On May 22, 2021, Seniors Today hosted its weekly Health Live session with leading psychologist Dr Monika Dass who addressed and answered questions on how to deal with anxiety, loneliness and negativity during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Monika Dass is a Chartered Psychologist, a Chartered Scientist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, UK. Professionally, she has counselled over 12,500 individuals in a span of 20 years and has published several papers in both Indian and international journals.
A trained pianist and vocalist from the Trinity College of Music, London, Dr Dass has influenced many lives with the joyful learning of music. She has been actively involved in several popular musicals such as The Sound of Music, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and so on…with her expertise in developing children through drama. She firmly believes that any extracurricular activity can help tap into one’s potential and bring out the best in an individual.
There are FOUR rules Dr. Dass says you need to follow during the pandemic.
- Stay informed but not too informed. Do not spend all your time watching the news on the television all day.
- Learn to distract yourself. Learn things, find things to keep you busy.
- Don’t panic. Though it is easier said than done, focus on prayer and positive affirmations.
- Look on the brighter side of things.
Q: My 86-year-old mother gets anxious whenever she hears the ambulance siren. I’m 56 and listening to her, I’ve even started feeling anxious. What does one do in this situation?
A: If you’re staying with your mother, ensure that you do not pass on your anxiety to her. Discuss your worries with someone your age. Hearing sirens is going to be matter-of-fact given the times we are living in. Everytime you hear the siren, rather than feeling uneasy or anxious, I want you to bless the person because someone is having a tough time. When you do this, what you’re doing is, you’re pushing the negative thoughts and making space for positive thinking and prayers. You’re blessing them in the hope that they feel better and survive the ordeal they are going through. In the process you will be blessing yourself too. The more you spread the blessings around, the more you’ll get back and the easier you’ll feel.
Play some soft music in your home to play above the sound of the siren, so it’s not as audible.
Q: Last year was bad but this year is worse. Some of my family and friends have been in the ICU in pretty bad shape and some passed away. How can I not be anxious?
A: It is normal to be anxious. Everyone gets anxious but our tendencies to become more anxious get higher when the issue/ concern is hitting closer to home. We feel bad, we feel concerned. Are you anxious about dying? Are you anxious about getting the virus? Are you getting anxious because you suddenly feel helpless? It can be a yes to all these questions. The point is, why do you get anxious? People who are getting anxious are the people who don’t have much to do. If you don’t have much to do, you have time on your hands, and you start thinking too much about it. Anxiety happens to all of us, we just have to find a way around it. The solution is friends, close family members, exercising, eating and sleeping well, keeping busy. These are all things we have to do throughout the pandemic. We do not have much choice. As long as we are doing all these things, taking out medicines and multivitamins, what are you anxious about? Anxiety is just in everybody’s head, it doesn’t just happen, it’s all built in the head.
Q: Loneliness and sadness are connected. Any techniques or exercises to stay positive and calm?
A: I’ve been doing pranic healing. And in pranic healing there is a meditation that is called twin hearts meditation. You can find this meditation’s basic version on YouTube. Initially, the first couple of times you’ll find it strange when you listen to him. But when you do actually, it calms you down. Guided meditation helps.
Find a way that your society or your area let’s the elderly move around the block even if it is for a little while at night. If you have a garden, walk and keep active..
Loneliness is a huge issue for the elderly because you’re living by yourself, or can’t reach your kids quickly or maybe because you’ve chosen to be on your own. You have to FaceTime with your family, video call your friend, you have to use technology to stay in touch and connect with people. Fix at least 10 mins of your time in the morning and evening to chat with your friends and family apart from your daily routine.
Negativity has to be replaced with positivity. If you have fear setting in, find a prayer book, sit down and pray. If you’re feeling sad, catch hold of your grandchild/ grandchildren and play a board game. Get yourself distracted the moment you start feeling negativity setting in.
Q: Vaccines have created more problems than solutions. Is it safe to take or not?
Ans. In the month of January, I wasn’t very keen on taking the vaccine. By the end of February, I had decided that I needed to take the vaccine keeping in mind the things happening around. On the 4th of March’21, I took my first shot. What I’m trying to say is, vaccination is important even if you’re 80, but after consulting with your doctor.
As far as whether the vaccine is useful or not, none of us know. But from what I’ve understood, even if you catch the virus after the 2nd shot, they say that it’ll have a less effect on us. The virus would not hit us as badly as it would have on someone who hasn’t been vaccinated.
A healthy lifestyle is a must. Being physically, mentally and emotionally fit and charged is of the utmost importance.
Q: My son has nearly lost his job, in the sense that his boss has put him on leave without pay. My daughter-in-law is still working but we are unsure about her future. This has resulted in a fear as to how we will survive. Our son has just bought a flat and has heavy EMIs. How should we go about the situation?
Ans. I’m sorry that things are not looking good for you.
- You can try renting out the flat. This will help you in paying the EMIs to an extent.
- Move away from where you are to a less expensive location. You will have to move out and might have to rent out a cheaper place but it might be a little more feasible.
- Your son may or may not get his job. We cannot say for sure. Lessen the stress on yourself. Financially and emotionally. Even though your son might not have the job that he wants, he can still try looking for a new one. He might not find the kind of jobs or positions he’s used to or looking for, but go down the ladder 2 or 3 steps and see what you can find.
- Try looking for alternatives to help you out financially.
A few suggestions made by Dr Dass during the session:
- Download the Udemy app and go through some of the courses they offer. You’re bound to find something that interests and intrigues you. There is no age limit to learning and it will also keep you occupied.
- The Victoria and Albert museum in London, the Guggenheim museum in New York, and many others. If you register for them online, they take you on virtual tours. If you’re interested in art, you can look into it
- The Gresham colleges hold lecture series on all sorts of topics from arts to science to spiritual topics. You can look into them when you find the time.
For the ongoing period of the second wave of the Pandemic, if you have a query or wish to take to take some group online counselling sessions by Dr Dass, you may join the WhatsApp group at https://chat.whatsapp.com/H4ncfPj61TWLl0OfGzdKON