Omicron in India: How to deal with anxiety over the new Covid-19 variant

When the second wave of Covid-19, instigated by the Delta variant, began to subside, we started believing that, perhaps, this is the end of the prolonged period of uncertainty and anxiety caused due to the pandemic. Schools, colleges and offices gradually resumed offline and normalcy began settling in.

However, with the emergence of the new Covid-19 variant — Omicron — which is touted as more dangerous and transmissible, there’s looming anxiety and fear about the future once again. Yesterday, India reported its first two Omicron cases in Karnataka, heightening the already existing panic and distress.

“With huge losses in economy, disruption in education patterns, neglect of medical emergencies just when people were trying to resume back to normalcy, the onset of Omicron variant may induce anxiety and fear among people. Uncertainty about present and future may impact one’s coping mechanisms,” said Dr Neha Dutt, counselling psychologist, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciailty Hospital, New Delhi.

This sudden emergence of a new variant is bound to stir up mixed emotions, ranging from fear to uncertainty. “Any new unexpected transformation in situation or surroundings brings in some uneasiness and affects our behaviour patterns. It may reflect in increased stress, irritability, substance abuse, anxiety issues, disturbed sleep patterns etc,” Dr Rahul Rai Kakkar, consultant psychiatrist, Narayana Superspeciality, Hospital, Gurugram explained.

This, hence, calls for immediate attention towards one’s mental health to keep negative thoughts, anxiety and other mental health concerns at bay. “It’s important to keep oneself meaningfully engaged with work, recreation, hobbies, staying connected with family and friends at the same time taking care of all the necessary precautions,” Dr Dutt said.

If you find yourself getting anxious with all the developments related to the Omicron variant, follow these tips, as suggested by Dr Kakkar.

Sleep regulation

*Maintain a fixed time of going to bed and waking up.
*Avoid daytime naps.
*Avoid caffeine intake after 5 pm.
*Stop screen exposure/usage of the phone after going to bed.
*Do not eat heavy meals at night.
*Do not drink water just before going to bed.

Time management

*Set smart goals.
*Make a to-do list.
*Set deadlines.
*Prioritise your tasks.
*Take controlled breaks.
*Practice a de-cluttering routine.

Ventilate yourself

Share what’s causing uneasiness to you with someone who is close and trustworthy. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Diversion and distraction

Divert yourself when you are extremely stressed. For example, reverse count from 20 to 10. Also, figure out how to lessen your distractions when you are doing high concentration work.

Physical exercises

Our body naturally releases happy hormones if exercises are practised in routine.

Limit news exposure

Limit reading news for updates, to a maximum of twice daily.

“Sometimes, it is difficult to come out of the loop of your thought process on your own, therefore it is advisable to take professional help. Going through a mental health issue is not a sign of weakness, ask for help. It’s a sign of strength,” the expert suggested.

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