Mental Health and Wellness during Covid-19 Pandemic with Dr. Piya Banerjee

As the second wave of Covid-19 rages across the country, we are gripped with fear, anxiety, and a sense of helplessness. In such a situation, mental health issues are also taking a toll on many of us. If you are having issues that are beyond your control do consult a psychiatrist near you. You can also go for a psychiatrist online consultation nowadays. 

To find answers to some of the common mental health issues people are facing during the pandemic, we at DocGenie got in touch with Dr. Piya Banerjee – (a Certified RECBT Practitioner, AEI, New York, MA (Clin. Psy), P.G.D.P.C, founder and CEO of Grey Matters Wellness, and Consultant Psychologist at Medica Superspeciality Hospital)-Kolkata.

1. How do pandemics, in general, affect our mental health? 

Bereavement, isolation, loss of income, and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of stress, alcohol and substance use, insomnia, and anxiety. 

2. How can I monitor my mental health? 

Be mindful, self-aware, and observant of your thoughts and feelings. Keeping tabs on the frequency of your mood shifts, the quality of your sleep, your appetite, and your energy levels can help you monitor your mental health. 

3. What’s healthy in this situation and what’s not? 

Apart from the basic precautions and measures to protect you from Covid-19, what’s very important to keep in mind is to pay attention to self-care and acknowledge your negative feelings and thoughts. It is healthy to feel negative emotions during this time because it is only natural and realistic. One thing you can do to help yourself is to set realistic standards of wellbeing and achievement. This can include setting healthy boundaries within the household, allowing adequate space for your family members, and respecting their moments of vulnerability during this time. It also includes you taking care of your hygiene. Engaging in positive conversations with family members, eating adequately, and exercising are some other ways of handling the current situation. Expecting not to feel negative emotions and not feeling overwhelmed by them are unhealthy standards of self. 

4. How can I cope with the stress and anxieties I am experiencing because of the pandemic? 

Most importantly focus on acknowledging your thoughts and emotions. Put down your thoughts and measure the intensity of your emotions with the supervision of your therapist if possible. This will help you understand where your thoughts are coming from, allowing them to pass through without any action. It also helps you regulate yourself by channeling your energy in healthy and constructive ways by focusing on preventive measures and the areas in your control. It is advisable to seek help to work on your anxiety-provoking thoughts. 

5. I feel anxious about catching the virus or transmitting it to a loved one. What can I do? 

It is very natural and realistic for a person to have these thoughts. They are hard to suppress. The more one tries to distract oneself from such thoughts the more anxious one would likely feel. Hence one must allow space for such thoughts only to acknowledge them and allow the energy of that emotion to pass through without acting out on it. The idea is to prevent an avoidant approach to the anxiety-provoking thought which would eventually lead to lesser intensity of the fear behind it. Implementing proactive thought processes, focusing on healthy living, and practicing mindfulness are useful tools. These would likely add to the decrease in the discrepancy between one’s zone of control (or what one can control) and the zone of concern (areas that aren’t in one’s control) which therefore would make a significant difference in one’s intensity of fear. 

Also read: Looking after your Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic

6. How do I balance washing my hands enough and not becoming obsessive? 

Taking adequate safety measures like maintaining social distance would reduce the need to repeatedly wash your hands. Furthermore, realizing that washing hands isn’t the only preventive measure for Covid-19 would also give one insight into the futility of excessive hand washing. Individuals with an extreme obsession with handwashing should be advised to seek professional help. 

7. What if I am already living with an anxiety disorder? How can I cope best? 

For anxiety disorders that are diagnosed to be clinically significant, one must seek professional help. This will help the individual work towards coping strategies and therapeutic interventions to suit the individual’s emotional needs. 

8. How can I offer emotional support to friends, family, or coworkers who have been quarantined?

You should check in on them, allowing them space to vent out feelings and making them feel that they aren’t alone in this. More importantly, it is essential to redirect them towards the feeling of gratitude while making them aware of the positive circumstances in their life and supporting them in seeking professional help if required. 

9. How do I talk to my children about the virus without making them anxious? 

Before you decide to talk to your child, you must keep your anxiety in check and set the tone of the conversation. You should seem approachable and welcoming to your child’s concerns and questions regarding the issue without dismissing their fears. Assess what your child already knows about the virus and allow them the space to share information they receive. Making them feel heard without interference is essential before correcting wrong information if any. Focus on helping your child feel safe while being truthful and honest about the situation, making sure you speak to them calmly and reassuringly. Let them know that it’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed during this time.

Also read: Symptoms That Need Immediate Medical Care Even During COVID-19

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