Pandemic Paranoia

Let’s face it. This COVID-19 Pandemic is affecting all of us, in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. The difference is some of us are being overt about our feelings, while the rest choose to remain covert about them. Medical students at large are getting affected in multiple ways. The major factors being uncertainty, apprehension and the effects of isolation on mental health. I know being stuck at home for weeks at end may be daunting for some of you, but while we’re here, let’s utilize all the free time to our advantage to come out as an entirely new person at the end of the quarantine period. 

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During these unprecedented times, even though colleges are trying to engage students via tele-conferencing and online lectures, it doesn’t come near the hands-on ward learning and the active patient interaction. My suggestion is having a proactive rather than a reactive approach. While we can’t beat the ward learning, use this time to broaden your learning horizons. Improve your clinical skills by engaging in Online MedEd videos. Dr. Eric Strong does an excellent job of teaching heart sounds and ECG interpretation on his Youtube channel.

Another major challenge is the public and government scrutiny towards the Healthcare providers. Watching distressing news about the acts of hostility towards doctors can lead to great amount of apprehension regarding the medical field among the students who are the future doctors. You might even ask yourself, all these hours of slogging in front of books, is it really worth the effort if the people are so ungrateful towards the medical fraternity? Everybody faces unforeseen challenges in their lives and not everything goes by the book. Remember you aren’t defined by your challenges, but your response towards them. Weigh your priorities and resolve to bring the change you want for yourself.

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The First-line responders have to face multiple sources of stress such as intense workloads, witnessing human suffering, risk of getting infected, making life-and-death decisions for others, and separation from family. It is crucial for them and those around them to identify signs of burnout and secondary traumatic stress and taking care of their mental health. 

The suggestion that periods of quarantine might bring unprecedented productivity implies we should raise the bar, rather than lower it. Do not underestimate the cognitive and emotional load that this pandemic brings, or the impact it will have on your productivity, at least in the short term. Difficulty concentrating, low motivation and a state of distraction are to be expected and adaptation will take time. Go easy on yourself. As we settle into this new rhythm of remote work and isolation, we need to be realistic in the goals we set, both for ourselves and others in our charge. Low-tech and even no-tech solutions matter, a lot. Go outside and appreciate nature (as allowed by your local guidelines) at a slower pace to get a daily dose of physical exercise, relaxation and vitamin D. Call that relative or school friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Practice in these next few weeks to be in the moment, more mindful and supportive of those around you. 

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Inculcating a routine helps to manage anxiety and will help you to adapt more quickly to this current reality. Create clear distinctions between work and non-work time, ideally in both your physical workspace and your head space. It is the perfect time to explore and learn something beneficial. Read new books, learn a new language on Duolingo, work on your social skills or simply become a better family- person.

Working in short bursts with clear breaks will help to maintain your clarity of thought. Use technology to your advantage, especially apps like Forest, Headspace, Evernote. Even the most introverted of us need some sense of connection to others for our mental as well as our physical health. There are multiple Quarantine Virtual Study groups on Facebook, where you can create a virtual library and study together. 

 Remember, Social Distancing does not equal Social Isolation.

Dr. Mili Rohilla

References:

  1. Mental Health and COVID- 19. https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/covid-19 Accessed on 4 June 2020. 
  2. Basic Psychosocial Skills- A Guide for COVID-19 Responders. https://interagencystandingcommittee.org/iasc-reference-group-mental-health-and-psychosocial-support-emergency-settings/basic-psychosocial Accessed on 4 June 2020. 
  3. Doing What Matters in Times of Stress. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240003927 Accessed on 5 June 2020. 
  4. Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/mental-health-and-psychosocial-considerations-during-the-covid-19-outbreak Accessed on 5 June 2020. 

Images References:

  1. Corona Virus Resource Center. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/coronavirus-resource-center Accessed on 6 June 2020. 
  2. Coping with COVID-19. https://deadline.com/2020/03/coping-with-covid-19-publicists-fight-back-interview-star-wars-1202891492/ Accessed on 6 June 2020. 
  3. Coronavirus Mental health tips from WHO https://fi.co/insight/coronavirus-mental-wellness-tips-from-the-world-health-organization Accessed on 6 June 2020. 

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