Editorial Team

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s 2.7 million Anganwadi workers became frontline responders in their communities. During the pandemic, their work became more difficult. They had to go from home to home, guide people about safety measures and COVID-19 vaccination. They came across many parents who were very scared for their children during the pandemic. All this these, can be quite stressful and easily put a person under tremendous stress and anxiety. One such case is of Rama (name changed), an Anganwadi worker who started having high BP issues along with increased stress and anxiety following her day-to-day work as frontline responder during the pandemic.

“As an Anganwadi worker, she had to perform and discharge multiple responsibilities that may lead to stress and discontent. On top of that, recently ICDS started a new mobile app to monitor the work of the Anganwadi workers, for which she was also given training. But Rama got into more tension with this reporting work as she had to simultaneously deal with her household chores. She was also worried that if she wasn’t able to do the reporting properly, it would affect her salary. All these concerns elevated her blood pressure and she gradually went into a state of depression and anxiety. To support many others like Rama and bring them out of this situation, we conducted mental health sessions focussed on coping skills. Slowly but steadily her condition improved and she was back to her best” said Dr Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee of Poddar Foundation.

The Anganwadi worker is the most important functionary of the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) scheme in India. The Anganwadi worker is a community based front line worker of the ICDS Program. They are considered to be one of the most important resources at the grassroots level in rural India. With the constant efforts and social service of Anganwadi workers, the development of schemes related to education and health in rural areas have been possible in the country.

To deal with the stress and anxiety, she was first encouraged her to talk openly about the issues she was facing. “Venting helps take the feelings out from inside of the person, it helps a person to process them. It’s kind of like the pressure cooker analogy: If you don’t open a lid periodically, the steam can build up and cause you to feel even more stressed. If you let it out, it can help you process whatever it is you’re worried about” said Neha S Shah, Lead Projects at Poddar Foundation.

Meditation was also suggested as a part of the coping technique to help calm down and restore inner peace. Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, one focuses the attention and eliminates the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding the mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.

Rama was also asked to indulge in deep breathing for a few minutes every day whenever she gets time. She was asked to try breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. Deep breathing can help lessen stress and anxiety. By breathing slower and more deeply from the stomach, the nervous system gets the signal to calm down. Deep breathing takes practice — the effects don’t show up immediately.

Outcome: After the coping skills session, Rama felt a lot more relaxed, calm and had an improved mood. Till the time the coping skills were introduced to her, she was not sure of how to manage her emotions. However, after the session, she felt a lot more confident to deal with the daily stress and burnout. She thanked Poddar Foundation and also showed her interest to be involved in such sessions in the future.

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