5 experts give us their top advice on coping with the COVID-19 crisis

With COVID-19 cases cavorting and rapidly increasing in India right now, the situation is at its most dire, with the healthcare system collapsing under the strain, and a highly contagious mutant spreading at a very quick pace despite an extended lockdown in place in most states. At this point, you might be worried about protecting yourself or your loved ones from the disease, trying to find hospital beds, oxygen or medication for friends and family, and struggling to stay productive while working or studying from home. To help, we asked five experts for their advice on getting through this uncertain time as best you can, and here’s what they shared.

1) Arm yourself with the information you need to protect yourself

“The B.1.617, being alluded to as a “double mutant” variant, appears to be driving the present surge in India. These mutations possibly confer the virus an ability to transmit more efficiently, which means that this variant is likely to be more contagious (spread more easily),” states Dr Lancelot Pinto, consultant pulmonologist, PD Hinduja Hospital & MRC. However, the reassuring part is that despite being more contagious, there is no reason to believe that the variant is more dangerous in terms of causing a greater likelihood of severe disease or death. “If one can tolerate prolonged N95 use (and assuming that there are no shortages of these masks for frontline workers), it may be preferable to use them instead of conventional masks. However, even when an N95 isn’t used, the presence of a mask is likely to reduce the quantum of the virus inhaled, and therefore result in a milder infection,” adds Dr Pinto.

“Masking, sanitising and distancing, and not allowing crowds in closed spaces and in close contact still remain the most powerful tools till a significant proportion of the population gets vaccinated,” says Dr Pinto. Data shows that once vaccinated, if you do get infected, the chance of being hospitalised is significantly decreased. “There are indicators that the current surge has not caused as many deaths in the elderly, possibly because most of them have received at least one dose of the vaccine,” he states.

2) Nourish your body with anti-inflammatory foods

Building immunity is important, especially now. Dr Vishakha Shivdasani, physician, nutritionist and author of the Covid and Post-Covid RecoveryDr Vee’s Six Point Plan recommends switching to an anti-inflammatory diet. This is important to balance hormones, improve your body’s ability to fight infection and bolster better gut health, which leads to a healthier approach to stressors. The nutritionist and medical doctor suggests phasing out simple sugars and refined foods, and adding nuts, seeds, ghee, olive oil and avocado oil. She also suggests eating protein-rich food to bolster antibody production (which are made out of proteins). “Low antibody count means slower recovery. Eggs, grass-fed poultry and lentils are good sources,” she says.

Even if you’re not sick with COVID-19 yourself, your mood is likely to be low, especially when you’re overwhelmed with the current state of things. Studies have shown that foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and tryptophan are able to boost serotonin levels in the brain, which can uplift and stabilise moods.

“Zinc, Vitamin C and D are a good addition to your repertoire. None of them can prevent you from getting COVID but what they can do is expedite recovery and prevent you from getting complications. Vitamin D is the superstar of COVID as it improves immunity,” Dr Shivdasani adds.

3) Stay active (but stay compassionate with yourself too)

During the first lockdown, most people began setting goals, making changes and pushing themselves to get their fitness routines on track. However, this time around, with the COVID-19 crisis being worse than its ever been in India, and the cases feeling more close to home than ever before, it might be best to slow it down rather than rev things up. “I’ve found that people are trying to work toward weight loss or fitness goals, but I remind my clients that we are collectively going through trauma, so being compassionate and gentle with ourselves is more important than ever before,” says yoga teacher and fitness expert, Pragya Bhatt.

Resilience and routine is important, confirms Bhatt. She suggests getting in simple, immune-boosting movement to your routine (like a yoga sequence or a long, slow walk), but makes it clear that this may not be the ideal time to challenge yourself too much or rely on intense HIIT workouts, when your cortisol levels are already at an all-time high.

4) Work on building resilience

This time around, while loneliness is still a major issue, most people are more stressed, frustrated, angry, upset and depressed than before. While previous lockdowns and waves of COVID-19 might have convinced you to enjoy the time at home and focus on the benefits of slowing down, your approach to it might be a little different now, knowing that the crisis feels more intense than ever before. “Acknowledge that it’s okay to not be okay. This is not the new normal. This is chaos at its peak,” says psychologist Tanya Percy Vasunia.

This time around, your entire social media feed is likely filled with information about how to help and amplify resources, and not doing so can leave you feeling helpless. Still, Vasunia makes it clear that once you have helped as much as you could, take a step back. “What I tell my clients is filter, filter, filter. When you’re taking some downtime, switch off your phone, mute your chat and take a step back. If your awareness is going to cause you distress and make you unwell, there is no point of it at this time,” she says.

5) Try to self-soothe

“In times like this, our sympathetic nervous system is majorly triggered,” says Samay Ajmera, music therapist, counsellor and cofounder of MuzArt. This forces our body and mind to feel like it is in danger all the time, which causes a flash flood of hormones. Ajmera suggests activating the parasympathetic system to let the body rest and digest, so you can stay centred when everything around you feels chaotic. He suggests listening to music that makes you happy. Other ways to do so are to dance, paint, or cook, all of which can soothe and comfort you.

The article was first published in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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