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Psychiatrist Dr Kedar Tilwe Explains How The Pandemic May Have Impacted Your Mental Health Long-Term

Loss of jobs, financial crunches, depression, anxiety and insecurity about the future became a part and parcel of our lives in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic, wherein many are still in lockdown or self-isolating, affected the mental health of the masses substantially. Though the mental health implications of this unprecedented situation will impact everyone differently, it is vital to create a roadmap to recovery. So what are some ways to deal with this unique situation, and what are some healthy habits to incorporate to achieve mental stability? TC46 asked Psychiatrist Dr Kedar Tilwe from Fortis Hospital & Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai to address some burning questions about repairing your mental health in 2021. Here, he shares the lasting psychological effects of the pandemic, talks about the need for self-care and ways to deal with bad-news blues.

1. The anxiety-ridden reality of a pandemic continues in 2021. How has COVID-19 affected our mental health? We have been subjected to higher loads of stress from multiple sources. As a result, there is an increase in anxiety, depression, relationship issues and sleep disturbances. Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have also been seen in patients who recovered from the infection; the emotional burden of frontline workers and caregivers has also increased tremendously. 2. What are some long-lasting effects of the pandemic on our behaviour & habits? A disruption of our sleep-wake cycle and work-life balance have been major longstanding concerns that we are dealing with since the start of the pandemic. There has also been an increase in the worries and constant need to clean which we are still adjusting to.

3. What permanent changes are visible in our lifestyle? An intense connection with the virtual world and the over-dependence on technology for going about our daily life is one of the major transitions. Increased interaction with our immediate neighbourhood and the utilization of local services is also seen. The need to shift to home-based exercise routines and digital family get-togethers is also becoming a part of our daily life, along with the growing work from home culture. 4. Why is self-care crucial, especially in 2021? The physical stress produced by the virus (especially amongst the higher risk in people with comorbid illnesses) and the psychological stress caused by the pandemic makes it essential to ensure optimal self-care to enable us to keep moving forward in these testing times.

5. What are some ways to evaluate our mental health status at home? Keeping a track of our mood swings, anxiety attacks, temper tantrums through a diary, and finding a solution to it can help. Learning to accept feedback from our family, colleagues and well-wishers is also important. 6. With information about newer strains of the coronavirus, how can we deal with the bad-news blues? Keep your focus firmly on things that you can control and take care of your family. Watch the news from a reliable source only and that too along with the rest of your family; after which clarify, explain and reassure everyone to avoid misinterpretation. 7. What are some creative & effective ways to take care of our mental health during the pandemic? Challenge yourself to learn a new skill or hobby. Practice relaxation, mindfulness, and yoga exercises.

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