Covid: Some UAE residents struggle to lead ‘normal’ lives

The pandemic has affected the mental health of people across the globe with the restrictions imposed.

Despite complete vaccination, a lot of people still do not feel ready to return to their pre-pandemic life and jaunts, opine medical experts.

While the UAE has handled the pandemic much more efficiently as compared to other countries, specialists aver that even after a year-and-a-half, many only feel comfortable meeting friends one-on-one and preferably outdoors.

The UAE’s vaccination rate has clocked 70 per cent but residents have been asked to continue with social distancing, as revelations emerged that new variants could still be affecting people adversely.

Experts highlight the fact that variants aside, after more than a year of hunkering at home some people are simply finding social activities difficult and are afraid of returning to their former lives: the clinical sounding, “cave syndrome.”

Said Dr Arfa Banu Khan: “Any major event experienced by a large group can affect how we feel and act. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of people across the globe with the social restrictions imposed. From feeling socially isolated to staying away from loved ones to witnessing the progression and consequences of Covid-19 infection, all together have created mental distress over the past year.”

She adds: “While restrictions have created anxiety and doubt about the present and future, we can overcome this by accepting the ‘new normal’, maintaining hygiene and avoiding large gatherings. And wearing masks for our safety can be considered as the new normal until we overcome Covid-19 pandemic. We can heal from this together by seeking professional help from a psychiatrist/psychologist, limiting media exposure, relying on authentic sources for Covid-19 information and staying virtually connected with loved ones.”

Dr Ameya Ghanekar, Chief Learning Officer and Founder, Orange Zebras, said: “The definition of normal has been questioned in the recent past and now it’s a matter of subjective analysis. Today normal means different to people. It is blended normal or new normal, normal before pandemic or totally new normal are few examples of what ‘normal’ really means.”

He explains that usually any big change goes through seven stages as per the Kubler-Ross Change Curve model. “A person is in shock, then in denial. An individual then feels frustrated and is depressed. Then he/she tries to experiment, makes decisions accordingly and then reaches a stage of integration. I think many of us are at the experimentation and a new decision-making stage. Only some people have allowed the new normal to integrate into their lives,” explains Ghanekar.

According to him, “the experiment stage includes initial engagement with the new change and the decision stage includes learning how to work in new situations and feeling more positive. I think very soon, post experimenting, we will be able to make decisions about what is non-negotiable, what’s okay to have and what we would like to drop from our list. Soon we will be at the stage of Integration and all are going to be Renewed Individuals.”

The experts underline that this is bound to impact societies socially, emotionally, psychologically, educationally and personally in varying degrees.

Girish Hemnani, Energy Healer and Life Coach says: “The endurance for uncertainty has indeed increased and many have already realised that unhealthy coping mechanisms like denial, distraction or numbing is no longer a loving choice. The new normal is empathy and resilience.”

He adds: “There is no going back, which leaves us with a positive choice to look forward with hope and trusting our human ability to learn from our mistakes. It would be helpful to see the situation not as collective trauma but as an opportunity that forces us to reflect within and take responsibility for one’s own good health and happiness, and take personal responsibility to address all the factors including thoughts, emotions and attitude that were impacting the immunity negatively.”

Tips on how to deal with anxiety and return to normal

#Practice being present by bringing non-judgmental awareness to your body and emotions

# 5 to 7 cycles of Deep Abdominal breathing 3 times a day

# Say Positive Affirmation with a strong feeling, “I have phenomenal coping skills”

# Have more alkaline food like fruits, nuts, raisins, sprouts and salads

# Take salt bath daily with lavender oil to maintain energy hygiene

# Practice 10 mins of meditation or mindfulness

Nandini Sircar

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