#10: Stress in the Time of COVID-19: Why We’re Stressed & How We Can Cope

Sliding Doors Podcast
#10: Stress in the Time of COVID-19: Why We're Stressed & How We Can Cope
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The pandemic is stripping us of many of our coping strategies for stress. We’re in lockdown (so can’t meet our friends for support), we’re getting crazier deadlines (so can never really unwind), and there’s a virus spreading in our community (our lives are potentially in danger). But do we need to be spiralling out of control? In this episode, Susheel and Rohan explore these issues and then invite neuropsychologist Anirudh George to share his take on them. Plus, they explore the role of ‘middle-class privilege’ (https://projecthumanities.asu.edu/content/middle-upper-class-privilege-checklist) in shaping the way we respond to crises.

Introducing Our Guest — Anirudh George

Anirudh George is a neuropsychologist working at the internationally-renowned Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. He finished an undergraduate degree in psychology at St. Xavier’s College (Mumbai), and a postgraduate degree at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS, Bengaluru). He’s passionate about studying the theory of neural networks and enjoys clinical therapy, too. And he joins us halfway through the episode (at 34:21) to offer a psychologist’s perspective on ‘COVID-19 anxiety.’

Timestamps:

  • 00:00 — Introduction to the episode.
  • 01:14 — The horror of the migrant crisis (Harsh conditions, no government help) and its effect on Susheel.
  • 03:30 — Reconciling two world views — one where COVID isn’t a big deal, and one where it’s a pandemic!
  • 05:00 — Being stressed but not realizing it.
  • 06:55 — Things that are stressing people out: Keeping your job/getting paid, economy dipping, etc.
  • 08:00 — The importance of calming down, because we can’t control everything.
  • 09:47 — The effect of friends and relatives falling ill. The ICMR’s (Indian Council of Medical Research) mistakes. Susheel asks, “What have they been smoking?”
  • 11:15 — COVID has become politicized. The numbers are larger than what has been recorded.
  • 11:28 — Why COVID numbers are being under-reported: (1) Relatives choose not to record deaths as COVID deaths, (2) Many deaths already go unreported, and relatives don’t get a death certificate.
  • 14:05 — How the news stresses us out. The challenge of being aware of what’s happening but not getting overwhelmed. Going on a social media diet. The wisdom of having someone else update you on key events, to cut out the emotional component of watching the news.
  • 17:07 — The dangers of being constantly stressed out, especially when you don’t know you’re stressed. How to spot that you’re stressed by using friends’ behaviour as a cue.
  • 20:50 — Middle-class privilege & COVID-19: Should you carry on with your life (a luxury the middle-class has)? Or stop and help people in need during this crisis? A case study about Susheel’s friend’s social outreach.
  • 27:42 — Hope in the middle of this crisis: Can we can learn from our experiences? Are we changing for the better?
  • 29:20 — Why working from home isn’t necessarily better than going to the office. IT folk find it more stressful.
  • 32:52 — Susheel’s plans for ‘lockdown’ work over the next few months.
  • 34:21 — Introduction to our guest: Anirudh George (Neuropsychologist) – a.k.a ‘Chandu.’
  • 35:15 — Why Chandu hasn’t been very anxious about COVID-19. The role of his work in helping him cope with the implications of the virus.
  • 39:40 — How to cope: (1) Get in touch with your emotions. It’s a skill you can develop. (2) Recognize that bad things do happen and appreciate the ordinary things in life.
  • 42:15 — A psychologist’s take on ‘middle-class privilege’ and the luxury of social distancing. How do you ‘socially distance’ when you’re stuck in a slum?
  • 42:58 — Stopping your life to help others does have its costs. And by doing something to help, you will have to give up some convenience. These types of small sacrifices are how we can use our ‘middle-class privilege’ to help people who don’t have it.
  • 53:40 — How your work situation can limit or empower you to help people in need.
  • 57:33 — Do privilege and guilt go hand in hand? Should you be ashamed of your opportunities.
  • 1:01:14 — Chandu’s advice (as a psychologist) about coping with COVID-19 stress. The power of taking small steps.
  • 1:06:22 — Reflections on the conversation with Chandu.

Links:

The photos that moved Chandu:

Articles that made him think about class and social distancing:

Watch On YouTube

Connect with Susheel

Connect with Rohan

#7: COVID-19: Sweden’s Response [Good, Bad, or Ugly?]

Sliding Doors Podcast
#7: COVID-19: Sweden's Response [Good, Bad, or Ugly?]
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“Why has Sweden’s response to COVID-19 been so much less restrictive than the rest of the world’s? Has their strategy worked? And, should India act similarly?”

In this episode, Dr. Prathap Tharyan returns to answer these questions posed by a friend of the show. And he unpacks the issues involved in his trademark systematic, comprehensive, and nuanced style.

How to explore Dr. Prathap’s ideas

There’s a lot to get into. So here’s what we suggest.

First, check out the 30-minute interview

Listen to it above, or watch the video version on our YouTube channel: S1E7: COVID-19: Sweden’s Response [Good, Bad, or Ugly?]

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

  • 00:00 – Introduction: What is the ‘Swedish conundrum’?
  • 00:55 – Why did Sweden not lock down? What has their strategy been? [Refer to PDF 1 below for statistics and data]
  • 14:20 – Why did they think this strategy would work? [Refer to PDF 2 below for statistics and data]
  • 20:00 — Is their strategy working? [Refer to PDF 3 below for statistics and data]
  • 27:55: Summary — the Swedish response isn’t about doing nothing. Instead, they’re making targetted decisions based on the unique characteristics of Swedish society. It’s worth keeping an eye on their success/failure, but we can’t generalize strategies from one country to another.

Then, download Dr. Prathap’s documentation

These are 3 PDFs outlining his argument in detail. You’ll find statistics, graphs, and images to back up each point he makes in the interview.

Finally, watch our earlier interview with Dr. Prathap

In [S1E5] COVID-19 (Pt 1): “Hey, Doc! Let’s Talk Facts.”, he explores how we already have the tools to solve COVID-19, because we stumbled upon them when tackling the other great pandemic — HIV/AIDS in the 80s.

Thank you for visiting Sliding Doors. Subscribe to the podcast on your favourite podcast platform.

Connect with Susheel Chandradhas

Website: https://www.ColoursAlive.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/susheel_c

Instagram: https://instagram.com/susheel02

Connect with Rohan Tharyan

Website: https://www.rohantharyan.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/rohantriesthinking

#5: COVID-19: Facts Only, Please

Sliding Doors Podcast
#5: COVID-19: Facts Only, Please
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The COVID threat is both new and old. The coronavirus and the way  it infects is novel, but we’ve seen pandemics before. So, what have we  learned from them? And can we distill those lessons into actionable  solutions for the COVID challenge? Dr Prathap Tharyan (Adjunct Professor, Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Christian Medical College, Vellore)  talks to us about his experiences dealing with the AIDS pandemic in the  80s and the striking parallels to what COVID is doing to us. He  discusses the data, the facts, and then his reflections on what we as a  community can do — not just to survive, but to thrive.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE EPISODE:

— How Prathap got involved with the AIDS pandemic (03:28)

— Tackling AIDS in the Northeast — heroin kingpins & shampoo-sachet syringes (07:10)

—  Parallels between AIDS & COVID-19 — The origins, no treatment,  global panic, stigmatization, faulty testing, and more (13:08)

— How Prathap knew COVID would be a big deal — analyzing the data from China (22:14)

— Question: Mainly older people die, so is it okay for young people to go out? (29:48)

–Question: Is COVID here to stay? Is it something we have to just live with? (33:44)

— Lessons we can learn from other countries (38:05)

— Why a lockdown alone isn’t enough (45:32)

— What is a ‘social vaccine’? (48:33)

— How to tackle the psychological impact of social isolation (56:13)
— There is hope … if we do one crucial thing (1:07:56)

LINKS MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE

— Will wearing face masks help stop the spread of COVID? https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1435

— The concept of a “social vaccine”: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-shot-of-hope-with-a-game-changing-vaccine/article31383184.ece

𝐂𝐎𝐍𝐍𝐄𝐂𝐓 𝐖𝐈𝐓𝐇 𝐒𝐔𝐒𝐇𝐄𝐄𝐋:

–Follow him at @susheel_c (Twitter) and susheel02 (Instagram)
–Consult with him at ColoursAlive.com

𝐂𝐎𝐍𝐍𝐄𝐂𝐓 𝐖𝐈𝐓𝐇 𝐑𝐎𝐇𝐀𝐍:

— Consult with him at rohantharyan.com
— Follow him at rohantriesthinking (Instagram)

Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/sliding-doors-podcast/message