Kanwardeep Singh Sethi, MD  Psychiatrist, Pennsylvania 

It was in mid-January 2020 that I became aware of corona virus, as my brother travelled to China for a business trip. Fortunately, he did not get infected but I kept myself updated on the development and spread of this virus. Least did I know that within a couple of months a corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak will be declared a global pandemic. Apart from its effect on the physical health, the fear, apprehension, change lifestyle and non-availability of vaccines has led to an increased surge in mental health issues. 

The patients who were emotionally stable are now having increased anxiety which is related to fear of infection, drastic change in lifestyle and worrying about the wellbeing of their family members. Being homebound is also leading to an increase in depression. To cope with it, some have resorted to alcohol and substances which have further increased their anxiety and depression. 

Sudden change and disruption in anyone’s normal schedule can provoke anxiety but it can have a significant impact on children. This pandemic has led to closure of their schools, inability to interact or play with friends and restrict outdoor activities. They subconsciously sense the fear from media and family discussions and express their anxiety in other ways such as irritability, poor sleep and change in appetite. 

This pandemic has affected each one of us in unforeseen ways and we can follow some of these measures to deal with the crisis: 

1. Following CDC guidelines related to social distancing and hygiene. 

2. Staying calm. 

3. Maintaining positive outlook and acceptance of the present situation. 

4. Having a fixed daily routine, healthy eating, sleeping 7-8 hours per night. 

5. Practicing mindfulness, meditation, exercise and spirituality as per personal interest and preference. 

6. Keeping in touch with family and friends through facetime, Skype, etc. 

7. Encouraging children to talk about their feelings and fears, providing age appropriate but honest explanation of the situation.

8. Seeking professional help when needed from doctors, therapists, etc. 

After this crisis is over, it will still take time for people to get back to normal routine and their subconscious anxiety to settle. There are some positives which we can gather from this crisis – ability of individuals and community to adapt to the new lifestyle, stronger family ties, appreciation of outdoor activities, use of technology such as telemedicine and e-learning on a regular basis and people uniting all over the world towards the common cause. 

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