Pandemics are far from being just medical phenomena. They disrupt lives in a multitude of ways
and cause much more than bodily harm. Affecting more than 14 crore and killing about 31 lakh
of people worldwide, the COVID19 virus has wreaked havoc in our seemingly well ordered pre
pandemic world. Owing to the large death toll, it is understandable that governments and health
organizations are concentrating on improving the existing health care infrastructure and

Mental health has always been a secondary concern and the pandemic seems to have pushed
it more to the sidelines. During the first lockdown, we were mentally unprepared for the
hugeness of the pandemic and the changes in the life style that it brought. Just as we were
getting used to the new altered way of life, the second wave hit us smack in the face and left us
stumbling all over. In a span of two weeks, our new found fragile sense of well being came
crashing down as we saw a surge in the number of cases and deaths.

This time, the sense of fear and concerns about mental health seem to be different from the first
We are now seeing:
1. An increase in the stress levels across age ranges.

As the news keeps pouring in about the increasing numbers of the sick and dying, the imminent fear
of another lockdown, the worry about getting infected and infecting others, stress levels are on
the rise. Students preparing for their boards are in a limbo. Businesses which were slowly
tottering back to normalcy faltered again. Financial constraints in procuring hospital beds and
medication cause an even higher sense of fear as people have had to dip into their savings and
dwindling incomes to rise to the situation.

2. Anxiety, depression and grief.

Last year, our concern was mainly for the older population with comorbidities. This year,
additionally, the virus seems to be attacking young adults and children who are otherwise
healthy with good immune systems.Hence, the anxiety that we may be next in line is hovering
around in everyone’s subconscious. Depression and grief are on the rise due to isolation,
financial losses, loss of livelihood and death of near and dear.

3. Languishing and lack of focus.

Corey Keyes, a sociologist, described this syndrome twenty years ago. He describes it as a
state in which an individual is devoid of any positive emotion towards life and is not functioning
well either psychologically or socially, but is not clinically depressed. In short languishers are
neither mentally well nor mentally ill. This seems to be the dominant emotion of 2021.
Languishing dulls focus and motivation and decreases concentration. This has happened
because the pandemic has dragged on for more than a year and many aspects of our life seem
to be indefinitely on hold.

4. Addiction to technology.

In a bid to keep safe, most of us have had to confine ourselves to our homes and give up on
hobbies like travelling, gymming, socializing, sports and so on. Children have lost a whole
school year. Technology has been a boon in keeping us informed about the world and keeping
us in touch with our world. It has helped children stay on track , thanks to e classes. But as with
any upside, there is always a downside. We are seeing a huge surge in the number of people
suffering from addiction to their cell phones, video games and social media. Misinformation spread through social media is causing people to panic, hoard essentials and food and seek unnecessary admissions into hospitals which reduce the number of beds for serious patients.

5. Health care professionals having mental health issues.

People working in the health care sector are burdened with increasing case load, decreasing
resources and isolation. Working long hours wearing a PPE kit is draining to say the least. In
many centers, due to a shortage of staff, doctors and nurses are working extra shifts. They stay
isolated from their families due to a fear of transmitting the infection.They face death and
distress on an everyday basis without anyone to console or comfort them. As a result, a lot of
them are suffering from chronic fatigue, burnout and frustration.

Living through the pandemic is a big deal in itself, but staying mentally healthy is also important.
Hence, to mind our minds, we need to:

1. Develop healthy coping skills.

Sticking to a daily routine, getting some exercise, finding solo hobbies to pursue, healthy eating
and sleeping habits, and staying in touch with friends and family are a few things which may
fend off the all pervasive worry.

2. Focus on things that we can control.

We feel more confident when things are under control. Unfortunately, very little seems to be
under our control now. Hence, concentrating on the little pleasures of life, taking each day as it
comes, not worrying excessively help keep a semblance of normalcy. We can choose not to
play victims and instead think of how we can help the world around us in small ways. For
example, there is a community called “care mongers” on face book who take calls for help and
attend to it by networking and getting things done. Calling up and comforting relatives and
friends who have suffered greater losses, volunteering help and generally holding on to a feeling
of positivity makes us resilient.

3. Practice selective media consumption

Obsessively tracking the news and whatapp feeds cause a sense of panic. Though there may
be very less to do during a lock down, try staying away from toxic media, which scares and
causes mass hysteria. Do not watch the news first thing in the morning or last thing in the night.
Watch programs which promote a sense of well being. Check the reliability of your whatsapp
feeds before you believe or forward them.

4. Recognise signs of mental distress and seek help.

Despite doing all of this, if there are signs of distress felt or visible in people around, seek out
helplines to sign up for online counselling.

The Union Government has started a toll free helpline number 08046110007.

The other useful go to sources for help include:
a. Suicide prevention india foundation-
b. Snehi, an organization for psychosocial support for adolescents- 9582208181
c. The Live love laugh foundation
d. Sneha foundation, a 24*7 helpline at +914424640050 and
e. A website called COVID gyan which provides necessary verified information about the

5. Take teleconsults.

People who are already suffering from chronic physical and mental illness may have difficulty in
consulting their therapist or doctors and procuring medication. The Government has allowed
tele consultation as form of practice after the onset of the pandemic. Contactless delivery
services have made medication door delivery a safe option. Hence, staying away from hospitals
and still remaining healthy is a viable option, thanks to telemedicine. The anxiety of how to
handle a pre existing illness is reduced.

Simple steps like these can help bring a sense of normalcy and help cope with our ever changing
environment. Hence, in minding our minds, hopefully we should stay safe and brave our way
through the pandemic relatively unscathed!

About the Author

Preethi Shanbhag


My name is Preethi Shanbhag. I am a psychiatrist and a mother. In my free time I love to read, write, travel and cook.

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