A creative way forward to mental health during Covid-19 -Ishrat Jahan Ikra


Impact of covid-19 and its consequential changes have been felt everywhere. Especially the sphere of human habits has gone through massive alteration. Rising uncertainties coupled with socio-economic peculiarities during covid-19 have caused mental depression and stress among many people around the world. Unlike other groups, students are still forced to stay home as educational institutions are closed down despite easing scenario in other spheres of life in global context. Despite manifold negative consequences, many people (especially young) are finding various creative ways to spend their spare times more effectively. Here reading habit can be used as an effective tool by exploiting its positivity among readers.

Human being always seek their survival under any good or bad circumstances. Coronavirus has emerged as a threat to the existence of human lives and livelihood worldwide. So, we are relentlessly trying to cope with the current rigorous realities. But the deep uncertainty and prolonged ambiguity of Coronavirus is making things worse. People rule this world because of their brain which is capable of foreseeing future by estimated assessment and prediction. But the odds of Coronavirus are leading human beings in an undefined path. Psychologically it is hurting as we do not know exactly when would the virus totally disappear or whether we would be immensely affected by this virus. Pain is lesser when punishment is known. Similarly, it is more pain is to endure when it is unknown. Long staying at home with huge spare time is also making our brain peaky. Specially, the young generation who are currently studying at educational institutions are totally left without any concrete educational roadmap. Prolonged closure of education is making their mental conditions deteriorated. Alongside, many people are suffering from both mental and physical sickness during the time of Coronavirus. People around the world are finding escape routes from this stressful life and opt to make their life easier and comfortable in the time of Covid-19. Developing effective reading habit can be an effective time killing strategy in this regard while acquiring productivity through it.

Unlike other recreational methods (e.g. watching TV series on Netflix), reading is a different platform which really provides creative recreation in human minds. From our very childhood we are believed that books are our best friend. Anybody can rely on books to overcome boredom, depression, and loneliness etc. Reading books can enhance our mood while enriching our minds with unknown information and knowledge. It enhances our creative ability and improve our communication skills. Besides, reading is prerequisite for better writing.

Reading was a simple and common act of daily activities for most of the students prior to the ongoing pandemic. Due to extended discontinuation, many students around the world have lost their reading habit where a minor number of people are redisposed to reading activities. It would be fatal for those who have stopped reading altogether currently when educational institutions operate in full swing. Even many students would find studying less interesting and hard to stick around. Reading also begets innovation. While every cloud has a silver lining, there are also some surprising positive results from global outbreak. The world cherish Sir Isaac Newton for inventing the laws of motion. But very few people know the background history of his innovation. Sir Isaac had to leave Cambridge University due to an outbreak of Bubonic Plague. While at home, he saw an apple fall from a tree, which led him to develop the law of gravity.

Though we are aware of all the good attributes of reading habit, we hardly enjoy it. Consequently, we lose the benefits of reading in most of the cases. Especially during this pandemic, reading can help us both mentally and physically which is very conducive to cope with the current situation. Due to pandemic, many of us is facing with mental impatience, irritation, anger, body aches, pains, fatigue, insomnia, worrying and overthinking, and inability to focus and concentrate. Besides, these factors also destabilize our internal metabolic functions causing blood sugar, high risk for diabetes and heart disease and weak immune system which is less resistant to Coronavirus. Given this context above, reading habit can reduce if not eradicate these mental and physical problems. Obviously the topic or genre of reading is vital in this regard. Topics relevant to social crises and realities can help to create resistance among readers. Few turns to religious writings which also play their own positive outcome among readers. Consequently, readers learn to cope with upcoming realities through creating own resistance. As it has been already noted that reading is a simple act but involves complex process in human brain. Reading engages readers intensively into it, reading can eradicate isolation by making our idle brain active. Because the person who is reading has to add sound, vision, touch and cognition when they apparently read words unlike passive viewers of movies or dramas. On the other hand, several recognized studies assure that 30 minutes of reading has lowered blood pressures, heart rate and other mental distress effectively as other meditation therapy. Reading has widely been used to reduce sleeplessness (popularly known insomnia) problem among professional physicians and psychologists. Obviously we should not read a long duration of time in a single sitting because it may have physical problem and cause a lack of concentration.
We could realize how important Internet is in this pandemic. But the most challenging thing is that Internet has both bliss and curse on us. We have seen how people rushed to popular video streaming websites (YouTube, Netflix) in their home quarantine period. Watching movies, dramas and songs have skyrocketed. But reading habit did not increase proportionately in comparison. Most of the traditional libraries have remained close but Internet could be an alternative source to printed books. E-version of books is free of cost and widely accessible on Internet. So, readers can easily bypass book availability through using Internet. Avoiding over usage of social media and other popular online contents is the biggest impediment in the way of growing reading habit. Once people start consuming these contents, it is hard to get away from them. But I am hopeful that the readers of this article would find the goodness of reading habit on their own which may lead their life in a healthier path as I believe.

Ishrat Jahan Ikra is currently studying Accounting & IS at the University of Dhaka.