More than any other time in our lives, this pandemic is the most important reason to start making our mental health a priority. I can’t say it enough; along with all the vitamins, desi totkas and healthy eating, mental health needs to be understood and paid close attention to, in order to build immunity against this devil called corona.

Pakistan is breaking all records with the number of people being infected on a daily basis and mortality numbers rising. People are very anxious, getting paranoid, overwhelmed with fear as corona hits home.

It’s very important to understand that we need to nurture our own mental health as well as support the mental health of people around us. At the moment, speaking from my own experience and what my clients share with me, everyone is very scared and doing a great job of further scaring others by constantly re-reminding each other of coronavirus. We do it by informing each other who has tested positive in our common circles, by constantly sharing information about the disease, its possible treatment options and the long list of ‘totkas’ on repeat mode.

Are we even aware of how it mentally affects others? To be constantly triggered in a hyperactive state of fear and what it does to the nervous system?

What people don’t understand is that, just like physically our immunity isn’t the same, mentally our immunity also varies. A repeat of corona preventive measures might be ignored by some, read carefully by a few but might send others in a panic attack. This last group might be people who always doubt if they are doing enough and a long list of advice will surely set them up for failure. Also imagine what is happening to people who are already suffering from OCD (an Obsessive-compulsive Disorder). Their anxiety levels must be hitting the roof.

Recently, we all heard the news of a young guy committing suicide in the US. Just a few days ago, an Indian actor committed suicide. There are so many people around us who practice self-harm; they are at suicide risk and silently live through it until they no longer can. The pandemic has amplified their depression and anxiety as they are locked in for months at end and triggered again and again with fear of these uncertain times.

We have to start being responsible about our words and actions these days. For example, think for a moment before you forward a message to your family or friends WhatsApp groups. Ask yourself. Is it helpful to share it? Or am I repeating what has already been sent many times? Will it contribute to lowering or increasing anxiety levels?

Think twice before sharing news of more cases and people dying. Yes, the news is sharing all but repeated discussions forces the other person to engage in the conversation and that’s not healthy at all. Add exercise as a critical thing in your life and most importantly, start your day with it. Where it will increase the oxygen level in your body, it will also reduce depression, anxiety and improve cognitive functions. It also releases endorphins, the happy hormones that trigger a positive feeling in the body.

So here are a few other things you can do to build your mental immunity during these tough times. Stop reading everything that comes your way via your family and friends. Try staying in touch yourself to information rather than passively receiving any information that comes your way. Start discriminating information!

I recently exited all WhatsApp groups because if one more person had suggested to me to try ‘sana makki’ I don’t know what I would have done. Even if we mute our WhatsApp groups it is human curiosity to end up reading what comes our way and it triggers us in a fight mode again or a place of fear towards the current situation or makes us feel more unsafe and helpless, which are all toxic to for mental health. We all need a break!

Engage in conversations with your family and friends that do not have the word ‘corona’ in them. Try not to sensationalise things. If you really want to share content use trusted sources. Try not blaming people who have tested positive by asking them if they were staying at home. In fact, try and reassure people you know who may be infected and worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.

Spring clean your social media contacts yourself. Ask yourself if some of your contacts are just increasing your anxiety and worry and whether it’s time to unfollow them.

Please remember that whatever you are feeling is valid and taking some of these steps is you acknowledging these feelings and working towards not stopping these feelings but minimising the triggers that affect your mental health. Most importantly, be a source of comfort for others and check in with people that you know are living alone. Boost your own mental immunity and boost others, as unlike physical immunity, our positive personal goals of a healthy mind will transfer as a collective goal of a mentally healthier community.