Mindfulness, connecting with loved ones best way to fight isolation-induced stress: Isha Malik
Amid the second wave of the pandemic and a massive surge in Covid-19 cases and lockdown in place, people in isolation are finding it hard to cope with the stress and anxiety that isolation can bring with it. Rising Kashmir spoke with RCI Licensed Clinical
Post by on Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Amid the second
wave of the pandemic and a massive surge in Covid-19 cases and lockdown in
place, people in isolation are finding it hard to cope with the stress and
anxiety that isolation can bring with it. Rising Kashmir spoke with RCI
Licensed Clinical Psychologist Isha Malik. Malik, who is presently working as a
Clinical Psychologist at GB Pant Hospital in Srinagar, speaks about ways in
which people in isolation can deal with stress and anxiety. Malik also runs her
centre, Mind Spa by Isha Malik, for assessment, diagnosis and treatment of
mental health problems.
a person do if he/she finds self-isolation claustrophobic?Â
It is common for
people to feel claustrophobic while isolating themselves inside the same room
for a prolonged period. Some tips to help cope with claustrophobia are:
1. Open the
windows. Since the weather now is also pleasant, one can open the windows of
their room to let some sunshine and fresh air in.
relaxation, mindfulness and grounding exercises to help manage physical
symptoms of anxiety or stress.Â
3. You can also
take a daily walk in the garden while properly taking care of Covid-19 SOPs so
that you donâ€™t feel you are trapped.
reminding yourself that this is something temporary and necessary to safeguard
5. Even though
you are physically isolated but do not socially isolate yourself. Try to
virtually connect as much as you can with your family and friends so that you
donâ€™t feel alone in the room. The more you keep yourself busy the lesser
attention will you pay to the physical sensations of anxiety and the lesser
time will you get to think about anxiety-provoking thoughts.
concern for people during isolation is missing their dear ones. What should a
person do in this situation?Â
contact may be limited right now, there are several ways to stay in touch with
friends and family. Those in recovery need to stay connected with friends and
family. Schedule regular video calls with your loved ones and use this as an
opportunity to reconnect with long-lost friends from college, old colleagues or
relatives you previously didnâ€™t get time to connect with. By staying plugged
in, youâ€™ll remain cheerful and busy and it will help you remind yourself that
others are going through the same thing that you are. Creating a group chat is
also a good idea. Sharing old pictures and positive or funny experiences and
stories can help uplift each otherâ€™s mood. You can even host a tea break with
your colleagues who are also working from home or a virtual family get
together. Try to avoid discussing too much about the pandemic as it can add to
should a person do if Covid-19 induces insomnia?Â
The loss of
sleep due to Covid-19 is being called coronasomnia. Itâ€™s just like a series of
vicious cycles. The more you canâ€™t sleep, the more you worry about it and the
more you donâ€™t sleep.
Some tips to
deal with it include:
â€¢ Try to
preserve your normal routine even at home and strictly maintain a fixed
sleep-wake cycle. Waking up at the same time every morning helps stabilize your
circadian rhythm. (The circadian rhythm is how our bodies anticipate when itâ€™s
time to sleep and time to wake up.)
â€¢ Get some
sunlight: It helps keep our circadian rhythms in the pattern so we produce
melatonin at night, not during the day.
â€¢ Avoid daytime
â€¢ Do some
physical exercise during the day, preferably in the afternoon.
â€¢ Donâ€™t eat dinner
late: you have to give your body time to digest it. When you go to sleep, your
body wants to shut down all the metabolic work, including digestion. So there
should be a gap between your dinner time and sleep time
â€¢ Avoid Covid-19
related news consumption before going to sleep. It can trigger anxiety and thus
make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
â€¢ Follow an
unwinding ritual before going to bed. Schedule it one hour before your actual
sleep time. Begin by turning down the lights. Bright lights will keep your
brain from producing natural melatonin (a hormone that is part of our natural
sleep cycle and helps us sleep). Turn off all electronic gadgets (especially
your phones) at least half an hour before your sleep time. Try to relax by
engaging in some non-stimulating activity.
â€¢ Try listening
to some guided imagery audios or some relaxing music before going to sleep.
Consistency is important. Practising meditation once a week wonâ€™t be effective.
â€¢ Donâ€™t keep
checking the clock. Calculating how much sleep you're losing can trigger
anxiety and make it harder to fall asleep.
people complain of panic attacks during isolation, how to deal with that?Â
effective self-help techniques to cope with panic attacks include deep
breathing, grounding activities, mindfulness and guided imagery.
There are many
videos and audios freely available online.
exercises can help you relax your mind when you are feeling anxious by seeking
out sensory stimuli in your current environment.
To begin, make
sure you are sitting or lying somewhere quiet, where you are unlikely to be
â€“ I find this
exercise works best if you either close your eyes.
â€“ Take a big,
long, slow, deep breath in, through your nose. Imagine the air going all the
way down to your belly.
â€“ Then, slowly,
slowly breathe the old air out, through your mouth. See how slowly you can
breathe the air out.
â€“ Do this slow
breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth, 3 times.
â€“ Now, notice
your feet on the floor, connected to the earth.
â€“ Notice the
weight of your body connecting with the chair.
â€“ Notice the
back of the chair, supporting the back of your body.
â€“ You are
â€“ Take another 3
long, slow, deep breaths.
â€“ What can you
hear in your immediate surroundings?
â€“ When you are
ready, you may like to open your eyes.
â€“ Before rushing
straight into the next moment, you may like to take your time. Give yourself
some space. Let yourself remain in the present and feel what it is like to be
right here, right now.
technique: Look around and identify 5 things in your environment (room) which
you can see. Notice what can you see close to you and at a bit distance. Try to
notice small details of those things, e.g patterns, shapes, colour gradients
things you can hear.
Listen to the
sounds keenly. Notice which sounds are constant and which are coming and going.
Notice if the sounds are soft or loud.
things you can feel/touch around you. Notice how the shirt you are wearing
feels, the soft blanket on your lap, or silk stole around your neck, the hot
air coming out from the blower or cool breeze through the window etc.
things that you can smell. Notice if the smell is strong or faint.
Identify 1 thing
you can taste. Notice how it feels on your palate; if it is sweet or sour or
activities can one do during isolation?
I know itâ€™s not
easy to deal with the psychological correlates of prolonged isolation but I am
sure if you follow most of the recommendations enlisted below will help you
feel much better.
Firstly set a
basic safety plan based on WHO or CDC recommendations and donâ€™t keep adding to
it every day such that it becomes difficult to follow and therefore adds to
your stress levels.
Aim to keep your
room organized and clean. Avoid eating and working in your bed. Relaxing these
boundaries just messes your routine and can make the day feel very long. A
cluttered/untidy room can make you feel more uncomfortable/uneasy and add to
the stress related to the prevailing chaos around you.
exposure regarding the current situation can trigger stress. Take breaks from
social media and allow yourself to do things you enjoy, eg painting, listening
to music, reading books. You can utilize this time to learn something new and
interesting, for example, a new language, a new technical skill, etc. This is
perhaps the time to read that book that you have been waiting to read for the
last two years. Remember that the more you keep yourself busy, the lesser time
you will get to think about things out of your control.
Remember to stay
physically active. Spending the whole day at home can tempt you to move towards
a lethargic lifestyle, which could further lead to negative thinking and
fatigue, so you should try to maintain your usual pre-quarantine routine. Stick
to or develop new healthy habits such as exercise, spot jogging, balanced
nutrition, and quality sleep. These are all beneficial for your mental and
quarantine is the best opportunity to dedicate time towards SELF-CARE. Set time
for yourself to spend doing the activity which makes you feel really happy,
relaxed and positive or do something you hardly manage time for during your
busy work schedules (some long avoided pleasurable tasks). Reframe your
thoughts e.g. â€œI am stuck insideâ€ to â€œI can finally focus on my home and
myselfâ€. Remember that having something special to do during this time will
help you look forward to each new day and prevent you from feeling low. Start a
new quarantine ritual. For example, you can start a daily journal to jot down
thoughts and feelings to reflect on later. Or take a walk every day at 4 pm in
your garden, connect with your sister/best friend etc over FaceTime/ Skype
every morning, or start a painting which you can add to every day. Adding any
mindfulness activity (be it for only 5-10 minutes long)to your self-care regime
would help you maintain your calm and distract yourself from the stressful
situation. This could also be an opportunity to introspect within and identify
the things you would like to work on to improve your interpersonal
relationships, work skills, self-confidence etc.Â
rather than overloaded with information. Only go through news updates from
verified and trusted sources rather than unreliable Facebook and WhatsApp
messages. Avoid the temptation to learn â€œEVERYTHINGâ€ about the novel Covid-19.
Stick to a set time (e.g. 10-15 minutes) and limit the frequency of your news
or information consumption(watch or read the news just twice a day). Remember
if you donâ€™t set a reasonable limit it might slowly turn into addictive
behaviour and for those already diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,
it might further worsen their symptoms.
Accept that some
anxiety and fear is normal. COVID-19 is a novel virus and everyone across the
globe is still learning about it. The uncertainty about the virus and the
changes that are unfolding every day (e.g. travel restrictions, schools and
offices shut down, disrupted plans etc.) can make most people feel a bit
anxious. We need to accept that this kind of fear is quite normal, and it can
even help motivate us to be proactive and take appropriate action to keep
ourselves and others safe. Fear is contagious. If you act frightened or engage
in panic buying, others will react in the same way. Remember all of us have a
responsibility towards the rest of the community to deal with the COVID-19
you are resilient and be careful with the â€œwhat ifâ€™sâ€. Stress and anxiety cause
people to focus on negatives and trigger â€œWhat ifâ€ questions, such as â€œHow will
I cope if I get infected?â€ or â€œHow will I manage on my own family if I have to
self-isolate?â€ These apprehensions can also lead us to think about worst-case
scenarios. People are resilient and have coping skills they use every day but
in stressful situations people often (catastrophize) overestimate how bad the
situation can get and underestimate their coping abilities. In such situations,
you should think of the difficult or challenging situations you have
encountered in past and were able to manage successfully. Even if things
werenâ€™t ideal, recall what you did to cope with the situation. Remind yourself
that you can handle stress and that if you feel you need support, you can reach
out to mental health professionals. Remember our collective resources â€“ a
strong and resilient community. Try to replace your negative and catastrophic
thoughts with a statement like, â€œThis is a difficult time, but we will get
through it together.â€ Keep repeating positive self-affirmations to yourself.
one feel better while dealing with the disease and being in isolation?Â
Some tips to be
followed can be: Remember itâ€™s okay not to be okay. Donâ€™t focus on
productivity. Appreciate yourself for every effort because survival during the
pandemic should be our priority. It's normal to be able to stick to your
schedule and concentrate on work. So donâ€™t be so harsh on yourself or feel
guilty for not completing the tasks you had planned for the day.
Watch or read
something uplifting and positive.
Try focusing on
controlling the things that you can. Worrying about the uncertain future can
make you feel more hopeless and helpless.
Figure out ways to
help your community. E.g. donate, share positive messages on social media,
virtually support others who are feeling low and are also isolated.
Consult a mental
health professional if you feel you are unable to cope with your anxiety,
depression, stress etc. Do not delay seeking help.
that you are not alone. Although your reactions and problems are unique
everyone has been affected by the pandemic.
Try to create
the best way to keep the positive energy flowing during isolation?
Apart from the
recommendation mentioned here, maintaining a gratitude journal can help. These
days when all we are hearing and seeing around us is negative and
anxiety-provoking, we forget to count our blessings. This leads us to feel more
hopeless and sad. Think about (or write down) at least three people,
experiences, or things you are grateful for or something positive that happened
throughout the day. When we enter our rest mode with this positive energy of
gratitude and love we get a longer and more peaceful sleep plus we also wake up
with the same positivity.Â