How to navigate these tough times

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We all are vulnerable to the countless unknowns lurking in the nooks and crannies of life. This is no better exemplified than by how covid-19 disease can emerge from these blind spots of life and hit us without warning. Covid-19 which is a novel and contagious virus spread out from China to the rest of the world. Currently, there are more than five million cases around the world. The people’s sense of safety and security within the world will likely be shattered and become overwhelmed with anxiety and fear. The prevalence of psychological harm caused by the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in society is very considerable. Like other places in the world Kashmir is also suffering from huge economic losses, there are burdens of strict quarantine measures, restrictions to travel, and heavy screening and monitoring. It appears that in Kashmir the present lockdown affects people differently with regards to their sex, profession, socioeconomic status or their residing place, etc. For instance, a person who is with his family with all the necessities (daily needs) may not be as distressed as someone who does not have the same.

In addition Covid-19 disease severely challenges, contradicts, or completely nullifies the way in which an individual makes sense of life. Therefore produce massive anxiety and psychic pain which results in great psychological distress in the individual that is difficult to manage. Besides the obvious health risks, COVID-19 has also affected people psychologically. The high risk of contamination can increase the perceived COVID-19 threat and death, anxiety, uncertainty in individuals.  Therefore, all these issues collectively trigger psychological mediators such as sadness, worry, fear, anger, frustration, guilt, helplessness, loneliness, and nervousness. These are the common features of typical mental health suffering that many individuals will experience during and after the crisis. In extreme cases, such mental health issues can lead to suicidal behaviors (e.g., suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and actual suicide). It is well stablished that around 90% of global suicides involve individuals with mental health conditions such as depression. The idea that challenges and struggles can lead to positive personal or societal change, even if they leave indelible scars and permanent wounds, is not new. The hero-journey, for example where a quest leads to hardships and suffering, but where triumph eventually is achieved, has been part of human art and literature for thousands of years.

When people experience adversity – such as life-changing illness (like Covid-19) or loss, relationship with the world changes. Often, adversity may help us experience a new appreciation of life, improve our relationships with others, and help us gain more personal strength. This personal strength is called Post-traumatic Growth (PTG).  It has been defined as the experience of positive change resulting from the struggle with major life crises. It has long been known that individuals have experienced positive growth in the face of hardship. There are many ways to entertain ourselves with positivity.

  • If you think positive thoughts you will attract positivity into your life, don’t let negativity creep in. No doubt we live through pandemic and experience trauma but most noticeable changes we experienced were increased social support, better mental health awareness, and healthier lifestyles, religious and spiritual growth, greater sense of control and security through belief in God etc.
  • Relationships are enhanced in some ways. For example, people describe that they come to value their friends and family more, feel an increased sense of compassion for others and a longing for more intimate relationships.
  • People change their views about themselves. For example, developing wisdom, personal strength and gratitude, perhaps coupled with a greater acceptance of their vulnerabilities and limitations. An increased sense of personal strength can also be helpful in terms of realization of increased courage, abilities, and strengths to deal with covid-19 anxiety.
  • People describe changes in their life philosophy. For example, finding a fresh appreciation for each new day and re-evaluating their understanding of what really matters in life, becoming less materialistic and more able to live in the present.
  • We must never forget that we may also find true meaning in life when confronted with a hopeless situation (Covid-19 pandemic) or when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. If we regularly socialise – even virtually – this can help people bond, and build personal growth.
  • Self-compassion can help if the virus is causing you unnecessary anxiety, limiting your ability to work. In times of emergency, providing, compassion towards self and others, is the single most important factor in surviving the initial stages of disaster, less suffering, protecting the vulnerable, and quickly recovering in the aftermath of the crisis. Self-compassion means being kind to yourself when faced with challenges, adversity, or discomfort of an unknown future.
  • Religion is an important part of one’s social life which leads to the development of innate spiritual and intuitive abilities. Therefore understanding the role of religion as a coping process during pandemic is important. Despite many overt and covert attempts of distress from various quarters from time to time in Kashmir, spirituality is deeply embedded in the fabric of our culture. The amalgamation of culture and spirituality is naturally infused in everyday lives of Kashmiris. Many people cope with potentially distressed events by means of spirituality.

Masrat Khursheed is Ph.D. Research Scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi