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Last Updated : Jul 17, 2020 03:48 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

COVID-19 induced stress a great leveller, helping us become better versions of ourselves

The coronavirus and the lockdown(s) that have followed have made this a peculiar, torrid and unfamiliar time for all of us. Knowing how to help your own self (before helping others) is one of the biggest challenges. And that is especially true of the C-suite who are responsible to run their enterprises for success and to achieve the desired purpose.

Moneycontrol Contributor

Pankaj Vasani

With COVID-19 crisis, stress levels are at an all-time high. Jobs have become exceptionally demanding. Most of us are not working by the clock. With lack of economic opportunities, insecurities are like never before – salary cuts, lay-offs, worries about the future, increased conflict and disagreement with family members, etc. are adding to the woes of many. Many people are starting to feel on the edge.

Stress has aggravated due to the COVID-19 pandemic

To start with, it is crucial to remember that if you are experiencing stress, you are not alone. Predictably, the outbreak, which is far from over, is imposing considerable stress on many people all around the world. Knowing how to help your own self (before helping others) is one of the biggest challenges.


A little bit of stress is not a problem. It’s okay not to feel okay. In fact, I believe that stress is a great leveller, which helps us become better versions of ourselves. It is an affirmation of our resilience. But problems can occur if we get ‘too absorbed’ by difficult thoughts and angry feelings. And these may pull us away from our core values. We may instinctively want to withdraw, be harsh with ourselves (and others around), and even be tempted to give up and bail out.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Reasoning it out

Be aware of the signs, focus and engage with whatever you’re doing. Try to reframe the issues. Start with physically listing all the reasons that are making you worried – in the order of priority. Bucketise them – personal, professional, etc. Thereafter, counter each of them seriatim. Preparing a flow chart in the ‘if-then’ format helps. Be absolutely honest with yourself whilst you’re doing it.

Define boundaries, re-imagine and re-organise. Change, what is capable of being changed. Accept, what cannot be changed (at the given point of time). In the process, always let your personal and core values guide the end result. The purpose should be to bring focus and a sense of normalcy to help you cope with the changing environment.

Take it easy. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Avoid paranoia.

It is easy to be influenced by the information overload and negative stereotypes – in the press, social media, etc.. Avoid falling in this trap. Be aware, negativity begets negativity.

Keep yourself entertained – OTT/TV, gardening, cooking, video calls or online games with family/friends… whatever fills your sails. Best time to discover your passions and hidden talents.

My destress mantras

I am of the view that there is no single pill that can get us to de-stress. Instead, I follow three mantras to keep stress at bay:

Breathe in, breathe out

Breathing is an exceptionally potent tool. It forces the brain to isolate for a little before coming back to the pandemonium again. It oxygenates the whole system and energises the body-mind, and is probably one of the best ways to stay focused and high-pitched.


This Japanese concept involves embracing things that are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete – the converse of our conventional perception of beauty as something flawless, lasting and monumental. We can rewire our brains to accept imperfections and everything within and without.

This, too, shall pass

This mantra is chastening if one feels smug, and encouraging if one wants to thwart negative feelings. It reminds us that all conditions are ephemeral and transitory, and we cannot control everything in life – personal or professional. We can, though, control how we feel and respond to situations, and not leave things to fate.

Frequent meditation and ‘silence baths’ also help me.

Physical fitness for mental wellbeing

As I always say, physical fitness is a by-product of mental fitness (and vice-versa). There is a clear, deep and intuitive connection between wandering feet and a happy and productive mind. When the feet move, the mind follows. Just do some form of physical activity - walking, running, yoga, calisthenics, etc. Doesn’t matter what, just get up and do some exercise - whatever gets the blood flowing.

Every day for at least 45 minutes, shut off all of the external gadgets and be at it; with singleness of mind. It is a natural mood enhancer. This will not only aid in keeping stress at bay but also help with divergent thinking, provoke thoughts, innovative ideas, and creativity and of course, recuperate productivity. Don’t ignore personal grooming and hygiene. Sleep well. Eat well. Go easy on the junk food, caffeine and alcohol intake. And remember – consume less, burn more (calories).

To part with

Though it may hit a raw nerve with a lot of people. Connections are not friends. Legions of admirers, followers or likes don’t count in the real world. In case you feel low, lonely, or depressed talk to a friend, family member, co-worker, or professional. Process. Don’t ignore. Every problem has a solution. Resilience is the key to surviving and thriving.

Don’t fall for the ‘happiness facade’. Not everyone is having a better time than you.

Also, most people you interact or work with are fighting some sort of a battle on an everyday basis. A battle that you may not know. Empathise. Be kind and helpful. Invariably.

Pankaj Vasani is a business leader and finance expert with over two decades of experience in senior executive roles and as a board & audit committee member. Over the years, he has donned various hats – Group CFO, Finance Head, CEO, Tax/Legal/Compliance Head and member of the board of directors. He has held leadership roles with Publicis, Vodafone, Coca-Cola Cola, and Subros. By education, he’s a Chartered Accountant (England & Wales), Certified Public Accountant (Australia), Chartered Accountant (India) and lawyer (Delhi University).
First Published on Jul 17, 2020 12:41 am