The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted human life in every possible manner. It has forced the human civilization to take a back foot, live a life while practicing social distancing, quarantine and self isolation. This has caused emotional and mental health issues amongst .
Dr. (Prof.) Gautam Sen, Chairman and Founder – Healthspring talks to MediaCatalyst on how the pandemic has added to the mental woes. Professor Gautam Sen, a Senior Consultant in Surgery has been practicing General Surgery and Surgical Oncology for the past 40 years. He believes that the most important thing that one can do for his/her wellbeing during lockdown is to have a routine as having a structure to your day helps our mental state.
Excerpts from the interaction with Dr. (Prof.) Gautam Sen.
1. Mental well-being is the talk of the town. Tell us how the pandemic has added to the woes?
The pandemic has affected mental wellbeing in many ways. First, the pandemic itself with the highly infectious virus had put everyone at risk. There was too much of uncertainty in the beginning with proper measures to be followed by all and the sustainable risk on life. The uncertainty about the treatment and the wait for vaccine is adding to the woes.
The economic hardship is another factor affecting the mental health of all. Many have lost jobs in this crisis which has directly affected and compromised many livelihoods.
Added to this is upheaval in living conditions with families forced to be together for unprecedented long periods, which has resulted in other associated frictions and tensions. Inability to meet with friends and participate in social gatherings or outings have also made an impact to the mental health of everyone.
2. Work from home has triggered anxiety, stress and various other problems amongst many. How do you suggest taking care of mental health while at home?
Routine, Routine, Routine – The most important thing that you can do for your wellbeing during lockdown is to have a routine as having a structure to your day helps your mental state. You can make a simple timetable so that at least few things in the day should be fixed. Wake up at the same time every day. Plan periods of silence at home
Accept your emotions – from time to time, it is okay for you to feel bored, depressed, irritated, fearful and frustrated. This is normal. Accept these emotions. If worry is causing tiredness, exhaustion, sleep disturbance, body ache, irritability and/or an uncontrollable chain of thoughts and images; please seek professional help
Household Chores – if you have children, give them clear instructions and specific chores. This gives them a sense of fulfillment and also prepare them for future
Exercise – there is overwhelming evidence from research that exercise is extremely important for mental health. Physical exercise is an effective preventive strategy for depression and plays a vital role not only in the prevention of mental illnesses but also in positive mental health.
Create hobbies, games and other items on your wish list
3. Patients, especially senior citizens have developed a fear of visiting hospitals and clinics in order to avoid infections. How is Healthspring combating this situation?
Absolutely. In fact, in the beginning we were also skeptical to invite them for their routine or monthly checks to the clinic as no one was sure about the course of COVID-19 infection in India and how we were going to combat the same. To reduce the exposure to our senior citizens, our focus shifted to tele-consults. We also encouraged them to buy various equipment like- BP apparatus, glucometer, pulse oximeter, etc. to monitor their health parameters regularly and discuss the reading with us over call or WhatsApp.
We are also organizing home visits by our nurses, doctors, physiotherapists etc. so that these patients can be taken care of in a safe environment. Our staff follows all the necessary precautions like wearing PPE kits, using sanitizers, etc. during these visits to reduce the risk of infections to the patients or their family members as well as the staff themselves.
For patients visiting the clinics, we follow all the safety precautions including thermal screening and sanitization at the entrance. We ensure minimal no of patients are available at a given time and appointments are strictly followed.
4. We are seeing a rise in lifestyle diseases like thyroid, diabetes and hypertension. Our diet plays a crucial role in preventing these. What are your thoughts and recommendations on this?
Improper diet, physical inactivity and stress are major contributing factors for lifestyle diseases. With the outbreak of this pandemic each of these factors were not managed well, leading to increase in incidences of these diseases and poor management of parameters in existing patients.
Simple measures like home cooked food with more fibers, proteins with minimum carbohydrates can help keep weight under control which in turn manages blood sugars, pressure and thyroid levels. Food rich in antioxidants like berries, nuts, onions, leeks etc., immunity boosters food like citrus fruits, ginger, yoghurt, etc. and food with medicinal properties like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic etc. are recommended in the routine diet. Adequate water intake is also mandatory.
5. COVID 19 reinfection still remains an unanswered question. You have been extensively testing to detect coronavirus antibodies in patients. What is your take on this?
As per the current data worldwide, chances of COVID-19 reinfection is very minimal. Research is still going on about how long these antibodies last in the body but as per the available data IgG antibodies last for approximately 3 months in the body. We have also observed that 70% of people who had COVID-19 antibodies were asymptomatic or at the most had minimal symptoms like cold or mild fever of 1 day etc. Also data have found that presence of COVID-19 antibodies is more in people residing at slums, chawls, etc. as compared to the people staying in apartments or high rise buildings.
6. Lastly, the most debated question, when do you see the light at the end of the tunnel? Is there some relief in sight from this deadly virus?
We have to understand that this infection will not get eradicated as such. We have to make ourselves prepared to live with it. If we all as responsible citizens, play our roles well under the guidance of expert health professionals along with strong administrative authorities, things will not be that difficult. Although, we all are eagerly waiting for the vaccine in the hope that normalcy will return soon after.