Published on July 27 2021
Psychologists and psychiatrists in the UAE reckon that there has been a considerable increase in the numbers when it comes to mental health issues amid Covid-19.
Many residents have been unable to travel to their home countries because of flight suspensions; some others are reeling under pay cuts or job insecurity, and many children have been learning online and are away from their friends and classmates. All of these have caused a rise in mental health issues.
Dr Reena Thomas, a clinical psychologist at Medeor Hospital in Dubai, said that while this is the new normal, defeating the demons in the head is "purely in our hands".
"Majority of us are facing this new norm across almost all aspects of our life. We have options to get defeated or gain strength; it's purely our choice," said Dr Thomas.
"Knowing and validating your thoughts and emotions helps in making sense of what we are going through," she added.
Dr Thomas suggested remedial measures to counter the effects on mental health.
"Rather than mourning over lost times, accept the reality and new norms. Look forward to the time when schools are going to be reopened and our children will be back to their routine. Until then, avail the opportunities of restricted social gatherings, engage in indoor and outdoor play activities,"
Tips to stay mentally strong:
>> Identify whether we or our friends/family are affected by stress. Many would be in denial. We could be depressed or anxious, but our unprovoked anger or irritability, sleeplessness, decreased concentration and many unexplained medical symptoms could all be a cry for mental help.
>> Identify the stressors. Classify them as what is under your control (how to keep in touch with family or plan your finances or following Covid protocols) and what is not (when flights will restart or when the pandemic will end).
>> See what you can do about things under your control and build an action priority matrix.
>> Manage your emotions, be it anger, sadness or frustration, in a healthy way so that your quality of life is not affected.
>> Be more mindful and consciously avoid believing all that you hear on social media or the negative information you get from others.
>> Keep an activity schedule. Learn relaxation/breathing exercises or meditation. What works for one may not work for the other, so choose what works for you best.
>> We must be patient with ourselves and understand that this is not the end of life. We are slowing down to help the body and mind recoup.
>> Resilience helps us to combat the challenges we face. We must shift our attention from our weaknesses to our capacity for resilience.
>> We are genetically wired to survive; our job is just to let it happen. Accepting reality helps us to be more prepared for facing realistic outcomes and endure any tough times of life.
>> Practice self-compassion and gratitude journaling.
>> Be open to seeking professional help if required.
"The pandemic is an eye-opener to develop multiple skills and explore opportunities to be self-employed with limited investments. Presently, they can choose a means to sustain their life, get into temporary jobs, invest in higher studies, and gear up for the times when the economy blooms again," she elaborated.
"This is a war not to give up, but to retreat and get well resourced for the next battle of life," Dr Thomas concluded.