Hello, you. I hope you and yours are well. I am writing this on my first day back at work after a two-week long break. I use the word “break,” but it was really a two-week long crisis. You see, like so many across the country right now, the COVID virus finally hit home for me and my family. We’re all well now, and recovering. But the lessons of those two weeks remain. And top among those lessons, is one thing: how to take care of your mind.
Let’s face it. Things are pretty terrible right now. The healthcare infrastructure is crumbling, every day brings with it news of people you know falling sick and despair seems to be relentless. Despite so many volunteering on social media to work on COVID aid, the overwhelming feeling is of helplessness. After all, there’s only so much we can do, right? Even doctors and nurses are reporting deteriorating mental health. And the trauma of living through unprecedented times, is making us all anxious. In these terrible times, then, how do we take care of our minds? How do we let go of that we can’t control? How do we ensure that our mental health doesn’t suffer?
Firstly, by giving yourself a break. Did you ever read a novel set in WW-II or watch a film about war and wonder “how did these guys manage to get from day to day?” I haven’t lived through a war, but I bet that the answer lies in being kind to oneself. Kindness matters. You could be kind to yourself by volunteering, switching off social media, burying yourself in a book — all of these of course, if you’re lucky to be relatively untouched by the virus.
Two, to reach out. There’s no point in sugarcoating it. With desperate pleas on social media from oxygen to cremation grounds, what we’re experiencing is trauma. Sonali Gupta, a Mumbai-based clinical psychologist, has said, “People are very fearful now. Fear, confusion, numbness, panic and anxiety, these are the top five emotions I am observing in a lot of people.” We can’t go through this alone. More than ever, it seems that reaching out for professional help is an inevitability. A way for us to process our grief, our trauma, and our anxiety.
And finally, to keep the faith. I know this feels impossible right now. At best, hope feels like a foolish optimism. When I was sick with COVID, a friend texted me, “This will pass. You will come out of it on the other side.” I asked, “Are you sure?” At the moment we’re engulfed in a crisis, an alternative reality feels impossible. But if there’s anything that poems, books, and art has taught us, it’s this — that better days are ahead.
I am leaving you with a poem I turned to, while trying to keep the faith that things will get better. It’s a poem by Vikram Seth titled “All You Who Sleep Tonight.”
All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hands to left or right,
And emptiness above –
Know that you aren’t alone.
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.
Know that you’re not alone. From everyone here at Vitamin Stree, I hope you and your family are safe, and well.