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Coronavirus lockdown anxiety: Triggers & tips to help your mental health

May 18 2020
Lockdown anxiety 
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With India entering lockdown 4.0, it is natural to feel all the more helpless for being stuck at home. You could be a working professional learning to adapt to work from home, a parent trying to help your kid deal with the stress due to e-learning and lack of outdoor play, someone trying to keep the elderly at home feel positive about the current situation or someone feeling very lonely because you are stuck alone, away from your home. It is very likely for you to experience a whole gamut of emotions like fear, anxiety, boredom, anger, despair, and anything but calmness during these dire times. So, we consulted Ms Priyanka M, a clinical psychologist to help identify the common triggers of anxiety, stress and depression during the lockdown and to guide us with tips for keeping mental health in a good shape.

Common triggers of lockdown anxiety:

According to Ms Priyanka M, the following could be leading you to feel anxious, stressed and depressed during coronavirus lockdown:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Disturbed sleep cycle
  • Poor appetite
  • Skipping meals or binge eating
  • Overthinking and worry
  • Constant exposure to negative news
  • Conflicts with loved ones
  • Loneliness
  • Low productivity
  • Lack of routine and discipline

While it is good to keep yourself updated, you also need to reduce your consumption of negative news amid the coronavirus outbreak. As per Ms Priyanka M, “News today is filled with negative content, and as humans, we are inclined to a negative bias perspective. Innately, we remember and respond to threat more than hope and positivity. This eventually triggers the negative experiences we have had in our life and therefore makes it challenging to contain our emotions during the lockdown.”

She also adds, "You must instead engage in activities that relax your both body and mind. You can spend 45 minutes every day watching positive content like comedy shows, inspirational and motivational talks or nature related shows."

On being asked if it’s okay to feel unproductive during a pandemic, she states, “Our mind and body are not prepared to sustain in stress and anxiety for a longer duration of time, and being productive during a pandemic has not been anyone’s goal. However, engaging in pleasant activities is highly recommended, to be able to break the monotony, helplessness and lack of control, usually experienced when quarantined.”

She suggests the following activities to stay positive:

  • Pleasant activities: Gardening, cooking, baking, knitting
  • Watching TV series: Nature and mythological based
  • Hobbies: Dance, music, art and poetry
  • Regular exercise: Breathing techniques and stretching exercise that involve muscle activity

Also read: 30 ways to stay fit during the coronavirus lockdown

Further, she shares various tips for the elderly, kids, and those who are stuck alone to keep calm during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Things to do at home during the lockdown 
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Helping the elderly deal with stress and anxiety

  • Help them to set a timetable for things to do during the lockdown. It could include activities that are interesting and engaging like knitting, cooking, teaching kids at home, telling stories to kids, etc.
  • Keep them informed. Reassure them with positive affirmations like, ‘It will pass, it will get better.’
  • Set aside time on a daily basis to communicate with them. Ask them about their life experiences, share some of yours and learn from them. Use this time to bond with them.
  • Allocate time for them to be able to talk to their loved ones, friends, or family.
  • Ensure there is adequate physical activity and that they get enough rest.

Coping techniques for kids during the lockdown

Kids can end up spending a lot of time online, either trying to adapt to e-learning or while playing games during the lockdown. As a result, their screen time can go up. According to Ms Priyanka M, “A screen time of 7 to 8 hours can be considered excessive for kids, while 2 to 3 hours per day is adequate." She adds, "Research has proved how excessive time spent online can trigger stress and anxiety as it comes at the cost of social interaction. Lack of social interaction can limit learning, leaving the child’s brain with no new information or stimulation. This can translate into stress, anxiety, decreased concentration, hyperactivity, restlessness, anger outburst, tantrums, or other mental health conditions.”

She recommends the following to parents for helping their kids deal with stress and anxiety:

  • Regulate screen time by creating a balance between study time and playtime
  • Keep the electronic device away from the body
  • Lower the volume
  • Use child locks
  • Ensure they are sitting in the right posture without slouching or bending while watching movies or videos
  • Keep their bed gadget-free
  • Hold the electronic device at eye level and 20 to 40 inches away

These guidelines could serve as behaviour control techniques to keep you and your kids conflict-free when it comes to the usage of electronic devices.

Tips for those stuck alone during the lockdown

If you are staying alone and away from your home, isolation can be very challenging for you. You lack your main support system during these crucial times, your family.

So, clinical psychologist, Ms Priyanka M, provides a few tips for you to have a sound mind:

  • Always keep yourself connected to your family.
  • Reconnect with extended family members and friends.
  • Engage in activities that are pleasant and elevate your mood.
  • Do things that will keep you happy and help you feel safe.
  • Develop hobbies like reading, drawing, painting and cooking.
  • Do things that you always wanted to do but could not find time for.
  • Seek professional support from a mental health practitioner.

You can also call the government’s toll-free helpline number – 08046110007 to address your mental health concerns. A host of other helplines have been launched owing to the growing cases of mental health issues in India during the lockdown.

Coping with post lockdown anxiety:

For those worrying about life going back to normal after lockdown, Ms Priyanka M guides, “The normal way of life could be referred to as a flow, a way of keeping things moving, which may be challenging but is doable. Since the lockdown, most of us had to move away from the current flow and adapt to a novel flow. It took time, but we did adapt to it. This proves that humans have a greater power of resilience. Thus, even in the post lockdown phase, we will all engage in resuming our flow.”

While summing up, she shares some extra tips to beat this type of anxiety. They include positive self-talk, healthy diet, breathing exercises, journal writing, dancing, listening to music and developing a routine.

Isolation, agreed can be stressful and emotionally exhausting, but you must stay calm during it. Keeping your mental and physical health in good shape is as vital as wearing a face mask, disinfecting your home and sanitising your hands in your fight against COVID-19. Also, one last thing, yet, equally essential is to secure you and your family with health insurance policy. It will keep you prepared for any unforeseen medical expenses that can come up during the coronavirus outbreak, including those due to hospitalisation for COVID-19.

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