Dr Shahnaz Wasti, a gynaecologist from Pakistan who has made Oman her home for well over four decades, was busy during the lockdown with not just work and webinars but also counseling a lot of people on how to keep themselves safe and sane during troubled times. “The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the life of individuals all over the world, including ours in Muscat,” she said.
Towards the fleeting years of a fulfilling career, which made her love the sultanate so much that she cannot imagine life away from Oman, Dr Shahnaz and her husband, Dr Arshad Wasti (an ophthalmologist) had been gifted citizenship of Oman for delivering yeoman service in the field of healthcare. Following a lifetime of hard work, she now takes delight in the fact that her calling had been destined in the sultanate as per a divine plan.
“Over the past three months, work has been taking a lot of time. The time after work is spent with the family while I also stay in touch with friends and family by phone calls and Whatsapp,” she said, adding, “Webinars are also being held regularly these days and I try to attend as many as I can.
Dr Shahnaz believes that COVID-19 has cause immense stress and anxiety around the world which can be disturbing for both, adults and children. “Public health actions such as social distancing can make us feel isolated and lonely. The fear of losing jobs, financial instability and the risk of infection from asymptomatic carriers adds to the stress. Losing loved ones can further aggravate the situation,” she observed.
According to her, simple measures adopted to cope with stress can ease the situation and enable people, especially families, to feel positive. Also, taking care of friends and others can be done, but it should be balanced with taking care of oneself. “We can help others cope with the problems by providing social support through phone calls and video chats, and make our loved ones feel more connected,” she said.
Dr Shahnaz also took note of the fact that a lot of misinformation was being spread. It is of paramount importance, she said, to avoid spreading misinformation about the virus and creating panic on social media. Excessive exposure to news about the pandemic should also be avoided. One should be well-informed but the information should be from reliable sources. And remedies and treatments being circulated on social media, which are not based on scientific evidence, should never be trusted, he added.
“In many ways, this was an opportunity to spend quality time with one’s family and loved ones, something that was not available earlier due to professional, personnel and social commitments. This is the time to make up for the loss. People are spending more hours watching movies, reading books, and re-connecting with friends.
“As children are not attending school it is an opportunity to nurture their creative talents and introduce them to hobbies and games. Books that have been on the shelves can now be taken out and read, she said, adding, “This is an ideal time to change unhealthy eating habits, cut down on junk food, take up indoor exercises, and go for walks in areas that are not crowded, wearing face masks and observing social distancing.”
As a medical doctor, Dr Shahnaz did her part of providing help and support wherever needed. “Healthcare workers in Oman have been doing an excellent job throughout the pandemic. We all have to thank the Almighty for keeping us and our loved ones healthy, and for protecting us in these difficult times,” she said.