How a pandemic affects mental health
Much has been written about the rise of mental illnesses caused by the fear of pandemic and exacerbated by the depressing effects of a lockdown. But this piece by Utkarsh Amitabh hits the nail on the head by highlighting common issues that most of us can relate to and hopefully can do a better job dealing with them. Utkarsh highlights five issues and their remedies:
“First, limit news consumption and be wary of misinformation. Brooks’ research suggests that more information does not mean reliable information. Social media forwards, quack cures and unverified statistics serve no purpose beyond democratizing fear.
Second, connect with friends both old and new. While the number of Skype, Teams and Zoom calls have gone up exponentially, we should keep in mind that more calls do not automatically mean better conversations. Like panic scrolling and panic working, people are also panic calling. To be able to meaningful and fun conversations, we need to nudge ourselves to talk beyond the havoc caused by the virus.
Third, preempt burnout. As boundaries between work and leisure blur, we get used to being in a prolonged state of exhaustion. Our concentration suffers, creativity falls and output becomes erratic. Burnout isn’t just about the number of hours we work. It is about losing control over what we work on, when we work and what our work leads to, our overall impact.
Being burnt out will make matters worse for us and our organizations. Taking time out for self-care and digital detox will help us brave this crisis.
Fourth and most important, cultivate what Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist from Vienna, calls “tragic optimism”. Tragic optimism is an acquired skill to maintain hope and find meaning in life despite its inescapable pain, loss and suffering. He says that we all have the capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive.
During times of crises, we need something to look up to and something to look forward to. Frankl kept looking forward to reuniting with his lover. That hope kept him alive and transformed his suffering to some extent.
Fifth, let’s stop trying to be happy all the time. Happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue. Meaning, on the other hand, can be created. There are four pillars of meaning: purpose, belonging, transcendence and storytelling (the story we tell ourselves). Crises like the one we find ourselves in is an opportunity to abandon our wanton search for happiness and relentlessly pursue meaning.”