By: Dr. Ambrish Dharmadhikari
This pandemic has thrown at us unknown challenges. Have we ever thought that we would be working from the home for straight six months? Or our children will be taking a school online and for a lunch break will be with us? Or we won’t require a meeting room or for that matter an office to have the meetings?
Life has changed long with the pandemic. We have been working/studying from home and being able to do it with acceptable efficiency. The most intriguing part of it is the speed with which we went in this transition. In early March, we were hearing the whispers of the problem and suddenly by end of the month; we are in lockdown and working/studying from home. In this transition and the pandemic situation, we have taken many steps to make our lives better.
We started using an online platform for ordering food, essential goods or even shopping. We upgraded ourselves to high-speed broadband. We bought masks, sanitisers and other precautionary material. We created an office space in the house and juggled work/school and home. In this entire journey, many among us forgot to take care of our mind! We asked our government to open jogging park, we created a gym in our homes but we did minimal on a policy level or social level for our mental health.
In this difficult time, Mpower has observed a significant rise in the incidence of mental health issues, especially depression, anxiety, loneliness and frustration. Our data of Mpower 1on1 24*7 toll-free mental health helpline reports a high number of callers, especially in the young adult age group. We received calls for varied reasons from loneliness to anxiety to domestic violence to work-related frustration.
Fear has been a common thread to the majority of callers, fear of a contracting COVID, fear of a family member contracting COVID, fear of losing a job, fear of adjusting to work from home. Work/study from home brought a new set of problems. A recent observation is reporting a high burnout and anxiety due to work from the home.
A recent survey indicates around 29% of the total respondent reported a burnout due to work from the home. This is not only restricted to adults. Children attending school from the home have also suffered. They are losing their play and peer time; resulting in more behavioural issues at the home front and conflict with parents.
A significant number of people in the current date; want to go to an office to have privacy and me-time. Too much exposure to the family has also resulted in conflict and arguments. Handling the children 24hours/day has become overwhelming for the parents and causing distress. With the existing problem of COVID and economy; having to face a problem with mental health is devastating for us as a society.
Mental health is an of utmost importance for the people working/studying from the home. This is not only from a perspective of suffering from mental health issues but also from a perspective of productivity, learning and output. In addition to the burden of adjusting to a new normal; we have to be productive and give output in a new normal environment. To be able to do that, we need to take care of our mental health.
We need to actively engage ourselves to find time for self-care; we have to work on work-life balance; we have to work on effective communication about our needs and wants, we have to be considerate of our family member issues and vigilant on early warning signs.
7 ways to take care of your mental health
1. One of the common advice in therapy is not to bring work stress at home and vice versa. In the current situation, we are already working from the home. Hence, we need to create a compartment of home and work in our mind. We should switch off work; when engaging in household work and vice versa. Time is a key essence, able to restrict time division of work and family will help you to compartmentalize. It is advisable, if possible, to set up a work station in the house and use it for work only. This helps to make the transition of work to home possible.
2. Shift social life online. We have been waiting long at home for things to become normal and then enjoying a social life. Instead, we should find innovative ways to socialise; it can be coffee on zoom or online multiplayer games to chit chat on Facebook. We must find a way to connect with our lost social touch and feel good about having people in our life.
3. Exercise and eat healthy. Try to maintain a daily routine as much as possible and get back to a new normalcy.
4. Communicate with your partner/family/children. It is okay to feel overwhelmed or in need of a break. They are also feeling the same; sharing feelings with each other is a good way of ventilating our overwhelming emotions. Additionally, one can do a family activity to avoid excess screen time and increase the bond. Activities, like going through old photo albums and exploring memory lanes or playing board games or antakshari, will help to a great extent.
5. For children, making them understand what we are doing and why we are doing is important. Even to younger ones communicating about a current scenario like an adult is advised. Kids shouldn’t be given order or disciplined for their better sake but should be made part of discussion and education. Enabling them to understand point will ensure their cooperation.
6. Give each other at home some privacy to be with our own thoughts. Let them be alone and enjoy a peaceful time. Dividing responsibilities avoids fights and improves bond as well.
7. Last but not the least; be vigilant for early warning signs of mental health issues. Any family member complaining of emotional distress, stress, anxiety or depression, disturbance in sleep or appetite, sexual issues, behavioural issues among children; seek help immediately. There are many organisations like Mpower who are providing all services online to make sure you don’t have to get out of the home. They are just a click away.
The list is dynamic and varies from person to person, however, I tried to cover all generic points. Remember, this is time to take care of you and your family’s mental health. We need to be greater invested in mental health to ensure preventing any forthcoming mental health problems.
This column is part of a series on #mentalhealth for World Mental Health Day
Dr. Ambrish Dharmadhikari is Head at Mpower – The Foundation & Program Coordinator at The Mpower Hub. Dr. Dharmadhikari is a passionate Adult Psychiatrist and Researcher. He has over 7 years of experience and published 20 plus research articles. Among many accolades, he was awarded ‘Young Psychiatrist track award’ for year 2016 by World association of social psychiatry. He has worked extensively in community for underprivileged. Dr. Ambrish believes in providing affordable mental health care to each and every individual of society irrespective of their economic status.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
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