On Friday, July 24, the Delhi Women Lawyers Forum organised a webinar on ‘Mental Health during the Pandemic’ for legal professionals. We bring to you the highlights from the same.
The pandemic has impacted everyone on earth.
The impact of COVID-19 depends on the kind of support systems we have like friends and family. Dr Samir Parikh of Fortis Hospitals, in New Delhi, said this while addressing legal professionals in a webinar organised by the Delhi Women Lawyers Forum as part of their ‘Virtual Canteen’ initiative. His mantra to deal with the health emergency are:
1. ‘Stay positive, stay productive and stay connected’.
Anxiety was natural and it would be good to accept it and exercise all precautions. Most of the uncertainty was rooted in our anxiety of catching the virus or transmitting it to our loved ones. It is natural to have this anxiety and even understandable. We must understand mental health by understanding the reality component of the pandemic so that we are not overly critical of ourselves. The reality is that we don’t know what is happening or what is going to happen. We do know that there is an uncertainty about the future. What we can do is exercise all precautions. Exercising precautions gives a sense of comfort that we are doing everything that we can in our control to avoid the virus, builds our confidence and encourages positivity.
2. Avoid surfing the internet and reading unreliable forwarded messages.
As lawyers we must know the importance of sources of information. If the source is unverifiable then don’t read it. Most people who suffer from anxiety about catching the virus are the ones who read the most about it.
3. Follow the preventive model and be a role model.
The preventive model is something that must be enforced from top to bottom by the seniors to their juniors. As seniors it is our responsibility to be the right role models. Thus we must encourage our family friends and juniors to follow the right information and take all precautions.
4. Live in the present.
We are in the middle of chaos. No one has experienced this and no one expected it. Yet, it has to be accepted. Focus on today and not on tomorrow. Planning for the future, such as vacations, is going to be of no use in times of uncertainty. You may plan for a trip but end up in quarantine. This will add to anxiety and frustration.
5. Be productive and redefine productivity.
An important part of staying positive is to be productive. Yet, we cannot view productivity in the pre-COVID productive definition. A teacher who has to take online classes may think she is not doing a good job but the fact is that she managed to do it and that is something! Even household management is productive and we should count it as such in our measurement of productivity. We have to redefine productivity and make it realistic.
6. Extend positivity to your loved ones.
Keep a watch on your friends and family. Reach out to your colleagues who are staying alone and who you think are struggling. Keep checking on them. The feeling of connectedness is important to control anxiety in a lockdown.
7. Rules for Work from Home
A lot of people are saying that they are working more in COVID times than before as they are working from home. There is a looming burnout crisis in the post- COVID world. Take care of your mental health at the same time. Implement strict work timings. The absence of work timings makes one feel like they are working all the time and this makes them feel overworked. It is difficult to maintain personal and professional space boundary because you are working in the same place where you relax. This makes it difficult to switch off from work. Create a work station where you go to even receive just a work related phone call.
8. Keep a sleep routine
Wake up at a regular time to maintain a regular sleeping schedule. He said that a lot of people are going through sleep time reduction which affects the routine of sleeping habits.
9. Engage in non-digital activities
The lockdown has increased our digital time since everything we do from work, entertainment to socialisation is related to the digital sphere. Figure out activities that are non-digital and space out your digital time. Pick up a new hobby, have a physical routine and make time for yourself.
10. Take care of your loved ones.
Teenagers should be given space but one must keep talking to them to check on them. Senior citizens should not be left alone in their rooms and they should always have company. They should be encouraged to narrate stories or go through photo albums together.
11. Watch out for warning signs of mental health distress
The warning signs or red flags that you must look out for are changes in emotions, changes in behaviour, changes in lifestyle, disturbed sleep patterns and appetite. It could be loss of interest and sadness which are potential signifiers of depressions. If you are going through negativity, please share your thoughts with a friend or family, a professional, or someone whom you are comfortable with.
12. Offer support to others
If someone approaches you for help then it is a good positive sign that they are coming to talk to you. It is an important first step. Offer support and give them confidence to talk to you. Facilitate the option of talking to an expert but don’t push them. The support system must be supportive to properly guide the person.