Introduction

With more than 50 days into the lockdown, our lives have indeed changed drastically. While some have managed to get accustomed to this new routine and way of life, for many of us, it continues to remain a struggle. In addition to this, the uncertainty surrounding the situation, reduced human interaction, and most importantly, lack of activities to keep our minds engaged, are naturally bound to affect our mental health and general well being. In this situation, it’s imperative to identify and develop mechanisms to cope with the situation, analyze what’s good and what’s bad for our emotional well being, and mould our lifestyle accordingly.

Coping with the situation

We need – and therefore seek – some semblance of control. When something unexpected such as COVID-19 comes along that is both threatening and uncertain, many of us experience great distress. To deal with it, we must accept that we are in a new situation. Our lives have changed. The sooner we internalize this, the better our response would be.

If you are getting too anxious about the situation and are caught up in a loop of thoughts, you should:

  • Acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
  • Don’t react as you normally do, pause and breathe.
  • Pull back and tell yourself that this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful or necessary. 
  • Let go of the thought or the feeling, it will pass. You don’t have to respond to them.
  • Explore the present moment, notice your breathing, notice your surroundings. Then shift your focus to something else, maybe to what you were doing before you noticed the worry. 

It will be important for us to have some strategies that allow us to work through our emotions about all this. Some practices we can implement include exercise, meditation, journaling, and talking with a friend or mental health counselor. Most importantly, we shouldn’t think that the activities we are doing are in any way uninteresting and would be prone to judgment. It’s our coping mechanism and we can cope however we want to. We need to make sure we are dealing with our emotions by doing these activities and aren’t neglecting them. 

Assuming the pandemic lasts for a while, and that we are going to be spending more time at home, without much social interaction, it may be a good time to revise our daily life. How are we going to stay connected to family, friends, and communities? What do we want to do with our increased time at home? Are there any new opportunities? What are we going to want to do when we start getting bored or feeling isolated? How are we going to take care of ourselves and our loved ones? How are we going to carry on our work, and other responsibilities? Writing some thoughts about these kinds of questions might bring some clarity. Because after a while,

This, Too, Shall Pass.

Upsides of the lockdown

While these unprecedented times may have proven to be a blessing for introverts and perhaps a nightmare for all the extroverts out there, it cannot be denied that it has left all of us with mixed feelings. And while it is absolutely fair to feel nervous or unsure about things, there are also some upsides of the lockdown that cannot be overlooked. 

We now have an overwhelming amount of free time on our hands, a luxury we don’t usually get to enjoy. Well, they say, lost time is never found again, but we hope that all this free time will help us reunite with all the things that were lost in our busy lifestyles.

  1. Rekindle your old hobbies again: Now that we are not bound by a tight schedule controlled by classes, labs, and other responsibilities, it is the best time to revive our inner artist, or musician, writer, dancer, reader, and the list goes on…
  2. Spend more time with your family: It is the perfect time to bring those board and card games back to life. This way, you will not only spend some quality time bonding with your family but also refrain from spending your entire time scrolling through social media.
  3. Learn a new skill: With practically no pressure from curriculum academics, it is a good time to explore all the other things that are out there to learn. There are a lot of great MOOCs that not only help in enhancing your knowledge but also look good on resumes. (Recommendations for the same upcoming in our next blog). You could also take up a new language, or a course on astronomy, or simply anything that interests you.
  4. Learn essential life skills: Learn how to cook, or help out in cleaning the house. As happy as this will make your mom, these are also some essential life skills that you will have to learn eventually, so why not make good use of this spare time!
  5. A changing world: Last but not the least, we can find solace in the fact that our world is changing in a lot of ways, and for good. Reduced pollution, a recovering environment, and decreasing crime rates are some things that we can find peace in even in these terrible times.

Introspection and nostalgia can be anti-depressants but avoid overthinking.

We have time, more than we have ever known. With no one but yourself for company, scrutinizing this companion starts to become an increasingly attractive prospect. This is the best time for introspection, be it about the past or future. When everything is moving, it’s easy to get lost in the rush, take this pause to find yourself. Identify your interests, categorize your strengths and weaknesses, and reflect on your mistakes and regrets. There are many things to ponder about, perhaps this is not a crisis but perhaps a godsend opportunity. Scrolling through social media, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the progress others seem to be making, while you may feel unproductive. But it is also important to understand that your progress isn’t comparative and that you are your own individual and it’s okay if you’re taking this one day at a time.

This is also a great time to reconnect with friends and renew old bonds. In the hustle-bustle of the Insti, it’s easy to lose touch with the outside world. The days in the insti were great, but the school was also a lot of fun. There are so many memorable moments of our younger selves we may have forgotten. How about taking a trip down the memory lane? Remember people who were very important to you once but now you have lost touch, take this chance to reach out and reconnect and relive the good old days. In these chaotic times we need the support and well wishes of loved ones to tide through, and the more the loved ones the merrier, right?

Nostalgia is soothing and Introspection refreshing, when used as a positive force.

Don’t over-think, don’t worry if it is too late to reconnect or whether the other person will respond warmly or not.

Don’t over-think, have faith in your strengths and believe your weaknesses are conquerable, and keep taking small steps towards your goals regardless of how fast others may be moving.

Don’t over-think, as even though your progress may seem insignificant to you, it doesn’t change the fact that it is still progress, and that there’s so much more to life than being part of a rat race.

Ensuring Mental Well-being by being Productive:

As we open our LinkedIn feeds or talk to our friends, we constantly get reminded of the fact that many people out there are making good use of their time learning new skills, doing internships etc. This is the time when people around us or we ourselves would raise the bar on productivity and efficient use of time. But one should be careful to not get stressed out because of these. It’s OK, if you don’t feel especially productive during this last month. It’s OK if you took time to cope-up and grasp all that is happening around and adapt to the current circumstances. 

We should keep in mind that productivity is a subjective term. Only an individual can decide what he/she wants out of the time that we owe to this lockdown period, aligning with his/her goals. Learn to play a musical instrument, do an online course, start your own blog, apply for a project or internship in the field you wanted to explore the most in the institute, things you thought you would do when you had free time on your hands; whatever combination and permutation of tasks it would be, list them down dividing your time rationally and reasonably. One might also want to engage in peer learning or to develop soft skills, alongside, keeping some time for recreational and fitness activities. Once this is ready, START as soon as possible and focus on small goals. Don’t get disheartened if you miss on some tasks initially.  With each day passing, you would see yourself getting more involved, your will power getting stronger and self-doubt fading away.

Remember that being productive is linked to your mental well-being. How? It is because at the end of the day, it gives you an immense feeling of satisfaction, confidence, and comfort of accomplishment. It would also serve to keep your mind off things you don’t want to ponder about. You would look back feeling elated and content, finally, when this period ends.

Edward Norton once said, ‘I don’t have anything to prove to anybody, which is a lovely place to be’. It’s a highly relieving and strengthening thought that whatever you would do will only matter the most to you and the world would not care much about it. Knowing this, be honest to yourself, don’t get influenced, keep calm, and be happy. The last one matters the most, as that’s how you would want to remember this time.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly disrupted our ways of life and has brought the whole world to a screeching halt. Apart from the evident (and widely debated) economic and social impacts, the psychological impact of the lockdown has been experienced by almost every individual but has hardly been discussed openly. This article offers to bring these issues to light and to offer some ways to deal with them. Acknowledging and coping with the inherent uncertainty of the situation is a necessary step – as is ensuring that our mental health doesn’t suffer due to a lack of productivity. While staying alone with our thoughts often seems to offer respite, it is important to take cognizance of, and live in, the present. And while 2020 hasn’t exactly been off to a great start, some free time with the family (and away from academics!) is always good to rejuvenate spirits and explore something new. We hope all this can help you come out of the pandemic stronger and more prudent, but for now, it is important that we stay home, stay safe, and most importantly – stay happy!

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Chief Editors: Amogh Gawaskar and Suman Mondal

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