The pandemic has had a significant impact on our mental health and altered our very perception of life. We saw a majority of people losing their loved ones, youngsters becoming accustomed to online classrooms, elderly people confined to their homes and people getting addicted to mobile phones as well as rise in unemployment, suicides and domestic violence. We also saw many industries shutting down, resulting in huge financial and job losses. All these factors add up our stress levels.
When compared to surveys conducted before the pandemic, studies show a significant rise in stress levels reporting symptoms of anxiety, depression and insomnia. Some people have increased their consumption of alcohol or drugs in bid to cope with the pandemic anxieties.
“I have been working in the IT sector for the past 6 years but now I am always in constant fear that I may lose my job. We sometimes work for more than 10 hours to retain the job. Still, we don’t ask for promotions or hikes. There hasn’t been any promotion since the beginning of the pandemic. Most of our staff have been laid off. Some have even started their own business. Though they are not happy as their income is meagre, they are hopeful that they will not be unemployed now. The lay-off was a major shock to them,” Nilisha, who works for an IT company, told ‘The Sunday Guardian’.
Children too are experiencing the same level of anxiety as the pandemic has changed their lives and rendered their careers unclear. Most parents are still unsure whether or not schools will reopen, and even if they do, the thought of sending their children to school turns daunting for them due to fear of a fresh wave of the pandemic.
As per a report of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), negative emotions such as fear, disappointment, grief, anxiety and rage are common among children. The pandemic has exacerbated the problem because of its lengthy, restricting and broad character. Additional difficulties include increased screen usage, damaged family relationships and a sedentary lifestyle at home.
Most of the children have started facing health issues due to prolonged online classes. “For the first time, I needed to take 3-4 days’ leave to rest. Since my shoulder and entire back began to hurt, the doctor prescribed some medications. According to the doctor, it was caused by my poor sitting posture and lack of sleep. My eyes have been tired by the regular online classes as well,” said a student of Amity University.
The concept of e-counselling and e-therapy has become more acceptable, and people have acknowledged that it is useful in addressing it rather than dismissing it. The paper ‘Mental health insurance in India after COVID-19’ published by ‘The Lancet’ states, “Up to the end of 2019, a search of the internet, newspapers, and journals (by MG) found no signs of private insurers introducing mental health policies. Surprisingly, we observed the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic with lockdown in India from 25 March 2020, which changed the scenario. On 2 June 2020, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India instructed all insurance companies to provide policies for people with mental illnesses by 1 October 2020.”
Explaining changes in the several aspects of human lives during the pandemic, clinical psychologist Sukanya Ray told this paper, “COVID has completely jeopardised our way of living, the way we were used to going about our lives before the pandemic has completely changed. We, now, look at our wellbeing in a holistic manner, including how we work, socialise, and so on. Several aspects need to be looked at, there are multiple layers one is going through, such as personal loss and what we hear or see on TV or social media about others. If we look at the whole segment, no aspects of our lives are left untouched.”
“There is a possibility that some vulnerabilities will emerge in the future, especially now that we have become accustomed to different types of stress. Our adaptation mechanism has evolved; for example, in 2020, we became accustomed to lockdown, pandemic, and a sense of shock. In 2021, the idea of human dignity was dealt a big blow; it was a traumatic shock; nevertheless, in 2022, there is a different sensation of shock; it is a little milder, but we have seen that vaccinated people are becoming COVID positive, so there is a new degree of stress,” she concluded.