruption in day to day life due to Covid-19,” says Beri.