Mentioning that the outbreak of coronavirus as well as subsequent restrictive measures taken to prevent its spread are causing immense mental stress among people, experts said this will have a negative impact on their mental health if the issue cannot be dealt with properly.
They said the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted people’s everyday routines as well as their social life. They are now staying home and refraining from their daily routines, works and social activities, which certainly puts stress on their minds.
But the magnitude of mental stress varies depending on the mental strength of individuals, said the experts putting forward some suggestions to overcome the mental stress in this crisis period.
In a desperate attempt to curb the coronavirus in the country, the government declared a 10-day general holiday from March 26 until April 4.
Besides, bus, train, launch and air services were suspended and markets and shopping malls were shut down apart from the closure of all educational institutions with a message to all: Stay Home.
Talking to UNB, noted psychiatrist Dr Mehtab Khanam, Dr Md Kamal Uddin, Psychology Professor at Dhaka University (DU), and Kamal Chowdhury, Associate Professor of DU Clinical Psychology, shed light on the issue and placed their suggestions to reduce the mental stress.
Dr Mehtab Khanam said people are now in panic by and large which is causing stress and worry among them, and making a negative impact on their mental health severely.
“People’s immune system will be affected as much as the mental stress is generated,” she said. “We’ve almost no social life as we’ve become self-centered. But this virus aggravated the social distance further, which constantly keeps stress on the minds,” said the noted psychiatrist.
To reduce the metal stress, Dr Mehtab Khanam advised people to do several things for self-care at home such as physical exercise to reenergise them amid self-isolation, spend some time in meditation for keeping aside the worry over future, do deep-breathing exercise which, she said, is very effective to feel relaxed and remove anxiety, enhance virtual connectivity with dear and near ones, relatives and friends to share miseries and sufferings in case of feeling loneliness, and be more careful about family members.
Her other suggestions include expressing gratitude to the Almighty, offering pardon for past mistakes and forgiving others as well as self for previous wrongdoings to reduce the mental stress.
She said people should glean news and facts about the COVID-19 pandemic from authentic sources to keep them away from anxiety.
In the case of children, Dr Mehtab Khanam, a former professor of Educational and Counselling Psychology at DU, said it needs to be careful so that panic and anxiety do not grasp them.
Dr Md Kamal Uddin said the magnitude of mental stress caused by the coronavirus crisis varies depending on age, gender, profession and social status of people.
He said people need to go for alternative activities by rearranging their daily routines to relieve the mental stress in the changed situation.
The psychologist suggested that people should focus on their present situation without thinking much about future to reduce anxiety, engage in recreational activities to remove monotony and boredom during self-isolation, spend some time in meditation, breathing relaxation and visualisation closing eyes, and recall their fond memories regarding small achievements of their life to boost confidence.
He also advised them to spend more time with family members, enhance contact with parents, family members and relatives to remove the sense of loneliness and depression, maintain diary during the crisis if possible, and not use Facebook and other social media platforms for long as those are flooded with rumours which cause feelings of anxiety or distress.
To reduce fear and anxiety about getting infected by the COVID-19, Prof Kamal Uddin said people should get relief thinking that the situation in Bangladesh is still much better than many other countries of the world.
Kamal Chowdhury said people should mentally accept the changed situation. “Or else, their anxiety will escalate further.”
He suggested not watching, reading or listening to news regarding coronavirus frequently as it would generate anxiety among them.
The clinical psychologist said people can make themselves busy in alternative activities, strengthening familial and social bondage and spending more time in recreational activities at home to reduce the mental stress.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared and angry during any crisis.
“If you must stay at home, maintain a healthy lifestyle, including proper diet, sleep, exercise and social contacts with loved ones at home and by email and phone with other family and friends,” the WHO suggested