Corona Curbs and the Elderly

Covid 19 pandemic has caused heightened uncertainty and anxiety, more so among the elderly population.

Scary, frightening, uncertain, no end in sight, no treatment, vaccine/ no vaccine, when, how safe, those above 65 and below10 not to venture out, SMS ( Social distancing, face Mask, frequent wash with Soap), learn to live with corona, social isolation, emotional distancing from dear ones, job loss, pay cuts or no pay are the talk of the ‘new normal’ world. It is no wonder that these uncertainties definitely cause emotional distress in the form of anxiety. This is a perfectly normal response to stress in order to prepare us for fight or flight.
The outpouring information by the overzealous media sows the seed of panic among the vulnerable, especially the ‘senior- most’ citizens adding insult to injury. However the middle aged and even young ones are no exception
Covid 19, replete with uncertainties, increases anxiety often to a level beyond one’s control. Notoriously known as one of man’s worst enemies, anxiety wrecks one’s life. Coping mechanism has to do extra work to contain anxiety and we end up losing lots of mental energy battling anxiety. The energy stock gets drained gradually. Brain networks involved in coping anxiety become weaker and ineffective to handle the mounting task. Anxiety which serves positive role in normal stress reaction overwhelms the individual, making him inactive and inefficient, like an autoimmune disorder where our own immune mechanisms work against our body parts.

Manifestations of anxiety, from mild to moderate to severe, appear depending on the efficacy or otherwise of the coping mechanisms. It has been observed that the quantum of anxiety and its physical and psychological symptoms in affected individuals are directly proportional to the duration and impact of social isolation and fear of virus. Long standing anxiety on its own is disturbing to the sufferer and it can also lead to development of the more debilitating depressive symptoms, if not attended to in time. Very often uncontrolled anxiety can be a silent killer by worsening already existing physical and psychiatric diseases, a fact often neglected to be emphasized.   

How to promote wellness and improve emotional immunity?
Be Positive.
Do all that one can to improve the coping mechanisms or in other words emotional immunity. Primarily it should be aimed at reduction of stress and replenishing the energy stock.  
Self-esteem, confidence, enthusiasm, energy, and optimism have to be maintained at an adequate level to help tide over the monotony and improve emotional immunity required in these days of pandemic. Worrying over the uncertainties related to covid 19 will only exacerbate stress which is notorious to reduce immunity.   
The older generation has every reason to be proud. They are a treasure house of unlimited knowledge and experience. The fact that they have experienced the best and worst of both worlds should boost their confidence, decision making, help develop positive attitude and enable them to handle stress with ease.

 ‘Stay connected’ and empower the brain network.  
Remain connected with society : socialise well, communicate with friends and relatives, organise groups of likeminded individuals, get involved in socially useful activities and make an enriched environment around them, all the while maintaining Covid protocol. This strengthens the fastest network on earth, the neural network in the brain which is required for coping with stress of life.

Mend your mind through Mindfulness activities
•    Reschedule activities of daily living to suit the ‘New Normal’        world.
•    Be Busy
•    Displace bad thoughts and refill with new / healthy ones. (reading and indoor games can be good tools)
•    Concentrate in what you do. Remember the saying “ Work while you work and play while  you play” This can help ward off disturbing thoughts.
•    Engage in house hold chores, from cleaning to cooking
•    Distract oneself through music, humour, TV and Radio
•    Limit exposure to disturbing news and videos related to the pandemic.
•    Engage in Agri - Horticultural activities, best among the many relaxing exercises. A ‘five in one’ beneficial activity, it ensures physical exercise, emotional satisfaction, poison free vegetables for consumption, mindfulness and improvement of physical and emotional immunity. (Even if you do not have space for a prayer room, find space for a kitchen garden).
•    Promote one’s hobbies or develop new ones.
•    Make humour an integral part of life, like salt for curry.
•    Moderate exercise every day.
•    Ensure adequate sleep.
Whether our life will be taken away by corona or other illnesses already contracted through our life style, we need to take a dispassionate approach to life for a peaceful exit.

The following is a poem on Corona and Covid 19 written by a ten year old child. He has a message to the adults as well.
The Coronavirus is terrible.
Covid-19 is danger.
But think of what we have done to the Earth.
Isn’t that terrible?
The lockdown is a chance to think back.
To what we did to a defenseless planet.
One virus changed the world.
It stopped the outrageous act of humans.
The virus made them feel like the Earth being dirtied.
The humans felt ashamed and promised that they would stop.
Littering, take the earth for granted, and buying unnecessary things.
Covid is not good
But until we stop hurting the Earth
The virus will not stop hurting the humans

We took everything for granted and we wanted more than what the Earth provided so it decided to punish us with a deadly virus to make us realize our actions, says the ten year old.

Dr. M Chandrashekaran  Nair

Director – Head of Psychiatry
Nair’s Hospital, Ernakulum

with Doctor

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