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Travel Industry Grounded – Impact On Mental Health: Why We Need To Talk About This Now! (Part-1)

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COVID19 is a pandemic which has posed far reaching consequences on the tourism and travel industry. The easy permeability of the international borders lead to the spread of this disease from a single city in China to across all the six continents and hence, the first thing to be shut down was the international and national borders.

At this time, when the industry suffers economic losses, the workforce in this sector is grappling with the relatable worries of future job stability and financial concerns. As most countries across the globe extend their lockdowns and impose stricter restrictions, it seems as if the travel industry shall take a long time to get back on track.

On one hand, each person associated with the industry is coping with the issues directly related to the mysterious and threatening illness and on the other hand, there are stressors very specific to this industry that one is trying to make sense of.

Following are some most common stressors relating to hospitality and tourism industry:

The financial and economic impact of the pandemic on short and long term job stability

The threat looms large and most predictions are worrisome. Although, all airlines wait to resume services as soon as possible but there is a great deal of uncertainty.

Another important stress-inducing event is the antitheses of the above: The Immediacy Of Resumption Of Services.

As airlines prepare to resume services in a few day’s time (with limited mobility, of course), the logical worry of Safety of self and family arises, making one ambivalent regarding resuming work.

The stigma of being a transmission source.
Representative Image

As you step out of the house, with the rest of the world still under restrictions you would be susceptible to being stigmatized by the society as we have seen largely for healthcare workers in the past few weeks and also with the air India crew who helped airlift Indians from Wuhan.

As airlines prepare to resume services in a few days time (with limited mobility, of course), the logical worry of Safety of self and family arises, making one ambivalent regarding resuming work.

The people relying on the travel and tourism industry for their sustenance and growth like hotels owners, travel agencies, drivers associated with cab companies, hotel staffers and even the worker force comprising of cleaners, loaders, tourist guides (the employment this sector provides is so outstretched that it cannot be imagined) are all struggling with their own set of unique troubles and seeking answers to questions which yet have no answers.

All of this is bound to test one’s psychological reserves. And to top it all, sitting idle at home leaves one with more time to ruminate and overanalyze pushing oneself unwillingly in to a state of despair and stress. Hence, this write up on understanding stress and its ill effects and subsequent follow-up article on ways to build resilience

So, What is stress?

In the simplest of terms, stress is defined as a state when one’s demands or pressures exceed one’s resources or means to cope.

In an example related to the current situation, demands could be worries relating to the financial needs of the family-school fee or EMIs to be paid and resources could be scarcity of funds due to delayed or deducted salary. So the inability to maintain this balance is what leads to stress.

Let us know a few of the external and internal stressors to better assess what we are up against.

External stressors

1. PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: Our lifestyles have changed with the lockdown. We stay indoors throughout the day with little or no exposure to sunlight or fresh air. The artificial lightings interrupt our sleep cycle and more so with no daily schedule to follow. Many symptoms of stress like headaches or mood swings can originate from such simple changes in our physical environment.

2. ORGANIZATIONAL: Deadlines, rules and regulations within your organization can cause a lot of stress too. Currently, the most important one being worries about job security and the companies’ attitude towards their employees during the pandemic.

3. MAJOR LIFE EVENTS – we all know that major life events like sickness or death of a family member are significantly stressful. And more so with our heightened health related anxieties in the current pandemic. Adapting to the new ways of living  in this imposing lockdown is a major life event too.

4. DAILY HUSTLES –Even the minor struggles in everyday life, can cause a lot of stress. Recall how irritable one feels when there is an important call from a colleague and there is no network in your home?  Or how a slow internet wants one to pull out his hair? And such minor but negatively impacting events have just increased so much more during the lockdown!

5. SOCIAL – Despite the physical distancing we can still feel stressed when we find people around us being rude or Bossy. From dealing with rude customers demanding refund on their tickets to a poor sleep day making your partner’s temper fly high during the lockdown, it is all around you.

Internal stressors:

So, despite sailing in the same boat how come some of my colleagues are so relaxed and unperturbed and why is it that I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown all through the day?  Well, a lot of that has got to do with one’s psychological make-up. Let us find out how

1. PERSONALITY TRAITS:

Perfectionists and workaholics are more likely to get stressed. Whereas workaholics find it unnerving to not have much to do to keep themselves occupied through the lockdown, the perfectionists, on the other hand, are at a higher risk of developing severe mental health issues like anxiety disorders due to their rigid and inflexible nature.

2. NEGATIVE SELF TALK

As the lockdown imposes space for idyllic thinking, the looming threats to jobs, etc add fuel to the fire.

Pessimistic thinking styles ” it’s going to get worse, it can never get better”

Self critical thinking styles – “it’s my fault, I shouldn’t have chosen this profession”

Over analyzing thinking styles – “where did I go wrong?”

These can all push one over the boundary leading to syndromal depression and other anxiety disorders.

3. LIFESTYLE CHOICES – Reliance on unhealthy lifestyle choices such as excessive dependence on Caffeine, smoking or alcohol, compromising on sleep for late-night netflix and unhealthy eating habits to cope with worries, contribute a great deal to one’s stress. The choice of bottling up one’s negative thoughts to prevent the family from being worried can prove detrimental in the long run.

AM I STRESSED?

The ill-effects of excessive stress can be far-reaching. Let’s broadly divide these into four major categories to understand this better.

PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF STRESS –

Stress can and does affect each and every part of our body. Let’s go through a few symptoms to see if we have or are experiencing any at the moment:

Gastrointestinal: Acidity, diarrhea or constipation, stomach aches.

Nervous system – migraines and headaches, forgetfulness, insomnia.

Musculoskeletal – body aches, stiffness of joints, tiredness.

Cardiac – atypical chest pain, constricting sensations, difficulty in breathing etc.

Whereas the above are the short term impacts of stress, any prolonged stress can also cause severe health issues. Many medical illnesses like hypertension, cardiac failure, stroke, etc are directly linked to stress.

EMOTIONAL EFFECTS OF STRESS-

Feeling low, lack of interest, mood swings from sadness to irritability are some of the more common emotional changes.

BEHAVIORAL EFFECTS OF STRESS –

Excessive need of smoking, alcohol, sleeping pills or any other psychoactive drugs.

Binge eating, binge watching.

SOCIAL EFFECTS OF STRESS –

Staying quiet and aloof most of the times, hesitancy in conversations, or aggression and rudeness.

Here is a brief questionnaire to assess yourself for presence or absence of stress.

Stress and burnout questionnaire

This brief inventory has been designed to help you discover the warning signals of excessive stress.  Relate the questions to your life over the last 1 month.  Look particularly for changes in your ways of coping, not so much your normal behavior.

Score 0 – for experiencing this only occasionally

Score 1 – This is true quite frequently (weekly)

Score 2 – This true often ( usually daily)

1 Feeling constantly exhausted, tired or fatigued [ ]

2 Becoming increasingly irritable with a shortening fuse [ ]

3 Having less and less time for people, even family and friends [ ]

4 Experiencing increasing difficulty making decisions [ ]

5 Aware of increasing difficulty in concentration [ ]

6 Feeling a sense of hopelessness, like “Why bother? “; “Who cares anyway ?” [ ]

7 Chronic forgetfulness [ ]

8 Regular sleep disturbance, wakefulness, never enough sleep [ ]

9 Start the day feeling unrefreshed [ ]

10 Frequent feelings of worthlessness [ ]

11 Loss of enthusiasm or enjoyment of work [ ]

12 Change in appetite; over-eating or loss of appetite [ ]

13 Overlooking of normal duties or responsibilities [ ]

14 Feeling unappreciated most of the time [ ]

15 Feeling burdened by responsibilities and pressures [ ]

16 Aware of accomplishing less and less in the time available [ ]

17 Becoming excessively preoccupied with details [ ]

18 Increasingly unable to say “No!” [ ]

19 Becoming overly dogmatic, inflexible or “fussy” [ ]

20 Aware that you are driving yourself too hard at work or home [ ]

21 Becoming cynical or hyper-critical with friends and family [ ]

22 Increasing boredom with work, homelife or life [ ]

23 Losing a clear perspective on work or life [ ]

24 A growing sense of being “out of control” in areas of life [ ]

25   Frequent somatic symptoms such as Headache, chronic backache, chest pain, abdominal cramps or wind, mouth ulcers, diarrhea, indigestion, skin rash, persistent colds, allergies, sinusitis, accidents, etc ( 1 point for each symptom) [ ] (max score – 50)

Let’s attempt this for now and see where we stand. Next time we shall discuss various means to cope better and build resilience. Stay Safe and take care

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Dr. Sugandha Gupta
Dr. Sugandha Guptahttp://www.DelhiMindClinic.com
Dr. Sugandha Gupta is the founder- Director and Consulting Psychiatrist at Delhi Mind Clinic, Karol Bagh, New Delhi. With over 15 years of clinical experience, Dr. Gupta is currently invested in creating awareness and acceptance in the society for mental health issues by means of participating in panel discussions on various news channels and conducting seminars and workshops on mental health. You can reach out to her with your queries at -- drsugandha@delhimindclinic.com.
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