How To Keep Yourself Sane During Coronavirus Pandemic
Rabia Khan talks about the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on mental health of children, women and men. She highlights the importance of maintaining a functional family and suggests the approach of honesty, compassion and bravery to be able to sift through these times.
More than a month has passed since the citizens of Pakistan were placed under a lockdown in the light of Covid-19, that has affected 190 countries worldwide. The coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, in November 2019, has spread globally, resulting in almost 3 million cases of the virus spread, of which 200,000 have ended in the death of the victim.
Pakistan itself has reported 12,000 cases as of April 25, and by the looks of it, this only appears to be the beginning. The government has extended the lockdown until May 9, according to recent news, though it is quite possible that it might be extended further past that date.
For this past month, the country has been affected in more ways than one. The quarantine has led to the shutting down of most businesses, shops and stores which has halted its economic output. The citizens have been urged to practice social distancing and isolation, paired with preventative measures such as washing hands repeatedly, wearing face masks and refraining from touching their faces all in order to combat the spread of the virus.
Combine this with the fact that places of work and educational facilities have been shut down for safety reasons means the average Pakistani family is now trapped in their homes with their families for long periods of time.
This is a new experience for most of these households and it is more than likely that many people living in such conditions have no clue how to handle their day to day lives and situations. Specially for those who have to work from home while juggling household responsibilities.
This is exacerbated by the fact that there is no clear end in sight for these people regarding the pandemic and no guarantee that their lives will even go back to normal after all of this ends.
If we look at the children, they very likely have no clue what is going on. They have no schools to go to, no permission to go outside as they usually do and have to make do with entertaining themselves inside their homes without any clear reason why.
Few lucky children, who have been told about the pandemic and its details, at least have some clarity regarding why their lifestyles have taken such a drastic change. Those who have not been told, these details are very likely to be terrified and confused. This will lead to them developing mental issues such as depression, anxiety disorders and PTSD by the time this entire pandemic has blown over.
Teenagers and young adults are in a different spot, they are old enough to comprehend their situation and why is it that they are under lockdown. However, they have their own set of problems to deal with, to start with: online studies and classes have proved ineffective, disruptive, tedious and difficult to sit through.
They are unable to interact with their friends outside of digital means which can be extremely frustrating as this is a necessity for young people. There have even been cases reported where young adults are ignoring social distancing measures and going out to rendezvous with their peers in secret, thus risking exposing themselves and in turn, their family members to Covid-19.
In a Pakistani context, it is the women who are usually responsible for taking care of the household and if these women are not mentally healthy then the remainder of the family will also fall into disarray.
Working women will now have the added challenges of working from home while maintaining their other responsibilities. Similarly, for housewives they now have more people to take care of and less free time as everyone is stuck at home. Also due to quarantine and health precautions maids are no longer employed to help with the house chores, which have added to the responsibilities of the women.
All these added responsibilities and challenges will no doubt be added to the stress and mental degradation of women throughout the country.
Men on the other hand, are also going through an unprecedented time, having recently lost their job or been laid off due to the lockdown, or working from home which is generally not the most productive environment.
Subsequently, feelings of inadequacy will follow, as men will be stressed about how to provide for their family in times where the international economy is collapsing. They are also more likely to let out their aggression on their family members by inflicting violence. The numbers that have been recorded for an increased rate in domestic violence prove that.
It is important for people to acknowledge that this is a difficult time and it is natural to feel stressed, anxious or grief stricken. Everyone reacts differently and feelings change over time as the situation passes.
Identifying the thoughts that trouble you and discussing them with a close friend, family member or mental health professional is much healthier than bottling up those feelings and leaving them to fester inside. Self-care is also very important during these times; having a proper routine, eating healthy food, taking time to exercise and bonding with family members, especially children.
Men need to start identifying what resources are vital to the livelihood of the family and only spend money on necessities.
Society expects women to keep the house running, no matter how much they have to sacrifice on self care and their own space. They need to recognize that their self is to be prioritised over the other family members too. If they are tired of the day, her mood will only cause further fatigue for the rest of the house. Women need to be allowed time to rest.
There are also families that have senior citizens at home and women tend to their needs as well. Care work is exhausting adn to be the only one burdened, makes it worse. In these cases, it is important for other members of the family to step up and assist in household chores and responsibilities so that there is an even distribution of workload and no one is overburdened.
As for those people who are already suffering from any forms of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, etc should stick to their medicinal routines, take care of themselves, stay away from the news (especially in the case of anxiety) and continue to take the support from mental health professionals, to prevent a breakdown.
Take this pandemic as an opportunity, not as a punishment. It is a time of self-reflection, bonding with our families and taking care of our body and mind.