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Corona-isation of people’s lives leads to undue anxiety, distress



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By Aashish Mishra

Kathmandu, May 30: The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown imposed to curb its spread has put many people under psychological duress, according to a recent survey conducted by Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) Nepal. The survey showed that nearly 50 per cent of people suffered from problems like restlessness, fear, anxiety and sadness since the lockdown began.
This alludes to an increase in mental distress among the public and something that needs to be countered by a strict adherence to daily routine, according to Dr Kamal Gautam, psychiatrist and executive manager of TPO Nepal. “Even during the lockdown, people should follow their daily schedule,” he said, “This prevents the mind from wandering and also gives people a purpose and keeps them distracted.”
To this, Kaski-based psychologist Kusum Baral added, “People should also go for morning walks around their premises or in their community because such walks relax the brain and calm people down.” Ranjeet Giri, 47, said morning walks helped him stop thinking too much.
“Thoughts about my finances, about my family and worst-case scenarios regarding the possible community transmission of the virus, inadvertently enter my mind and make me anxious. So, having some sort of a distraction mechanism will do me good,” he said.
However, over-thinking is the symptom and not the cause. The real factor driving him to over-think is the news. “I turn on the TV and see COVID-19 infections rising day-by-day. It also doesn’t look like the lockdown is going to end anytime soon and that worries me,” he said.
Nandita Karmacharya, 42, also shared Giri’s sentiments and said that the news often reduced her to tears. She said, “Every time I hear news about new infections or deaths, tears start pouring out of my eyes. I start thinking of my own family and I get extremely sad.”
Dr Basudev Karki, senior consultant psychiatrist at the Mental Hospital, Lagankhel, opined that the omnipresence of COVID-19 information might be adding to people’s anxiety and angst. He said, “Everywhere people turn to, they encounter one or another news about coronavirus which can make them anxious.” He added, “The information people get and the sources they get it from should be managed and it should be delivered very perceptively. People’s daily lives should not be ‘corona-ised’.” The extraordinary present situation has already put people in a heightened state of worry and unmanaged outpour of information can overwhelm them, Dr Karki said.
Karmacharya’s experience also supports this view. “I turn the TV on and it shows about corona; I go online and my newsfeed is full of corona. Even when I make a call, I have to sit through a long message about corona and it scares me, like I have no escape from the disease.”
In this case, the best solution is to limit one’s news intake, as recommended by Dr Gautam. “People should decrease their news consumption to once or twice a day and only use few news sources that are very credible and reliable to prevent exposure to frightening and panic-causing misinformation,” he said.
But, as Karmacharya said, talk about COVID-19 is everywhere and even if someone completely shuts out news from their life, they would still be exposed to corona-related information through their friends, family, on social media and a variety of other sources. So how can one keep their mind at peace? All three experts suggested the same answer – meditation.
“Meditation, along with Yoga, helps calm the mind and lets the body relax,” said Gautam. Baral said that proper sanitation would also uplift one’s spirits, “Having a clean environment is also refreshing.” Karki said that talking to family members would also be an ideal remedy, “Most of us are quarantined with our near and dear ones. So, we can share our troubles with them to lighten our emotional burdens.”
In case professional help is needed, one can dial the toll-free number 16600102005 from 8 AM to 6 PM every day, operated by TPO Nepal, to access free consultation services.