Forecasting the mood

Forecasting the mood


Author: Palasha Parikh

While still indoors, lot of us have seen the mangoes doing rounds and expect the weather to be sunny and hot on most days, that’s how we know we have moved into summer. As slow for some and lightning fast for someone else, this year definitely has been extraordinary so far and we are almost midway in it now. Who would have predicted the current scenario a couple of months back?

Unfortunately, pandemics don’t have forecasters, just as weather does. Even if an erroneous reading, we would likely know if a disaster was coming. While, our dear Covid-19 has definitely chosen a surprise entry. No matter how hard we have tried avoiding this name on our phone calls and video sessions and are bored of reading it, how come we always end up talking about it. Its like saying “Don’t imagine a pink elephant”. Yet, you still did imagine it right?

Well, that’s not under our control because our mind needs to first process a “pink elephant’s image” to then perform an action of not imagining it. Also, let’s just say sometimes your mind doesn’t want to obey you. That’s completely fine. But, that’s the thing with Covid-19. It isn’t really going to leave our mind’s and our memories for a long time. What is important here is to accept that it is a current reality we are experiencing and that it has profoundly impacted part of our lives. We are also less likely, to simply forget and move on, once it is truly over.

The interesting thing about our surprise guest this year- with all the havoc, uncertainty and emergency action- is that it comes with a future itinerary and a small bit of time to interpret it.

This itinerary is basically the impact and consequences on economies, finances, health and every other industry and sector (not politics) that can be predicted. Predicting also means having grounds to prepare for what is to come. The bright side of a crisis is that it creates a surge for necessary changes and efforts to combat the after-effects of such emergencies, compelling us to rush to action.

This has been the silver lining in mental health sector. As many of us have now been pushed to face our thoughts and feelings quite directly, most have started to recognize the significance of their mental well-being. The attention has generated a positive wave of awareness and acceptance that mental fitness and physical fitness are not really separate and unrelated. Mental health is crucial to recovery of us as people, community and societies to socially and economically function again following a health emergency. We are likely to see a definite rise in certain mental health issues as a result of stress-response. According to a news report, psychiatrists predict surge in post-traumatic symptoms and acute stress reactions among people with no history of mental illness [1].

Although social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation, it can still significantly impact people, as social gatherings, meetings, physical connections are hampered and there is a sense of loneliness experienced by many. Also, with the long-lasting impact on economy and jobs, these factors can collectively contribute to psychological distress. As a consequence of all of which, we can expect an increase in anxiety, depressive symptoms and panic attacks, especially in adults. The uncertainty also gives rise to many stress reactions, most common are- stressful eating along with either drastic loss or gain in appetite, sleeping problems, high irritability, frequent anger outbursts. Many people report feeling constant boredom, lack of energy, reduced motivation and feeling tired too. Some of these like fluctuations in motivation and energy can continue even after things settle.

In specific groups of people like healthcare workers and essential service providers, who may be accustomed to a degree in working in stressful environments, may still experience exhaustion, burn-out, excessive worry, fear or even emotional numbness, to name a few. The elderly population, lot of whom might be living alone or farther from their children can have heightened feelings of loneliness, fear and anxiety. At such times, it definitely becomes difficult for persons with pre-existing psychological symptoms to manage their mental well-being and in fact may feel like their symptoms have amplified. There is a definite estimated increase in mental health problems for individuals who may have been bound to stay in abusive households and traumatic relationships.

At a time like this and upcoming future, almost all of us can benefit from practicing compassion towards others and ourselves. One way of doing this, is by being kind and extending some support to those around us and in our extended families. Younger children and even adolescents may face their own challenges. With a little patience and listening, we can help children and adolescents with difficulties they may be experiencing. With schools and colleges closed and complete change in schedules, feelings of fear, confusion and anxiety can be common. Children may even find it difficult to adjust to new routines and possibly in future, adapt back to old ones. Changes in sleep patterns, eating habits and general mood is expected. Especially with limited or decreased physical activity, this can have a longer impact on children. The sudden changes and a quarantine situation can leave them feeling bored, impatient, irritable, and even throwing occasional tantrums. (There are couple of ways to manage such behaviours and keep them engaged that you will find in relevant articles and resources on our website that we will keep striving to continuously update for you.)

It is hard to estimate the exact numbers and percentages to the rise in these mental health issues without credible surveys and evidence. But as a mental health professional, it is not difficult to predict the outcomes based on observations and reports we see. It may be useful here, to understand that everyone is going through the crisis and it is normal to have some or many of the experiences mentioned in this blog. Accepting one’s own emotions and thoughts is also an important way of showing compassion to ourselves. You can always reach out for help to mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors) if you feel the slightest need or if it might just benefit you in anyway and anytime.

As professionals, to be able to predict the potential problems, is the first step to be prepared in providing the best of services and platforms. Forming a professional support network can also be a useful resource is discussing and understanding the circumstances and effective strategies.

Ending with the note that, awareness can save a lot of stress that this Coronavirus aftermath may bring. If your mind can predict an image of what can come, it can be prepared and arm itself to deal with it, and maybe better with some professional help.

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