What the pandemic means for the immunocompromised and what can help them
The recent lock down announced by the Indian Government in the wake of the pandemic has left people in a state of apprehension. Citizens around the country are worried over groceries and the unclear future. People are also angry and agitated at the unexpected turn of events where classes are being cancelled and the entire workforce is forced to stay home and be productive. This has led to a stark rise in the anxiety levels among the population.
We have been taking precautions such as social distancing ourselves, washing our hands regularly and dealing with this in our own little ways. A lot of us have been at home doing things we did not have time for before (like bingeing new shows on Netflix, finally learning how to cook) and managing our routines through this difficult time while the news of the lock down has had a much worse impact on the immunocompromised individuals.
But wait, what does one mean by immunocompromised?
Individuals whose immune system have been weakened by an illness are said to be in a state of immunocompromise or immunodeficiency. This includes patients of cancer, AIDS, diabetes among many others. This means that their immune system (the body system that protects us against diseases) is not as strong as a healthy individual’s. Their body has a reduced or absent ability to fight diseases or foreign bodies/particles that enter the body and recovery takes a much longer time, even for simple cuts. Patients undergoing organ transplant are also considered to be immunocompromised. Why? Their immunity is deliberately suppressed so that their bodies to accept a foreign organ. This process is called deliberately induced immunosupression and it puts patients at a high risk of contracting diseases and infections.
So, what does this pandemic mean for them?
These individuals are at high risk at contracting the disease. The immunocompromised individuals are extremely scared for their lives as they are more susceptible in times of a global threat. Their bodies are not as reactive against foreign bodies which leads to infection being more ‘deep seated’ before they show symptoms. They also do not respond appropriately to vaccination as a mild virus can lead to an infection at an alarming rate. As a result, they have to be extra careful while going out/ touching surfaces. Immunocompromised individuals have to also make sure that they don’t weaken their system more than it already is.
There are a lot of anxieties surrounding the Corona Virus for these individuals. The lack of medication and testing kits are two of the reasons for their anxieties. They are scared that they won’t be tested or that they won’t have medication for it as they have weaker defense systems.
Another cause of anxiety can be the economic implications for it. Corona testing is not available for everyone and to get tested also costs money. A lot of individuals are being laid off due to the lock-downs. This means a lot of people do not have the financial resources for it.
The pandemic, for these individuals, means that going out for grocery shopping is like going to war and sanitizing becomes a sacred act for them.
How can we help them or what can help them?
“In my experience,” says Aarathi Selvan, founder of Pause for Perspective and Therapist, “one of the things that helps them is mindfulness.”
Mindfulness is, in its essence, the ability to be fully present and aware of the environment and the current moment. To be aware and to accept out thoughts, feelings and sensations. There are various methods of practicing mindfulness. We, at Pause for Perspective, offer mindfulness services to help you be present in the moment and be aware of your surroundings.
Pause for Perspective offers the Mindfulness Based Symptom Management Program which helps individuals explore what the world looks like, within and without, through the lens of Mindfulness. MBSM is an 8-week journey, calling to pause. The workshop looks at our relationship with the body, emotions, thoughts and the breath – enabling an awareness of each moment with openness.
We also have online meditation sessions of meditation that we are offering to effectively help us calm ourselves. You can find it here!
If you love writing, then there’s good news. Writing has proven to improve our resilience in traumatic times. When we put down our feelings and write, it helps us cope better with the situation. In a way, it is a means of catharsis. If you’re maintaining a journal. Keep a track of where you can feel those sensations in your body and write of a few things you can do at the very moment. It can be anything: like having that piece of chocolate or closing your eyes and taking a deep breath.)
Keep checking in with them over phone calls and texts. Let them know that they’re not alone in this fight against the virus. What makes anxiety worse is when you’re going through it alone. Make them feel included and be in touch with them.
If you want to know more, check out Instagram Highlight called “MH4COVID19”. We have added links for our meditation sessions and some mental self-care tips. As another option for you, we also offer Online Therapy all through the week (yes, even on Sundays!). You can reach out to us.
Pause for Perspective also is starting a free support group for the immunocompromised. If you have health conditions that made the pandemic a difficult journey for you, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We understand that fighting a pandemic is not easy. This is a new territory we are in. We do not know a lot of things, but we know this: so long as there’s compassion, empathy and love around, we will survive. These times are tough, but it shows what we can achieve as a community.