“Traumatic events are common, and most people will experience at least one during their lives.”
I am sure the above statement I quoted from an article has truth in it. Most of us have gone through one or two traumatic experiences in our lives; some are devastating and some we could manage to handle easily. Though one thing I can say, trauma is not something that we should bypass or ignore.
But what is TRAUMA?
The Google dictionary defines it as, “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.”
And what are those distressing or disturbing experiences – rape, domestic violence, natural disasters, severe illness or injury, death of a loved one, witnessing extreme violence…the list is endless. Sadly, the distressing experiences that I enlisted are reported to be in plenty during this pandemic period.
I don’t remember how I celebrated Christmas last year in 2019 and the new year eve to welcome 2020. But what is imprinted and imbibed within me today is the name and fear of Coronavirus. During lockdown in April 2020, I was, in fact, we all were actually not very aware of the post Covid19 situation but when we crossed the month of May, we started to feel the chill of its deadly and long-term effects.
According to an article published in CNBC last March, the researchers have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could inflict long-lasting emotional trauma on an unprecedented global scale. They also warned that it could leave millions fighting with debilitating psychological disorders while facing a devastating economic crisis.
Take for example a househelp who works in Pradita’s building. Lockdown norms aside, she encouraged the househelp to stay at home while she continues to pay her monthly salary. The conundrum that poor househelp is facing is that since even her husband lost his job just before the lockdown, her salary is not enough to pay for her month’s expenses. She faces an eviction from her landlord because she has been unable to pay her rent for the last four months. Worse still, since employability is questionable unless the lockdown lifts, she has no means of finding work anywhere. She is not alone in feeling mentally exhausted from finding ways to sustain her family. There are many cases of companies letting off people, or establishments folding. It hurts not just the pocket, but our heads and hearts too.
Add to that the constant fear that even a simple humane action like a pat on the back can infect you has sent many behind doors because there’s no way of knowing how you could get infected. The trauma is not just confined to the world, it permeates within the family too. Overworked housewives find no recourse when their husbands abuse them. Young children find themselves locked in with perpetrators of unspeakable crimes. Or they feel the wrath of harrowed parents who are trying to eke out a living in meagre means. Outside the house, crime rates may have dropped but they have increased within your four walls. Family fights between dissenting adults, while not a crime, does make us more prone to emotional abuse and worry.
Do you think I am traumatic as well? There’s no doubt about it. Being congenitally a heart patient, I am extremely venerable to this virus and thus I suffer trauma as all others. Last week, I had caught a cold and slept having a cold medicine at night. The next day in the morning around 5:30 AM, I felt a choking sensation in my throat and sat up with a heart rate of over 150 beats per minute. I called up my brother Anupam and talking to him calmed me down. But the fear took some time to subside since even small, strange sensations in my body, though irrelevant, would also make me panic.
If I am in this state of mind, then just imagine about the people who are frontline workers, those who have lost their loved ones, those who are the actual survivors of COVID-19, those are in isolation or quarantined for days, and those who have lost their jobs, the only means of living!!!
Gripped in fear, I wonder, “Is this the new normal that we all have to adjust with – living in trauma?”
I really don’t have the answer to this question if I think about those who are affected and victims already. But I have a list of DO’s and DON’Ts for all of us who are still unaffected in the real sense.
Following are a few ways we can cope with stress and trauma during this pandemic situation:
By Avoiding News Channels and Stats: While it is good, prudent even, to keep yourself updated about the pandemic and the government rules emerging as nations constantly adapt to this fast-mutating-virus, it isn’t good for your emotional health to obsess over the news. It isn’t uncommon for people to spread rumours in times like these. If you can’t suspend your disbelief, then avoid watching too many news items and statistics about death and sickness. An overload of information can trigger panic attacks and constantly keep us in a state of worrying. Watching or viewing horrific images over and over again can overwhelm our nervous system, making it harder to keep our mind calm.
By Following Healthy Self-Care Practices: The best cure to avoid this pandemic is avoidance itself. Refrain from public places or meetings as best as you can, keep yourself healthy by practicing good eating habits and regular workouts. Sanitize! As many times as you can. But if you’re one of those who have to stay at home even for work, and work is not enough distraction, try inculcating a passion for a hobby. I keep myself engaged in binge-watching, making new videos, posters, and writing poems when I struggle with a negative atmosphere all around. Reading, singing, thread-work, listening to music, even working-out are some good practices to keep ourselves away from traumatic thoughts. Remember to keep a healthy mind and heart by practicing good habits.
By Building Human Connection: Social distancing is the norm, but luckily for us, we have technology handy to connect us. Use it judiciously to network with those closest to you. It is important to stay connected to our friends and families. Encourage it in children as well because this lockdown has been especially hard on their budding sense of community. There are many children who may come out feeling shy or being awkward after this pandemic is over. Prevent that by inculcating a habit of letting them network through supervised calls or meets. Vent, emote, and provoke others to talk. Human connection and support are crucial during these stressful and traumatic periods.
By Holding back major life decisions: You want to invest in property? Start a new venture? Or even change your child’s school? Hold onto that idea but act later when this pandemic is over. People are losing jobs or facing cutbacks. The government is trying hard to come up with ways to keep the economy afloat. Think twice before you make a major life decision because it could add to your stress levels. If it’s not urgent; if it won’t kill you, it can wait.
By Accepting and Acting upon the situation: When we can’t help ourselves in some matters it is useless to worry about it. In fact, it is better to get involved in the action of doing what is right at a given moment wherever we are. Trying to get back to our normal life in a new way is better than just feeling worried about the whole thing. Worrying, whining, cribbing and crying are unproductive attitudes that only add to your trauma without taking away from the problem.
By Relying on God: In the end, I always believe and trust that our God, the creator is always active and in control in every situation that goes on here on this earth. If God is not there, then trusting in Him won’t be harmful but if He exists then how wonderful is it to put our reliance on Him?
Trauma is as much a mental as it is a physical ailment and, in some cases, it is only about the mental abuse a person goes through. It is lucky that modifying the way we approach a problem is in our hands – we can do something to change our mindset. Without taking away from the grievous losses of those who have lost loved ones during this time, this pandemic is more of a psychological menace than a physical one. We are feeling alienated when we aren’t. Physical separation does not have to mean an emotional separation too. Besides, there are more cases of people recovering than people dying. Take heart in the fact that one can recover from this. Take heart in the fact that we have all learned to be self-sufficient, now taking only as much as we need. We have already started defeating the trauma inflicted by this virus by adapting ourselves. We all are strong survivors anyway as we were created and blessed by God to subdue the earth and have dominion over it wisely. And that is surely something to celebrate.