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Focus on Coping Not Moping: A Psychotherapist on Mental Health During Lockdown

Psychologist and psychotherapist Dr Varkha Chulani on how to deal with lockdown blues.

By Maya Lalchandani

Associate supervisor and fellow of the Albert Ellis Institute, New York, Dr Varkha Chulani practises rational emotive behaviour therapy system. To put it in layman’s terms, the clinical psychologist and psychotherapist helps people live the lives they desire, and be happier and healthier.

She shares with us the key ways to deal with the current pandemic and lockdown.

ACCEPT: These are extraordinary times and society as a whole is not used to such challenges. Our conditioning does not give us opportunities to develop resilience or the tenacity to deal with such hardships. The privileged, educated, urban classes are even more emotionally fragile and brittle than their own domestic helpers. But non-acceptance heightens fears further, thus increasing fragility. So accept that this is a new way of life.

Try this emotional capsule: (1) Even though you do not like this new reality, accept it anyway. (2) Tell yourself you will deal with it in the best way you can. (2) Do your best under the restricted circumstances.

KNOW YOUR WHY: Recalibrating life is very much in our control. Neurologist and psychiatrist Dr Viktor Frankl was sent to a concentration camp by the Nazis, and he survived holding on to just one idea that he wanted to write a book after he left. He used bits of paper and pebbles to scribble his ideas, and in doing this he discovered logotherapy. He explained, “If you have a why to live, then you bear any how.”

This is definitely the time to focus on the meaning of our existence as each of us will now discover what is of paramount interest to us and live our lives accordingly from now on.

Dr Varkha Chulani

LEAD BY EXAMPLE: This is the time for cooperation and collaboration. Setting standards begins with the top 10 percent in any society or corporation. Training too begins with the leaders, and this is the time that leadership needs to build trust by walking their talk.

STAY IN THE MOMENT: Keep thoughts in control, dealing with only the present, knowing what one can and cannot do. We cannot be supermen/women all the time. The more we try to suppress or ignore our anxiety, the more agitated we become. Monotony and repetitiveness can sometimes worsen anxiety, so changing things helps. Use your creativity.

BE JOB-READY: In this landscape of layoffs, one needs to develop new skill sets, filling the gaps. A lot is going to change, so read up more and up your game. The first jobs to be slashed are those not adding value to an organisation. Quality will matter more than anything else.

BUILD BRIDGES: Domestic violence and child abuse is rearing its ugly head during the lockdown. This is the time people should use for building bridges rather than erecting walls. Reconciliation, communication, and making allies instead of enemies is paramount. In the end, only good relationships are going to see us through.

SHARE RESPONSIBILITIES: Families should be assigned tasks based on  whatever one is good at. There should be understanding, respect, and personal space. That being said, we have to pay attention to addictions as well like alcohol, sex, tobacco and drugs. This is not the time to start new medications, so it’s better to learn to manage one’s thoughts and control one’s behaviours. The focus should be on coping, not moping.

Lead representational image: Pixabay. First published in eShe’s May 2020 issue

Syndicated to MoneyControl

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