The coronavirus has seen the world change in unparalleled ways and at unprecedented speed. Normal routines have been abandoned and activities we previously took for granted — such as dining with friends in a restaurant or hitting the gym after work —are on hold.
With such an unpredictable array of news flooding in from across the world, one of the inevitable side-effects of such disruption is a heightened sense of stress and anxiety. From worrying about your work in a precarious global economy and juggling your day job with home-schooling to worrying about the welfare of friends and family in different countries, it’s understandable why people might be experiencing increased stress levels. And, if, like the majority of residents, you’re confined to your home with your family to prevent the spread of the virus, how do you ensure that such emotions don’t disrupt your relationships with close ones during this period of 24-hour restrictions for the country’s disinfection programme?
Everybody should have their own space. They need to take time for themselves to exercise and do something enjoyable such as reading.
Dr Khawla Ahmed Al Mir, Consultant Psychiatrist, Rashid Hospital, acknowledges that the change in people’s circumstances can be difficult but says that the experience should be used to benefit those we’re spending more time with by offering them support. “This is a hard time so we have to manage each other and take this situation as a chance to speak to each other, listen to each other and be patient.”
Dr Khawla says that in order to ensure that your relationship with those you’re sharing your home with doesn’t become difficult, it is important to identify ways of finding space and time for yourself.
“Everybody should have their own space. They need to take time for themselves to exercise and do something enjoyable such as reading.”
She says that it is also unproductive to take a negative perspective and that, if you are suffering from anxiety or frustration, you should share your issues with others. “You have to accept the situation. Trying to fight your situation will cause you to suffer so it is a time for coping. We are all together in this situation.
“The most important thing is to talk about your emotions and admit to them. It is okay as it is a hard time for everybody so we should be supporting each other.
“There are a lot of ways to manage stress and anger. First of all you need to know what the cause is. Once you have identified the issue you need to find ways to solve and cope with the problem. You can exercise, talk to people and do breathing exercises.”
A balanced approach
Dr Khawla believes that now many of us have been working from home for several weeks and schools have also been shut since early March, people should be able to better adjust to the situation. “It was hard in the beginning because it was a new thing and I found it stressful. Now I’m finding it less stressful,” she says.
Despite the importance of staying indoors, Dr Khawla says there are numerous ways that you can stay occupied. “There are lots of things you can do at home and there are many activities you can do online to stay connected. You can participate in exercise, you can shop and you can do online courses.
“Family support is very important for our mental health, even in times without stress. You should use social networks to stay in touch with your friends and family.”
If one of your family members is suffering from acute anxiety or other mental health issues, Dr Khawla says that she and her team remain available over the phone for consultations and that living under temporary lockdown is not a reason for people to stop taking their prescribed medication.
“We are here, we’re on duty and we are supporting our patients. They will also not run out of medication either because we have a delivery service,” she says.