While a few find solace in music and Yoga, for many others maintaining a healthy mind is proving to be a tough task.
For 24-year-old Karthik Sreenivas (name changed) from Vellore who is pursuing a Masters in Health Science in Translational Research at The University of Toronto, the compulsion to remain in isolation after Canada announced a complete lockdown on March 13, has taken a mental toll. “Being an introvert, I love my day trips. It keeps me mentally fit,” he says. By being all by himself in a foreign country with no friends as roommates, Karthik says this isolation is adding to his mood swings. With a mild history of depression, Karthik says he makes a point to meet and talk to people to better his mental health. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this for months and it’s leaving me tense,” he adds.
Fake news and WhatsApp forwards are adding to the panic, stress and anxiety. While the WHO advises seeking information only at intervals, fake news is creating a whirlpool of stress. “The anxiety I have lately been feeling is unexplainable. Quarantined at home, my parents are pained to see me going through this. I don’t go near my parents as they are diabetic and I don’t want to be an agent,” says Sairam (25) (name changed), an IT professional in Bengaluru, who travelled back from London on March 18.
“Social media, which should create awareness is creating panic with misinformation. My parents after seeing messages forwarded by relatives become even more stressed and worried about me. This adds to my stress,” he says. “Now I am keeping off WhatsApp forwards and has switched to music and Yoga,” he adds. Robert Fernandes (name changed), pursuing Masters at Loyola College, was nearing the completion of his course when the lockdown was imposed, delaying the future of his career indefinitely.
Coming from a family involved in the leather business, with customers in Italy and Canada and suppliers in China, the lockdown has hit them hard. “I have had negative thoughts and a sense of nothingness sitting idle at home for two years before joining Loyola. It seems I’m back to it,” says Robert, his voice hovering.
Though he did not take the lockdown seriously and had even planned a trip after his college shut down, the seriousness sank a couple of days before the Janata Curfew, as disturbing voice notes were forwarded to him. One such voice note was a conversation between a duo, spreading rumours on COVID19, India’s lack of preparedness and how it is going to take the lives of many. Though able to realise the news is fake, the sudden panic that gripped him made him draw an invisible wall between himself and the outside world. “I am an extrovert who loves outing with friends. This isolation has turned me claustrophobic, though I’m at home and known surroundings,” says Robert.
Institute of Mental Health Director Dr Poorna Chandrika says those on prescribed drugs should continue to do so at the time of isolation. Also, getting to stay indoors, family members should be supportive of each other and engage in group activities and conversations.
“While those undertaking counselling can still connect with psychiatrists over the phone, it is advisable to keep oneself engaged and avoid overexposure to media to avoid panic attacks and anxiety,” she says.
While all this is just temporary, Chandrika concludes that the real challenge comes once the pandemic subsides and the period of self-isolation ends. “While resuming schedules from the laidback, quarantine lifestyle, we need to keep up our resilience to once again start from the beginning,” she adds