The second wave of COVID-19 Pandemic we are facing seems to be far more exhausting than when it was all new, and we were fighting a demon we didn’t know. It seems to be having a greater impact on a larger number of people than ever before.

Experiencing any illness can negatively impact your mental health (how you think, feel and function at a point in time) as well. However, being diagnosed with COVID additionally comes with its own stress during lockdown, especially when we see the grim situation that the pandemic has brought on all around us.

Here are some suggestions of how you can take care of your mental health during the lockdown, if you have been diagnosed as COVID positive or if you are caring for a loved one with the diagnosis:

Getting started on the road to recovery:
It can be tough to accept it; many people report feeling more worried about the idea that they have contracted COVID-19, rather than actually experiencing the intensity of the symptoms.

If you are having symptoms or have tested positive for COVID, immediately seek the guidance of a trusted medical professional. This gives a feeling of relief that you are being taken care of.

This is not the time to Google-search your symptoms and treatment modalities. This is also not the time to read the inaccurate, source-less WhatsApp forwards and videos on “what COVID-19 can do to your body in the long term”. It is the time to follow your doctor’s instructions and treat your body with the unique individual attention it deserves. Pay attention to the information you have and what is within your control.

Listening to your body
We cannot take care of our mental health during lockdown, without taking care of our physical health right now. Apart from following your doctor’s instructions, also make sure to ask yourself “What does my body need to heal right now? Is it food? Rest/Sleep? Hydration?” You have lived in your body all these years and you are the ‘expert’ on it. Listening to these cues that your body is giving you is crucial, alongside following your doctor’s instructions.

Engaging your support system: A “dance”
As someone rightly stated, this is the time for ‘physical’ distancing and not ‘social’ distancing. When you are going through a tough time, it is extremely essential to be in touch with your network of people family, friends and loved ones. You need to feel emotionally supported and not sink into loneliness in this period of quarantine. Texting or scheduling a video/audio call with different loved ones at different times of the day is a great way to help with that.

However, think of it as a dance try to balance between feeling connected but also step away sometimes. It can be exhausting to explain your condition all the time, and repeating conversations of how you are feeling. Make sure to talk about other things in those conversations so that you don’t deplete yourself with “COVID talk”.

Knowing that your body will heal at it’s own pace
By now you may know people who may have contracted the virus before. They may also be eager to help you/support you by sharing about their experience. However, with this virus, no two experiences will be the exact same. So it is extremely important to not compare your recovery to that of others.

For instance, when I was diagnosed, I was “told” what to expect by many well-wishers who had recovered. However, when my fever continued for more than 14 days it was easy for me to worry about it as no other person I knew had experienced that. Remember, your point of reference is only your doctor’s consultation, no one else. This will greatly help in recovery, just like it did for me when the fever disappeared after 18 days.

Dealing with the worry/guilt of infecting your loved ones
When we realise we’re infected, many of us may deal with the guilt or worry of either potentially infecting or already having infected a loved one. This worry can be rather damaging to recovery and the mental state required for it.

As hard as it may be, it’s important at this time to remember that you would never consciously bring any harm to your loved ones. If a situation were to arise, you would take all the required measures to ensure their safety. The way forward is to focus your energies on helping yourself heal and sharing that care and connection with your loved ones.

Spending time during recovery
Most of your time after getting diagnosed should ideally be spent in rest for recovery. The other waking hours can be spent in activities that rejuvenate and help you feel calm and relaxed. Screen time on your phone, going through social media or watching movies on Netflix can be part of that time. However, it is extremely crucial to do so minimally as excess can suck the energy out of you. Recommended are activities such as listening to music, podcasts on topics that you like, reading or engaging in some form of creativity.

Most importantly: Dealing with the frightening realities of the situation
What makes this time hard is not just your own illness but also dealing with the illness all around, the stress during this lockdown is unimaginable. You may be hearing of people (loved ones, acquaintances or just people you have heard of) and their struggle with the illness, hospitalisation and the distressing stories of help being delayed. You may be hearing about loss. The truth is bare, it’s extremely hard. So, it can be an extremely difficult process to grasp these realities and grieve those losses as you endure your own sickness. It may even make you feel more helpless/hopeless about your own situation.

At this time make sure you are talking about what these situations are making you think of, with your loved one, someone who ‘listens’. Share those thoughts of worry with them, so you can share the burden. It will not change the reality but it will definitely stop you from generalising other situations to your own and help you deal with the loss, grief and helplessness. This could also lead to other complex feelings that may even be hard to name, many of which may tend to pull you down further. Give yourself time, show yourself some kindness as you slowly navigate out of this.

Lastly, do consider spending 10 minutes every day in self-reflection to notice what actions taken by you helped you during the day, versus what added to your worries and consciously try to eliminate the latter.

If it gets harder to cope, do reach out to a mental health professional or helplines that are available in the region, the psychological effects of the lockdown and the pandemic can be overwhelming. We all need a little help and reaching out in times of need is essential. We are all in this together and we will ride out this storm together as well.