The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is finally beginning to wane in India. Recent studies, including one conducted at Columbia University, find the global prevalence of depression and anxiety has almost doubled since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, three groups — women, young people, and persons of low socioeconomic status — may be especially vulnerable to Covid-related psychological trauma.

Under current circumstances, it is certainly understandable that some people experience stress and anxiety, characterized by feelings of nervousness, worry, or unease. People are concerned about becoming infected, the health and safety of loved ones, economic disruptions, instability in family routines, as well as uncertainty as to how India and the rest of the world will move forward over the next few years.

People may feel overwhelmed and unable to deal with day-to-day activities when stress and anxiety are persistent or extremely intense. Stress and anxiety can also weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to the coronavirus and all manner of physical illness.

Of course, there is no single uniform approach for dealing with the coronavirus. It is imperative, however, that everyone (especially those at higher risk) learn to mindfully manage stress and anxiety. Mental health is a collective responsibility and requires sustained efforts by individuals, families, and communities.

Providing guidance and counsel is one goal of the Jindal School of Psychology and Counselling (JSPC), the tenth school at the O.P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India.

In August, JSPC welcomes its inaugural batch of students, who will gain both knowledge and skills related to psychology’s disparate disciplines, including counselling and clinical psychology. The school is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of psychologists to assist those in need of psychological aid and to better prepare the country for future mental health crises.

JSPC will also promote educational activities in the local community, serve as a repository for psychological findings, translate research into real-world applications, and disseminate pertinent information to the Indian and global public.

To that end, JSPC recommends the following tips and suggestions to overcome the psychological toll of Covid-19 and improve one’s mental well-being. It is well established that the use of appropriate precautionary behaviour, including face masks and social distancing, can ease one’s anxiety, allowing individuals to feel more confident in their ability to effectively manage the virus.

Yet, sheltering at home and social distancing may have the opposite effect in some people, elevating anxiety. To help ease social anxiety it is critical to preserve existing relationships, even if relegated to the virtual or digital form.

Alterations in sleep, including insomnia, are common symptoms of anxiety. It is imperative, therefore, to maintain a normal sleep-wake cycle and attain proper rest each night. It is also vital to stay physically active and exercise. This can be difficult under lockdown, but maintaining a healthy body is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy mind.

Finally, excessive consumption of licit or illicit substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, or narcotics, should be avoided. Such substances may provide short-term stress relief, but they typically prolong and exacerbate anxiety in the long run.

Fortunately, a return to normalcy may finally be on the horizon after more than a year of living with the virus and all the societal changes made in its wake. While many people welcome a return to normalcy in terms of work, activities, and socializing, it can also be a source of concern or dread.

Post-quarantine anxiety may be reflected in returning to one’s workplace rather than working remotely from home or being in large crowds of people after such a prolonged period of limited social exposure. Indeed, the American Psychological Association found nearly half of all survey respondents (49 per cent) feel anxious about a return to person-to-person interactions once the pandemic ends.

JSPC endorses a proactive approach to self-care and mindfulness to heal and repair the damage caused by the current pandemic and to assist in our eventual reemergence. Not everyone will recover quickly. Depression, anxiety, or other types of mental anguish that persist for extended periods of time may require the help of mental health professionals. Nonetheless, it is hoped that the increased distribution of vaccines in coming months will lead to the resumption of occupational and social daily activities and a return to better, healthier times. –IANS

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