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We need to talk about the mental toll of staying away from family during the covid-19 lockdown

Published on:30 April 2020, 09:25am IST
While a lot of people find themselves away from their families amidst the lockdown resulting from the covid-19 outbreak, it is important to take care of our mental health.
Grace Bains
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Even if you’re away, just sit on a video call and talk to them.Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The lockdown imposed as a result of the covid-19 outbreak has brought unprecedented challenges to our lives. It’s pretty early into the year for us to be dealing with a situation as strange as a pandemic. We’re still getting used to all the uncertainty, be it the prolonged work-from-home situation or the frustration of not knowing when we’ll be able to see our loved ones.

Needless to say, there’s nothing better than our families to provide us with the much-needed solace in order to cope up with the fear, sadness, and loneliness that one may experience the lockdown. I, too, ran for home when it seemed like a lockdown was inevitable.

But what about all those people who could not go back to their families?
My heart goes out to the former colleague who is away from his sixty-year-old mother because travelling by a mode of public transport and putting her at risk during this time, especially given her age would be too risky.

Or, a PR professional acquaintance working in Mumbai who finds herself away from parents in Delhi because she didn’t get any leave from office till a total lockdown was announced.

self-isolation
Don’t get hassled if you can’t reach home just read the guidelines shared by WHO. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Well, the importance of lockdown cannot be emphasized enough. It is a critical step to prevent the spread of infection from one person to another. It is, in fact, the best way to protect ourselves and more importantly, others in the community. However, the mental effects of lockdown are compounding on a daily basis due to lack of clarity on the resumption of flights, trains, or bus services along with the daily increase in positive cases.

People who are living away from home are bound to face difficulties to cope
People who are away from their families have noticed a change in their eating and sleeping patterns. Besides, it has become increasingly difficult to concentrate on tasks which were routine just a month and half back.

Talking to a professional from the development sector was an eye-opener. Her parents are in Dehradun and being away from them was affecting her ability to work. She said she’s so worried at all times in the day that she has to drag herself to prepare meals, her only motivating force being the video calls from home.

Moreover, you tends to get withdrawn and irritable easily in a randomized fashion. Thoughts run at electric speeds towards the wellbeing of our family members, especially if there are older members who have to find ways to procure groceries and brave the lockdown without the support of their children.

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The reason I travelled back was that I couldn’t imagine my dad at the age of63 venturing out for essentials like vegetables and milk. It troubled me mentally that he is risking his life each day and will have to continue to do so given that a cure or vaccination for the novel coronavirus is far away.

What about the preparation of meals, payment of bills or, any emergency? The spectrum of feelings keeps fluctuating between helplessness and haplessness.

However, the advice from WHO experts for people in isolation is to stay connected via telephone, e-mail, social media, or video conference with their near and dear ones.

how to take care of parents when you are abroad
WHO recommends that you should stay connected with your family. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Once we accept the unpredictability of the situation surrounding us, it becomes critical to draw attention to our own needs and thoughts. After all, if we won’t be stable both physically and mentally, then it would become even more difficult to extend support to our family even if it’s from distance for the time being.

A system created around eating healthy, exercising regularly, sleeping sufficiently, and indulging in productive activities like cooking or painting can help create the semblance that can be used as the initial groundwork for coping up with anxiety that comes with isolation. Involving our family members in our daily activities and actively participating in theirs, through video conferencing or exchanging photographs may actually lead to the creation of a routine in itself over the course of time.

It is natural to be afraid due to the outbreak, however, it will be a disservice to ourselves and our family if we lose sight of the situation during such a critical time. There is only so much we can control and worry about and one such thing is our own mental health.

This is the time to seek help, connect with friends and family through all the means available to us, and make the best use of the abundant time suddenly available to us.

Grace Bains Grace Bains

Grace is someone who likes writing enough to make a living out of it. When she isn’t writing, you will find her having chai and reading a book.