The Pandemic and our mental health; converting negativity into positivity
By Ama H. Vanniarachchy
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
– Japanese Proverb
It has been a year, since we first experienced a pandemic and a lockdown in our lifetimes. At first, we had no idea what it would be like. As we heard news about the pandemic, we were all curious to know what it was and how it will affect us. And finally, it did affect us. Big time! Our lives changed. Every aspect of our lives has been affected by the pandemic.
A year after, most of us are still struggling to cope with the pandemic and to keep ourselves safe and sound. Safe and sound may mean many things to many people. For some, safe and sound means physically, while for some it may mean, financially, or mentally. However, it is understood that one’s physical and financial health has a strong impact on one’s mental health. Hence the pandemic hitting strong on our financial situation, social life and our physical health, it has directly, hugely and negatively affected our mental health.
Although the pandemic happened to all of us, and changed our lives, the impact differs from person to person. This situation, which we are still experiencing, has shaped our lives; and will continue to shape our lives further.
Physical health and mental health
The pandemic infected many millions of human lives globally. Many succumbed to it. As such was and is the situation, people are living in fear and consciousness of being infected by the virus. Therefore, fear, tension and worries have become a great part of our lives due to the pandemic. Also as there are restrictions visiting doctors and hospitals, those who were infected or injured for other reasons, had to take care of themselves confined to their homes. Older and sick family members became the responsibility of others. Such situations caused pressure among family members.
There have been many reported incidents about domestic violence as women were forced to live in abusive households and the pressure on them was immense. In some examples the workload imposed on women and children was huge.
As many were confined to homes, it has caused mental pressure to some. Maybe a large number of people were confined to live inside a small house sharing limited access to clean water, food and other sanitary facilities.
Financial situation and mental health
As many have lost their jobs, and experienced great financial losses, it has caused severe mental pressure and depression. Many household industries were shut.
Being deprived from their income sources caused severe stress and even depression for many. Adding into this the social stigma around being unemployed have raised the mental pressure of many. Also, being unable to take care of family members and yourself have caused issues regarding one’s self-esteem and self-worth.
Social life and mental health
People are cut off from their usual social lifestyles. Schools, universities and higher education institutes were closed. Education was limited to online platforms, which led into further mental pressure among many. Those who have poor access to the internet and technology go through pressure in order to join these online education platforms. Being unable to catch up with usual lessons and examinations has caused tension among many students.
Humans being a social species and used to interacting with fellow humans find it hard and depressing to keep away from their social circles for a long period of time, especially if they are your dear and near ones.
Seeing light at the end of the tunnel…
It is true that the pandemic has impacted our mental health mostly negatively. Yet there are positive impacts too. Also, even if we do not like what’s going on, the situation is out of our control. Hence there is no point lamenting over the negative impact that has imposed on us; the best we can do is see the positive potentials and make the best out of it.
Being confined at home with family members, could be a great time to spend more time with families, and get to know each other and understand them better. If you are isolated or separated from your families, it is a great opportunity to pay attention to yourself; a journey towards within; a journey of self-realization and self-grooming. Also it was a good time for many to improve personal skills such as drawing, music and writing.
This is also a great time to think of our physical health, which most people have been taken for granted. It is a time to re-think about being clean and also to be considerate about others as you might be a carrier of the virus and a threat to others.
Many lost their sources of income. But one can always start and explore new paths. Starting up a new household industry or small time business related to farming or foods was successful for many during the pandemic times. Home gardening, home bakers, and home delivery services flourished during this time.
It is also a great opportunity to get involved in charity, to help the less fortunate. It is also a time to be thankful for whatever we have prepared for the worse, financially, physically and mentally. This also taught us that, no matter what materialized wealth we possess, our mental health and physical well being are the most important things in life and made us realize how little and humble things we actually need to lead a content lifestyle.
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear hardship today.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh