Dealing with the India COVID-19 crisis: Tips to help you sleep when you’re worried

Since late April, the COVID-19 crisis has had devastating and ongoing impacts on India with more than two million new cases in the last week. Many Indian-Australians are also impacted as they are juggling their own lives while both worrying and trying to help relatives and friends back in India. To deal with this emotionally difficult situation, Melbourne-based psychologist, Anushka Phal, has provided some tips for Indian-Australians to get a good night's rest.

1. Start a good sleep routine

A good sleep routine doesn’t just involve the act of sleeping itself, but is a whole process which “should start two hours before you sleep,” Anushka says. While two hours may seem like a long time, this period includes winding down and starting to prepare for bed by having tea or milk, brushing your teeth or reading. The reason wind down time is important is because it prevents further external stimulation that will perpetuate your worry and stress.

Despite the tough situation that friends and family are going through in India, Anushka explains that it “doesn’t mean you have to stop looking after you.” “Boundary-setting” is important, so even if someone wants to vent to you about their situation, try to suggest that the conversation could take place another day rather than during your winding down time.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

2. Try meditating

You’re probably feeling a lot of mixed emotions and feelings during this time, so Anushka recommends meditation as one method of winding down before you go to sleep.

The “Smiling Mind App is a good tool for this,” Anushka says. The app allows you to customise a meditation routine based on factors such as your previous meditation experience, age, goal in meditating (which here is to sleep!) and your recent emotions. The very act of customising your meditation routine through selecting options on the Smiling MindApp provides an opportunity to reflect on your emotions and state of mind.

As an alternative to apps, Anushka also suggests searching for and using “sleep meditation” videos on YouTube. Check out some good YouTube meditations here and here.

Image Credit: Apple App Store 

3. Do NOT look at your phone

Some obvious but underfollowed advice is to stop looking at your phone for the last hour before you sleep. As well as being an external stimulant in normal situations, during this constant cycle of news and updates (and WhatsApp messages) from India, the last thing you want to do is to stress yourself out by reading something worrying online just before bed.

For people who struggle with decreasing phone usage before sleep, Anushka recommends that you “put your phone in another room” and to “buy an alarm clock” instead of using your phone.

4. Distract yourself

Just before bed, or while you are trying to go to sleep, is not the best time to worry about your relatives and friends in India. This can lead to a vicious cycle of thinking about the worst-case scenario which makes you more stressed and prevents you from sleeping.

Noting that it is difficult to avoid overthinking, Anushka suggests that “you might as well overthink about something else.”  “You have better things to think about,” Anushka says. This could involve reflecting on a book you read or TV show you watched, or starting a gratitude list of the small but good things that happened to you that day. Anything that can take your mind off the situation is something you can think about.

Image Credit: SignatureMD

5. Write down your feelings

Anushka acknowledges that the stress of the current situation may produce disjointed sleep and cause you to “wake up in the middle of the night and wonder how your family is doing overseas.”

If you are unable to go back to sleep, or sleep in the first place, the best thing to do is to provide an outlet for your feelings. Since there probably isn’t going to be someone to talk to in the middle of the night, Anushka suggests that you “grab a piece of paper and write as much as you need” to write out. The point isn’t for the words and sentences to make sense or for you to read it later, but for you to “get it out of your system.”

An alternative to writing is to record yourself. Although, if you decide to record yourself on your phone, as per Tip 3 resist the urge to check any notifications or news on your phone or you may fall into a deeper pit of stress!

Afeeya Akhand is a Masters student based in Sydney and a member of the SAARI Editorial Team. She can be reached at 

Anushka Phal is a Melbourne-based psychologist, with a strong passion for cultural-psychology. You can find her details and book in for an appointment via the SAARI South Asian Australian map under the Featured or Mental Health Support categories.