The anxiety in these trying times

Anxiety, depression, stress. These are not terms people in Bangladesh commonly speak of. Thanks to our culture, people associate these feelings with weakness. In a country where mental health is not taken seriously, we’re lucky people even admit the existence of anxiety and depression.

However, the situation is different now. Not just in Bangladesh, but all over the world. I’ve seen people downplaying the severity of the coronavirus outbreak all over Facebook. If you asked someone to stay at home for their own safety, they’d shrug and give you the impression that you’re weak, because, you know, you are scared.

As we all know it, the situation is getting worse day-by-day. The extreme measures to enforce lockdown — and thus, social distancing — are being taken just recently.

We’re all in this together and we all have the same fear.

Many would say it’s already been too late. We should have enforced these a long time ago. I agree with them. We are indeed late. We have been seeing strict enforcements of lockdown in pretty much all over the world except in Bangladesh, so we are aware of what we should have done.

But that does not mean we are prepared. As the country’s lockdown and restrictions become tighter, we find ourselves in an even more anxious place than we thought we could handle. We knew we were supposed to stay at home, but as days go by, we can’t help but wonder, how much longer?

I went out to the balcony today as I heard the nearest mosques announce that the worshippers should stay at home. 

That is unprecedented. I’ve never imagined I would see the day when mosques are ‘kind of’ closed. Many would say that the authorities were too late to enforce this — many countries around the world have done so weeks ago — and they would be right. We are indeed late to enforce this. 

But even then, to actually hear the announcement that worshippers are asked to stay at home is surreal. 

Even for someone like me, who’s staying on top of the news since the beginning of March, it was weird, scary even. I knew this was coming, it was a matter of time before people would be asked not to go to the mosque, and even with all that knowledge, it didn’t help me be comfortable with the news.

Just imagine how it would affect the people who are not aware of the larger picture around the world.

It is very difficult to keep a straight head in these difficult times. None of us are new to stress and anxiety. We all get it from time to time. Then we head out for fresh air, hang out with friends, or do a myriad of other things to clear our minds.

These days, that is out of the question. You’re stuck at home with your entire family. Some of you have classes or work that you have to pay attention to. I know it is hard. I know it’s difficult to pay attention to any of those things when you don’t know when all of this will be over.

The scary part of it is not knowing what’s next.

What I don’t know is what’s next. The scary part of it is not knowing what’s next. And even more worrying is the fact that nobody, not the government, not the world leaders, not even the top scientists around the world, knows what’s next. 

That is a terrifying place to be in. Nobody expected to find themselves stuck in such a situation with no end in sight. And it affects us in different ways.

People have different ways of dealing with fear and anxiety. But there’s one common thing among all of us: We’re all in this together and we all have the same fear.

I’m not an expert to suggest ways to reduce your anxiety. But what helps is getting your mind busy with things that aren’t related to the current world affairs.

If you have Netflix, go watch a movie (or binge-watch a lengthy series that you never got the time for), but stay away from those related to pandemics and viruses. If you like reading, go read a book, but avoid those that are about end-of-the-world disasters if you can.

A less popular way to spend the time would be to learn new things. You obviously have more time on your hands than before, and you can spend that by learning new things. Maybe learn a new recipe and practice it with your mom. Maybe watch a bunch of tutorials on YouTube and learn a new software.

Video-conferencing is taking off due to online classes and people working from home. But it doesn’t have to be all class and work. Invite your friends to a group video chat and just talk about the funniest memes you saw today.

Maybe this will help, and maybe it won’t. You won’t know until you try. Nobody knows how long we’re going to be stuck home for. And everywhere you look will point you to a grim and uncertain future.

To say that you should make the best of your time now might sound insensitive, but it’s also logical. There are things that are out of your hands and then there are things that are within your hand.

We can’t control the pandemic other than staying safe and doing everything we can to stop the spread.

We can’t do much about the anxiety that the world’s heavy death count induces in our minds.

But we can at least try and keep our mind occupied with things that would be useful to us once we’re out of this global crisis and go back into the regular daily life, whenever that is.

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