Listening

Covid-19 has infected people all over the world. To prevent the virus from spreading further, countries have been put under lockdown. People are reporting particular negative effects on their mental health and well-being as a result of their anxiety and tension over the coronavirus, such as trouble sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increased alcohol use or substance usage (12%), and worsened chronic diseases (12%).

The WHO said in its survey, “The pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection –
they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death’’.

Prior to the current crisis, there were significant rates of mental illness and substance abuse, thus mental suffering during the epidemic is not surprising. Prior to the epidemic, one out of every ten adults had anxiety or depressed symptoms. Many parents and their children have reported worsening mental health, and women with children are more likely than males to report worsening mental health. There are variety of reasons

Srinivas Rajkumar T, senior resident, Department of Psychiatry and National Drug De-addiction Treatment Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said: “We are already seeing a surge of patients coming with depression, anxiety , insomnia. Due to the economic impact, patients may find it hard to access mental health services and any pandemic has a long term impact on mental health. But COVID is peculiar as the very social nature of the existence of man is compromised.”

With the surge in mental illness, it is more vital than ever to practise critical listening skills. It is vital to listen carefully and critically to sources of information, examine what’s said, and assess the quality and veracity. More importantly, become a support system for others. You never know what someone is going through.

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends ho listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.

Karl A Menniger

Listening is a skill we take for granted but never learnt. It is one of the most crucial abilities. How well we listen has a significant impact on the quality of our interpersonal interactions. We listen to obtain information, to comprehend, to have fun and to gain knowledge. With a lifetime of constant listening, one would think we’d be experts at it! In fact, most of us aren’t, and we only remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear.

To be a good listener, we need to be an active listener first. Meaning, we need to make a conscious effort to hear not just the words but the entire message that one is sharing. For this, we must pay close attention to the other person. We cannot remain distracted by what is happening around or by developing counter arguments while the other person is still speaking. We tend to become bored and lose track of what the other person is saying. We should start by acknowledging that we are paying attention to what the other person is saying. A modest nod of the head or a simple “oh huh” can suffice as acknowledgement. Acknowledgment is merely signalling that you are listening, not necessarily agreeing with the speaker. Paying attention can also be aided by using body language and other cues to indicate that you are listening. Providing feedback without letting personal filters distort is crucial. This allows us to reflect on the message shared and ask questions and respond appropriately.

A simple mantra to be a good listener is to constantly ask oneself, how would we want to be treated.

Each individual experiences a sense of well-being as a result of active listening. We assist people in being emotionally and mentally healthy and in control of their ideas, feelings, and behaviours just by being a friend to talk to.

Remember, listening is one of the sincere forms of respect. Every person is a ‘story’. Vulnerability is never easy, yet it has the power to transform lives. Hearing someone’s story can be a huge source of inspiration for those who are dealing with similar issues—proof that they are not alone—as well as a helpful hand for the person themselves. A truly wonderful conversation might help us find purpose by eliciting positive emotions. Seek to understand first, then be understood.

Here is a beautiful instance of active and empathetic listening and how it helps.

Content Credits: Anna Anandita

Image Source:
1. KFF Org
2. The Hindu

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