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Just hold on…. The dawn is coming….

Day 10 of the lockdown

9-year-old Ayush (name changed) is overwhelmed. 4 hours of online school, followed by an occasional activity class, and again online tuition. He cannot remember the last time he went to play in the park or for a birthday party. From what he hears the elders speak, he doesn’t really know when he will get to go to school, or meet his friends, or just get to leave his house. He often fears he will get Covid 19, even when he sneezes, or someone else in the house sneezes or coughs. His breaks include playing games on his I Pad.

19-year-old Urvi (name changed) is wondering, sitting in the small quarters of her chawl, for how long she will not be able to go for her job, if she doesn’t go she doesn’t get paid,  if there is no payment how will she survive and support her family? She fears to go to the common toilet always wondering if she will contract Covid 19 from there.

27-year-old Samantha (name changed) is putting up a brave front, she is telling all her friends that soon this nightmare will be over, but deep inside is constantly thinking of her relationship, will minimal communication make the heart grow fonder or let her partner’s heart wander?

30-year-old Kusum (name changed) is due to deliver a baby any day. Fear has gripped her. What if she or her baby contract Covid 19?

35-year-old Ragini (name changed) with severe anxiety neurosis, is barely holding on, she has to wake up early, finish off the household chores, and begin work from home, with a lousy WI FI connection, and demanding people both at the work front and at home.

44-year-old Samuel (name changed) sits staring at the television screen and watches the stock market as it crashes. With 2 children running about all day, and constant disagreements between his wife and mother, he is bombarded with thoughts of wanting to quit life and just escape. He quickly changes his mind thinking of the loans he has to repay, and at least for the sake of his children, he continues existing, yet dying every minute.

50-year-old Shyam, a patient of blood cancer is worried about the future of his chemotherapy sessions.

74-year-old Karim (name changed) is confined to his rocking chair in one corner of the house, moving was always difficult, his house helper has stopped coming and he is wondering who will cook for him. Going out to buy basic essentials seems impossible as he is highly diabetic, and stepping out could mean a possible fatality if he contracts Covid 19.

Well, I could go on and on. To cut a long story short, Covid 19, or the Novel Coronavirus has left all of us impacted, more mentally than physically. A complete loss of control, most people view the situation as being trapped in some way. Constant messages about numbers, deaths, counts, what to do, what to eat, what not to do, have caused constant distress and increasing frustration. All plans have been thrown out of gear. While few people realise it is safe to stay at home, yet, they are forced to think of what will happen once they do venture out after the lockdown is over.

Constant Stress and Anxiety weakens the immune system, which leaves you vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses. A feeling of sadness, hopelessness and fear can make you lose your appetite, where nutrition drops, or it could make you eat the wrong foods which are high in sugar, salt and fat which could negatively impact your immune system. Stress can also make you want to smoke more than usual or crave for more alcohol which negatively affects the disease-fighting systems.

Deepti Khemchandani, Consulting Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Trauma Recovery Therapist shares tips for all of us at this time of uncertainty.

1. Prioritise prioritise prioritise – Working from home and managing housework can be daunting for most of us: segregate work into the following categories;
Urgent/ important
Important /not urgent
Urgent /not important
Not important/not urgent  

2. Remember that we are observing ‘physical’ distancing and not ‘social’ distancing- we can stay socially connected and feel emotionally supported.

3. However, if we are living in a volatile environment it may be necessary for us to create social distancing or healthy boundaries with toxic family members.  

4. Delegate responsibilities to other family members  

5. We are all inundated with media messages on various social platforms. Restrict your exposure to these messages, and do not restrict conversations at home to these messages.

6. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of ‘normalcy’, and feel disturbed about the uncertainty of the future. Create a new normal for yourself and your family.

7. Talk to your children about the changes in a routine instead of expecting them to magically cope with this situation. Remember it’s as distressing for them as it is for you.

8. Avoid stigmatising people who have unfortunately got affected. Instead, think of ways to help their families.

9. Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies like alcohol, drugs and unprescribed medications.

10. Practice a new routine with an adequate amount of distractions such as reading, art and watching pleasant information on social media. 

11. Do relaxation exercises in addition to physical exercises for the release of happy hormones for 10/15 mins a day.

12. Stay socially connected via other mediums and speak to a professional if you feel the following symptoms; feeling low/sad, persistent anxiety/ overwhelming fear/panic attacks. Sleep issues. Crying spells. Suicidal ideas or acts. Feeling panicked when you hear about the virus. Pervasive negative thoughts. Loss of pleasure and interest. Weight loss. Significantly reduced appetite. Alcohol and drug abuse. Low energy. Difficulty in carrying out day to day activities.  

Here are few Tips for Parents during this difficult time by Dr. Jenesis Dias DaCosta, Consultant Paediatric Physiotherapist / Neonatal & Autism Intervention Specialist, Executive Director, SenseAbility Paediatric Therapy Centre.

1) BEING GRATEFUL This is a time to return back to basics and bare essentials i.e. food, clothing and shelter. Be mindful and grateful for the things we have and help the children see that too.  

2) PLAN YOUR DAY/WEEK SCHEDULE:  This is hard but not impossible. If you have a meeting, busy work-day, online schools for the kids, planning ahead takes half the burden off. Even better if you can do this on the weekend, so everyone is prepared for the week in advance.  

3) MEAL TIME: Together is a nice place to be. Make mealtime that happy space for sharing thoughts, ideas and little joys. Eliminate TV and electronics during meals. Give thanks for the food and let all of you take turns in saying it. (builds confidence and spontaneity over time).
4) TIME- TABLE: Creating a time table for children and also meals (have kids decide food menu so moms don’t have to stress), playtime, fun and TV time make you look forward to a certain time of the day and also help kids stick to completing schoolwork assignments.  

5) HOUSEHOLD CHORES FOR ALL: It doesn’t matter if you are old or young as 3 years. Everyone in the family can pitch in some chore and rotate it so it doesn’t get monotonous. With the house help and maids out of the picture, the burden shouldn’t be entirely on moms alone. Sharing the responsibilities help kids to be self-sufficient and reliable as they grow older to be responsible adults.  

6) CORONA FREE TALKS: Given the current scenario we are in, there is an overdose of information especially from the university of WhatsApp. The most relevant information once explained to the children, parents please refrain from indulging in conversations that revolve around it as it causes unnecessary fear and anxiety among children and elderly, adding to it no outdoor place or friend to vent it out.

7) PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: Children need to be moving more during the day to get the recommended 60 minutes minimum of physical activity for proper growth and development (CDC 2012)” (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012). In times like quarantine, sensory-motor breaks with the family together like doing an exercise session via zoom, dance, line dance, aerobics, jumping, skipping, hopping are a good way to maintain the required level of physical activity thus improving physical, mental and academic performance. Physical activity breaks throughout the day can improve both student behaviour and learning (Trost 2007)” (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012.

8) BRING BACK THE HUMOUR: As silly and trivial it may seem, this is perhaps the most important as laughter is the best medicine, it enhances emotional well-being, relieves physical and mental stress and also improves oxygen flow to the vital organs like brain and heart. Take time out every day to do this as a family watching funny animal videos, clowns, jokes or anything funny.

9) FREE PLAY FOR KIDS: Just because the kids are at home, You don’t have to be a helicopter parent to watch over your kid,( unless obviously under 3 years, or you just know they’re up to something, trust your instinct, gut, sixth sense whatever you call it) Keeping that aside, let the child engage in free /unstructured play. It’s also okay for them to complain they are bored, they will learn to create their own games.  

10) SET ASIDE “ME TIME” FOR SELF CARE: Amidst the chaos, take a few moments off in whichever corner of the house you can. Indulge in your everyday luxury (reading a few pages of a book, meditation, cup of tea by the window or hot shower with scented candles) anything to lift your mood. However impossible this may seem, trust me we all need it, to keep our sanity intact for our sake and our families.

So friends, remember that nothing is permanent in this world, not even our troubles. It will all get better, so until then, Just hold on. Stay Home. Stay Safe.

The introduction of the article is written by Ms.Sonam A.Rayani, a Nutrition and Diet Consultant since last 11 years, founder of Jatropha Wellness. She is also a Nutrigenetic Consultant and is currently studying special education for children. We thank our special guest writers, Ms. Deepti Khemchandani, Consulting Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Trauma Recovery Therapist and Dr. Jenesis Dias DaCosta, Consultant Paediatric Physiotherapist / Neonatal & Autism Intervention Specialist, Executive Director, SenseAbility Paediatric Therapy Centre for their valuable inputs.

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