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  • Writer's pictureAnjana Rajbhandary

Breathe again

As we live through Covid days, self-care when anxiety strikes is important



As we crossed the threshold from 2020 to 2021, many had thought this year would be a better one— but we have to give it time. We continue to experience anxiety because the Covid-19 pandemic is still a chief cause of concern for millions.

We are living in overwhelming times and it can cause emotions such as frustration and irritability more easily than before. It is completely normal to feel anxiety at such times as we are learning to cope with stress, worry and fear of the unknown. We cannot help but wonder— what could go wrong next? Health measures such as social distancing, closing of establishments and wearing masks have made people feel isolated, lonely, and angry— all these emotions add to more stress and anxiety.

As we continue to address the coronavirus pandemic, it is time to pay attention to the one that grows at a parallel— the mental health pandemic. It is vital to learn healthy coping methods to take care of oneself, and as a sense of responsibility to the community we live in. Right now, the concerns are bigger than before. It is no longer just about us but about everyone around us. It is completely natural to experience feelings of worry and stress about one’s own health. It is valid to have fears regarding your financial situation or potential loss of employment due to businesses closing.

When you feel anxiety, it is normal to notice changes in your eating and sleeping patterns, having difficulty concentrating, and feeling of temptation to use more caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. When you experience such changes and urges, it is important to realise that your mental health needs attention.

Like most things in life, anxiety is not a one-size-fits-all. Different people experience different signs and symptoms of anxiety. People react differently to stressful situations, and the same coping mechanisms and treatments will not work for everyone.

There are many factors that affect the level of stress and anxiety you feel during a pandemic, such as your emotional and physical health, emotional support from family and friends, and your financial situation, among others.

Just because meditation worked for your cousin does not mean it will work for you the same way. You may have to try different methods, so you are able to find what works best for you. Till then, it is important for you to stay patient.

Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that it is completely normal to experience anxiety during a pandemic and that there are healthy ways available to tackle that anxiety. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself and others during the pandemic.

  • Take care of your family but also remember to take care of yourself.

  • Establish and focus on meaningful connections with people.

  • Continue to maintain social connections with family and friends despite social distancing via phone calls or video chats, as loneliness and isolation can deeply affect one’s mental wellbeing.

It is important to do your research and get your information from reliable sources. Do not believe everything you see and hear on social media, and only trust Covid-related information from certified medical professionals.

Make sure to have the following information easily available:

  • Know what to do if you think you might be sick or infected. Given your health and access to medical facilities, go see a medical provider to get a PCR test or self-quarantine as needed.

  • Know when and where you can get tested close to home, the average cost of tests and the amount of time taken to get the PCR results.

  • Take care of your emotional well-being by having someone to talk to and have someone who can bring you groceries and medicine if you were to self-quarantine.

  • Find out details about mental health professionals accessible to you, so that you have someone to talk to if needed.

  • Staying in alone can be daunting, so engage in activities such as reading or watching television. Try methods to keep your mind busy.

  • Maintain a healthy diet, stay active, try to get adequate sleep, and do not use caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and illegal drugs as they might make your anxiety worse.

It is possible to experience anxiety and panic attacks at any time, so remember to keep aside a set of helpful ideas that will help you in those moments. Here are some tips to help you in case of extreme anxiety or panic attacks:

  • Focus on your breath and practice the breathing exercise 4-7-8. This breathing exercise has shown to help decrease anxiety.

  • Practice yoga and meditation.

  • Practice mindfulness by learning to be aware of the present moment. (Mindfulness is paying attention to experiences occurring in your present moment)

  • Use lavender oil as it tends to have a calming effect.

  • Speak with a supportive loved one whom you can trust.

  • Have faith in yourself and if praying helps, pray.

  • If you feel you are a danger to self and worried for your life, speak with a psychologist, therapist or counsellor.

It is extremely important to take care of your mental health for your overall wellbeing because it has a strong influence on how we handle life’s stressors, react in emergencies, and relate to other people. It is okay if you need therapy or medication. Everyone has different needs. Remind yourself that some days you will feel more anxious than others and it is completely normal. It is important to realise that the feelings of anxiety are only a phase. When you feel extreme anxiety, you probably feel like your anxiety will never go away. But let me tell you this: it does, and it will. The truest (and the worst) thing anyone told me about anxiety is that it will go away, and it will take time and it will take work from your side.

So, be patient and compassionate with yourself. Your anxiety is not who you are but how you are feeling, and it is okay to feel that way as long as you try to help yourself. Treat yourself the way you would a loved one who is going through a hard time. Give yourself a chance, and never give up on yourself. Just remember that you are not alone in this.

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