COVID-19 Induced Distress and Its Management through Vedic Sciences

Brig JS Rajpurohit, Ph.D.

Stress is a universal truth that afflicts one and all. Every living being; reptiles, birds or animals; everyone goes through pangs of stress. In case of reptiles and animals, stress is for the most basic necessities for their survival. Maslow’s Physiological and Security needs of hierarchy are primary needs of all and that includes humans as well. Reptiles and animals get anxious and go into stress whenever their survival is at stake i.e. whenever their requirement of food, safety and progenies are threatened, they will either submit to more powerful or fight with the competitor. Animals including human beings are affected by emotions for their family & friends and that is one of the major causes of stress. 

Whenever under pressure individuals perform and achieve targets and objectives, it is called Eustress and when one is unable to manage himself, unable to achieve targets and feels that he cannot fight it out, he resorts to running away from the situation. Soon he gets into severe depression followed by stress called Distress.

Covid-19 is a very unique situation the world is witnessing in first half of 2020 and it may prolong for longer duration. Today, survival of humans as a race is threatened and like all other animals, man is also prone to distress. Esteem and Self-actualization are appearing distant and difficult to achieve. Respect, recognition and feeling of accomplishment is essential part of human life is finding back seat when people are contracting Covid-19 in hundreds every day. Death of loved ones has stressed them out and it is affecting all countries, races, caste, creed and colour across the planet. Governments all over are attempting to find remedies to the deadly disease. Physical social distancing, isolation, lockdown and quarantine have been found to be reasonable means to prevent spread of the disease.

Type of job, place of work, indoor or outdoor etc. does not matter, he/she needs that space and recognition in one’s life. In the situation that we all are in today during Covid-19 crisis, both boredom and anxiety are affecting all of us and getting locked into house aggravates the status.

Lockdown was ordered across India on 25th March 2020; no one is permitted to move out and all offices have been closed down. Work from home is the new norm where there are no work place friends to share intimacies. Zoom conferences are formal digital spaces where intimacies and informal discussions are not possible. There is limited space in house in urban colonies to move around, limited number of people to interact with and limited time-consuming activity to fill the time gap. There are very limited number of people in the home with whom one can interact and share feelings. Even if there is a standard family of four with aged parents in the house, inter-personal relational issues amongst the members is a reality; ghar-ghar ki kahani is the order of the day (pun intended). Consequently, it is difficult to share one’s inner feeling with relations at home. At times, it is observed that sharing and caring with spouses are formal and dutiful relations. Very limited interaction takes place with aged parents and conversations are limited. Majority time is spent on mobile, television and computers and still lot of time is available where all sessions of Time Management seem ineffective. Since 25th March 2020, Entire India is going through this phase with intermittent speeches by PM Mr. Narendra Modi and respective state CMs and other dignitaries of the government. All efforts are made to keep the population aware of the latest situation and providing all possible help for safety.

However, stress is coming up as the next issue with stay indoors regulations. All efforts by the government and other agencies, there is limited positive impact and social relational structure is affected adversely.

Euronews has reported increased cases of domestic violence and divorces in France since lockdown was imposed in the country. Tablighi Jamaat has continued its central prayers and congregations despite lockdown and orders from the government. Nefarious elements have continued to assault police and medical and health workers. People connecting up with psychiatrists and psychologists has gone up since the lockdown has been affected. Who would not go crazy in such a sensitive environment where disease and death hangs all over?

Management way of looking at Stress

Over a period of time, both boredom and anxiety are visible in society. India Electronic Media is all full of shows to help us all overcome the isolation and attempts to bring smiles on our faces. Boredom on account of limited activity and anxiety on account of increasing number of infections and deaths due to the deadly disease. The reality of impact of Covid-19 is giving no respite; whopping 2,18,386 deaths have been reported so far as on 29th April, 2020 and end is nowhere in sight. India has suffered 1007 deaths.

More and more cluster is cropping every day and more and more teams are ushered into service of mankind. This is biggest humanitarian assistance ever organized in the history. Economic slump, china hiding the facts and President Trump threatening China of dire consequences is further adding fuel to the fore of increasing stress levels amongst all sections of society. Anxiety, depression and stress are natural outcomes that are of bound to impact most of us.

Management of Covid-19 Induced Stress

Covid-19 has been studied by experts and they opine that prevention is better than cure. Means to handle the disease are in three stages: –

  • Stage 1- Prevent contracting the disease by staying at home and not coming out in public.
  • Stage 2. Isolate and quarantine at home for those infected.
  • Stage 3. Medical treatment at designated hospitals for serious cases.

Stress in all stages of treatment may show some or more of following symptoms: –

  • Boredom, anxiety, fatigued and wear out
  • Lack of involvement and loss of interest in usual enjoyable activities
  • Physical symptoms like high blood pressure, indigestion and uneasiness
  • Short temper and anger
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Fear of unknown- fear of getting infected and if infected; fear of death.

Stress is outcome of psychological, biological and personality traits. Ability to handle mounting isolation and hopeless situation will decide if one will get into depression and stress. In order to come out of stress, we have to understand the corona virus and Covid-19 disease, its symptoms and how best we all can save people by efforts of individuals, elders in the family and following instructions given by the government from time to time. Some of the common measures are: –

  • Organise the day. Start the day with morning physical exercises at home, call it one mat exercises.  Limitation of space has to be taken into account and exercise for minimum of 30 minutes daily. Thereafter divide the individual and family time plan.
  • Plan and follow time table. It may include daily office chores, house hold jobs and hobbies. Family work plan will bring in variety and motivation to overcome boredom.
  • Set Objectives. Weekly/fortnightly or monthly objectives be planned for seeking satisfaction and constructive use of time.
  • Complement each other more often, laugh more than yesterday and find reasons to stay positive.
  • Be passionate about life with simple rule- This too shall pass.

Indian Vedic Sciences and Stress Management

The fact that covid-19 is likely to affect many of us and its impact worldwide is disastrous; can be considered from the Vedic perspective as well.  Indian Vedic sciences is ocean of knowledge on stress management; only a fraction is discussed here.

Breath is basic parameter of stress; it exists in our breath and if you are able to control your own breath, stress can be identified and remedial yogic and breathing exercises can be practised to overcome the same. Fear of Covid -19 infection or death is likely to change breath pattern, it will become fast, heavy and compulsive indicating higher stress levels. Thoughts of fear and death release certain stress causing toxins in human body that can be consumed by various yogic asanas and pranayama. Chanting of Oṃ (ॐ) and Prāṇāyāma like anulom-vilom and bhrāmari will help in normalising blood pressure, mitigate toxins and give a soothing feeling.

Knowledge of Triguṇas  i.e. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas can help change own prakṛti from tāmsic to sāttvic. There is a predominant Guṇa in each one of us and the Guṇas change with the time of the day, kind of activities, and thought process.  Every time there is a thought of fear or death or isolation, they reflect one getting into Tamas or stress due to negative thoughts and belief. That will result into change in behaviour of person, severe depression and stress. One has to act immediately to come out of Tamas and enter the state of Rajas. The activity will use the toxins of the body and one starts feeling better and will now think of better days in times to come. The process will take one from Rajas to state of Sattva where ultimate relief from stress is felt. It is easier said than done but support of friends and family members can take one out of depression or the stress.

‘Stay home stay happy’ is the soul’s answer to stress management. Primarily, if we are able to consume the enzymes released in the body due to psycho-social conditions created in the Covid-19 rich environment, we shall be able to convert distress into eustress. Gainful use of time available is the call we need to take and shall be able to not only save ourselves and family members but also will be able to enjoy the time of togetherness gifted by the God Almighty.

Brig JS Rajpurohit, Ph.D. Group Commander, Group HQ NCC, Gorakhpur (UP)