After being nestled inside homes for months on end as a pandemic raged outside, people are now nervously stepping back into a world that has drastically changed. It is an uneasy adjustment process resulting in all kinds of psychological challenges: death anxiety, social isolation, worry about having access to necessities, ill-health, financial crises and the everyday stresses. Uncertainty of the future is another trigger leading people to feel a lot more anxious. Even those who were earlier at a mild-anxiety level have moved to moderate and severe anxiety, and when anxiety increases, behaviour of self-harm too will rise. Psychologists say there is a 70% increase in the number of patients suffering from depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder due to coronavirus, according to a report in a national daily. So, what can and should we do?
Identifying signs for concern: Wheaton College Humanitarian Disaster Institute’s resources suggest, with a pandemic such as COVID-19, signs for concern are to be observed closely. People are experiencing disorientation or confusion, difficulty in communicating thoughts, or difficulty remembering instructions. This is making them easily frustrated and uncharacteristically argumentative. They are having difficulty in making decisions, unnecessary risk-taking behaviour is seen apart from tremors, headaches, and nausea. Unusual clumsiness, limited attention span and difficulty concentrating, or refusal to follow orders are some more concerning signs.
Engage with those around us: We need to protect the privacy and be sensitive to individuals around us going through such circumstances. We have to communicate trust, respect and sincerity. And, discuss specific behaviours we have seen that have raised concerns like withdrawal, anger, self-destructive action, depression, lack of sleep or loss of appetite. We also need to understand possible barriers or obstacles that may be keeping people from seeking help, and be able to provide suggestions to help overcome these barriers.
Listen to Jesus’ direction: Above all, Scripture gives us the best direction. Jesus said in Matthew 6:25–27: “I tell you, do not worry”; he gives us five directions:
First, see what the Lord is doing in nature in detail (Matt 6:26, 28–30), not just a “mere look”, but a detailed observation of beauty. Second, it is essential to live in the caring love of God (v. 26). Third, live according to the values of God’s kingdom (v. 33), which is found in simple ways to extend yourself to others. Fourth, don’t believe everything you think (v. 27) in terms of worry. Fifth, set limits on the time you worry (v. 34) so that we keep the worries of the day within that day.
Apostle Paul when writing to the Philippians says, “Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Ask and pray and give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds” (4:6–7). The confidence that we belong to Christ Jesus should help us as we glance through the pages of this issue.