Coping with the Pandemic of Anxiety, Fear and Stress

Young woman praying at sunset
All religions advocate prayer and meditation as a sure means of attaining joy, peace and tranquillity.
Photo: © jcomp – www.freepik.com

The Corona virus pandemic had forced a 20-year-old MBBS student, studying in Russia, to return to her home in India in July 2020. As she landed in India, she was quarantined in a house where she was all by herself. Five days later she ended her life by hanging from a ceiling hook. She took the extreme step due to anxiety, fear and mental stress of being under surveillance and in total isolation. One can imagine how she longed for emotional support and encouragement from her dear ones. But all what she got was the loneliness of fearsome nights, countless hours of boring days and a home empty of human presence.

Anxiety disorder is a consequence of the Corona virus pandemic. It causes fear and stress to many, especially as they are compelled to change their routines, lifestyle, plans and programmes. We are at a juncture when nothing can be planned for future. It is a distressing, frightening and worrisome time. Even after 7-8 months, since it first appeared, new cases are still on the rising spree.

Educational institutions have remained closed for several months now. Those who have given examinations are unable to obtain the results. There are millions who have not been able to give exams or get promoted to a new academic year. Others have completed their study and yet unable to pass out from their college and try their luck in the job market.

It is hard for most people to handle the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. They fall into a state of panic, tension, worry, nervousness, irritability and unease. They are unable to concentrate on anything properly. Anxiety disorder can lead people to the extremes of avoiding work, school, friends, and social events. In the worst scenario, such a state can cause depression and even the thought of ending one’s life. Here are some simple ways of how we can cope up with our anxieties.

Stay connected to God

A beautiful prayer card reads: “Today I will pray more, worry less; laugh more, stress less; hug more, hurry less.” Prayer to the God of love takes away our worries. The book of Psalms in the Bible says, “I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

A new study published in the journal Sociology of Religion suggests that prayer can help people come out of anxiety. All religions advocate prayer and meditation as a sure means of attaining joy, peace and tranquillity. Here is a wish that we can share with others: “Today I pray that you be free of anxiety. I pray that you will be able to give your worries to God, and he will give you peace.”

Stay connected to people

The pandemic compels us to maintain social distancing and stay away from people. The idea of ‘work from home’ has gained popularity among several companies. Students miss the company of their friends. There seems to be an almost total embargo on all social gatherings and activities. Visiting families and relatives has become a thing of the past. All these restrictions are aimed at ‘breaking the chain’ of virus spread.

But “man is by nature a social animal,” wrote Aristotle. According to him, “a man outside a society is either a beast or a god.” It is necessary that we keep some form of connectedness in order to live a healthy life. We depend on each other for many things. “Man owes his strength in the struggle for existence to the fact that he is a social animal,” reiterates Albert Einstein.

Despite voluntary as well as enforced distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to stay connected in some ways. Thanks to the advancement in information technology, there are ways we can connect with our family, relatives and friends, and reach out for support and care we badly need. We can use phone and social media to interact with our dear ones. A face-to-face video conversation with family and trustworthy friends acts as a ‘vitamin’ for our mental health. It can significantly reduce the risk of anxiety, fear and depression. Social media has the great capacity to bring us closer to people who are otherwise beyond our reach.

Although the social media platforms offer the best of possibilities in this time of the pandemic, we have to exercise extreme caution. There is need for putting a limit on the time spent on social media and the type of people we interact with. Short of this control and discipline, we are at a high risk of falling into the trap of dangerous relationships that will further plunge us into anxiety and depression.

Engage in helping others

Man feeding poor children

Former U.S. President Barack Obama once said, “The best way not to feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, and also fill yourself with hope.” It is easy to be caught up in the fear and anxiety resulting from the pandemic. But we need to remember that we are all in it together. There might be people around who feel powerless, hopeless, and desperate. When we engage in helping others, our own fears and anxieties will vanish.

People who focus on others and reach out to them with help tend to be happier and healthier than those who are selfish. Helping another person can make a difference to that person. But it can make you a better person as well. When we do a kind act, it can fill our own hearts with joy, peace and a sense of satisfaction.

Engage in doing something new

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging,” says Joseph Campbell, author, editor and professor. We can turn a crisis into an opportunity to discover our deeper powers. Staying in isolation and social distancing does not mean doing nothing and wasting away precious time. It’s the best time to bring out one’s latent talents like painting, music, dance, public speaking, reading, writing, blogging, computer graphics, etc.

The pandemic is not in our hands, at least for now. We are still a long way from the end of the dark tunnel. However, we can make our own efforts to combat the virus by making the world around us a better place to live in. There is always a positive side to everything, even in the global Corona virus pandemic. We have a choice either to focus on the negatives and get anxious, stressed out and worried or on the brighter side of the situation and find new meaning to it. Rabindranath Tagore once said: “If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars.” How true this is!

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Joe Eruppakkatt
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Joe Eruppakkatt

Joe Eruppakkatt, a former editor for ST PAULS Publications and The Teenager Today, has been actively involved in the field of print media in India, the U.S., Great Britain and Nigeria. He is currently working for ST PAULS, New Delhi.