Stressed
Accepting that there are some things that you cannot control is one way to deal with stress Image Credit: Pixabay

Dubai: The COVID-19 outbreak has put mental health at the forefront with a global surge in stress and anxiety levels. 

According to Dr. Khawla Ahmed Al Mir, Consultant Psychiatrist at Rashid Hospital: “The initial shock period is over and we are clearly in the adjustment phase which is extremely important as we need to learn to live with the current realities, we need to adapt in order to stay fit mentally. Adaptability is a key trait to help you navigate the ups and downs of life. At the same time, for a situation like COVID-19, it means that while you adapt to the new normal you also follow all precautions to ensure you are staying safe and you are protecting your loved ones to the best of your ability. This essentially means that you are not in denial of the situation and so you are doing everything you can while accepting that there is an ongoing pandemic.”

Mir added that in order to support mental health, it is important to stick to routines and timetables without being too rigid but at the same time, not letting a very fluid routine get in the way of day-to-day tasks. “We have to learn to live with the new normal situation. It is best to stick to a routine as much as possible especially when it involves regular exercise, as exercise is a known and proven stress buster; it helps release endorphins, which are feel-good hormones.”

Mir added: “Those who do not exercise, I strongly urge them to take up an activity, it could be simple exercises for 30 minutes on the mat or a walk outside now that the weather is cooler. Connecting with nature is therapeutic in many ways so combine spending time outdoors with exercise, but of course make sure you wear a mask and follow all precautionary measures in line with governmental regulations.”

She also encouraged community members who are not able to cope with the stress to seek professional help. “Some level of stress is normal in a situation like this but if the stress level reaches unmanageable levels for long periods of time where for instance you are not able to get out of bed or doing daily tasks seems like a problem or you are facing persistent negative thoughts, it is time to seek professional help and support.”

Mir advised people to have realistic expectations and embrace the current situation to find solutions rather than trying to escape or fight it. “I understand that parents of young children in particular have a lot on their plate especially if they have opted for home schooling. Working out a timetable where they probably wake up an hour earlier to finish their work or prepare for busy mornings might be helpful or dividing their tasks into specific time zones that work for the family might help too. Women in particular should make sure they do not take on too much and find time for themselves. They should share the tasks with their husbands and other house members. If their children are old-enough they should empower them by encouraging them to take charge of some home tasks but of course they need to ensure it is safe and age-appropriate.”

“On weekends while there are several things that need to completed, parents should find some quite time for themselves, even if it is for a short while.”

“The current situation also poses stresses which cannot be changed such as job insecurities. It is important to remember that we should focus only on the things that we can change and we should not stress about the things that are beyond our control. Although certain amount of forward planning and strategizing is important to prevent sudden setbacks, overthinking is definitely not helpful for the mind. I strongly believe that our habits define us to a large extent so stick to habits and routines that will help you and your family and do those consistently. If you slack do not be hard on yourself, get back on track.”

“Finally, it is important to adopt calming down activities such as yoga, meditation or journaling and practice it daily even if it is for 15 minutes. Your mind is the backbone to health and wellbeing, take time out to protect and nurture it.”

Stress management tips

Exercise: It is not only good for your physical health; it is great for your mental health too!

Deep breathing and meditation: Do not underestimate the power of breath to help calm your mind

Prioritise sleep: Lack of sleep increases stress hormones

Reduce or eliminate caffeine: If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back

Accept that there are events that you cannot control

Set realistic goals and be kind to yourself

Seek social support: Spend time with people who are positive and empowering

Seek medical support: If you are suffering from persistent stress, anxiety, and are unable to manage your condition, seek professional help