Beat stress with self-discipline, meditation during lockdown — Experts

Pakistani females wears face masks to help prevent exposure to the new coronavirus, after Punjab Government has issued orders to closed all educational institutions, parks and all public gathering places to prevent coronavirus in Lahore on Mar 17, 2020. (Photo courtesy: social media)
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Updated 04 April 2020

Beat stress with self-discipline, meditation during lockdown — Experts

  • Self-isolation and social distancing may lead to tremendous mental pressure among many
  • Experts say building physical and mental immunity can relieve anxiety and stress

RAWALPINDI: While experts warn that self-isolation and social distancing during long virus lockdowns could trigger symptoms of anxiety and depression among people, they list a number of practices to beat stress out of life. 
Building “mental immunity,” at a time when physical immunity has taken center stage is critical to one’s well-being, said Islamabad-based psychotherapist, Nida Maqbool.
“What most people do not realize is that our mental immunity and physical immunity are interlinked,” Maqbool told Arab News over the phone. “If we are not mentally fit, we also feel physical repercussions.”
Another Islamabad-based counselor, Farah Rehman, who operates out of Therapy Works in the nation’s capital said, “Building physical and mental immunity can give quite a relief to anxiety whether it’s working on your fitness or writing down what you are grateful for. Another great tool is meditation.”
A few weeks ago, Pakistanis began following the World Health Organization’s guidelines of social distancing and self-isolation in order to help combat the spread of coronavirus, a hard adjustment to normal practice.
Provinces in Pakistan announced lockdowns, shops other than pharmacies and grocery stores were shuttered and, while all of this was done to keep Pakistanis safe, the situation triggered anxiety, stress and depression among many in the absence of usual social interactions.
“Humans are not meant to be completely isolated,” Omar Bazza, a clinical therapist practicing in Toronto, told Arab News over the phone. “Distancing and social isolation can indeed trigger a lot of anxiety and depression symptoms.”
In addition to forgoing social interactions, even those as simple as bumping into friends somewhere, there is the added stress of lost jobs, bills piling up, uncertainty of the future and the desire to keep the family safe.
“These concerns can easily trigger or even create anxiety. We are starting to see depression and anxiety in people who previously never experienced issues with their mental health,” said Bazza to Arab News.
“I have seen some of my depression make a comeback,” said Roshaan Amber, an Islamabad-based telecom worker, about being stuck at home. “Previously, I went for therapy to deal with anxiety and my depression was under control. But being at home all the time has once again stimulated it.”
Anousheh Azra works with the banking sector, one of the few areas of economy that have been deemed essential and therefore keeping people like her out of home. Yet, she is required to practice social distancing which, she believes, is making her life immensely difficult.
“I feel constantly exhausted, no matter how well rested I am,” she told Arab News. “I feel anxious.”
Maqbool suggests that “We all need to realize that we are going through trauma at a global level.” “We need to give ourselves the space to feel this.”
She recommends setting strict boundaries to exercise self-discipline like the one she has for herself where only a small portion of the day is dedicated to reading the news and where friends and family have been told that if they want to have a chat they need to discuss something other than the coronavirus. “If I am not in a good mental space myself, I cannot help my clients who are looking to me as a source of peace and safety.”
Maqbool has joined many people across the globe by using the Internet and digital platforms to reach her clients. She brings 80 percent of her clients to work with her online and sees 20 percent of them in person at her home, though “we keep a distance of five feet and meet in my lawn.”
Rehman said that “helping the underprivileged while staying within one’s capacity” can also tend to ease anxiety and depression. Another healthy indulgence is helping family members or friends passing through a tough time in isolation by “staying in touch virtually whether it’s a phone call or video chat and of course through social media,” said added.
Online resources for stress inoculation are available as well, though one should be cautioned to make sure the source of the website is legitimate and attached to medical or mental health professionals.


Pakistan’s industrialists hope for tax cuts, relief measures in budget

Updated 06 June 2020

Pakistan’s industrialists hope for tax cuts, relief measures in budget

  • Business community demands reduction in rates and number of existing taxes for the revival of sluggish economy
  • Economists believe revenue collection and locust control will pose major challenges to the government

KARACHI: As Pakistan focuses on stimulating growth and creating jobs in the upcoming federal budget, the country’s business community called for slashing taxes and introducing relief measures to bring the economy out of its sluggish mode while economists predicted that revenue collection would continue to constitute a major challenge for the government.
Pakistan is expected to present its income and expenditure plan for the next fiscal year (FY2020-21) in the coming week, with a focus to spur the economic growth without imposing new taxes.
“The focus of the upcoming budget is to stimulate growth and create jobs. The focus of the [$8 billion] stimulus package is toward providing support to business, in particular [small and medium enterprises] through payroll loans at subsidized rates, deferral of principal and interest payments for one year and quick disbursement of all as refunds to business,” Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, told Arab News last week in an exclusive interview.
He also categorically denied that there would be new taxes in the upcoming budget.
Pakistan’s business community expects that the government will come up with a relief package for the revival of the country’s economy to avoid its further weakening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have proposed that the government should give relief to industries across the board like the one given to the construction industry because it is vital for the revival of the economy,” Agha Shahab Ahmed Khan, President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), told Arab News. “The reforms and recovery will automatically follow.”
Industrialists say the government must focus on the means of creating wealth by adopting appropriate measures and offering suitable incentives such as the ones witnessed in other countries. “If there is no wealth creation, there will be no wealth distribution. This may also lead to social disruption in the country,” the KCCI president said, adding: “We have suggested that sales tax should be brought down to a single digit from 17 percent to spur business activities.”
Industrialists also hope that apart from revising the tax rates, the number of taxes will also be reduced by the government. “We expect that the number of taxes will reduce as part of the ease of doing business initiative under the current circumstances. In Punjab, the government has imposed about 130 different taxes,” Almas Hyder, an industrialist and former president of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), told Arab News.
“The government must expedite the refund process,” she continued, adding: “I say this because this has impacted the cash flow of companies.”
Muhammad Ahmed, President of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), concurred with Hyder, saying: “There is no doubt that refunds are being paid, but income tax refunds have not been issued. We should be given permission to adjust that money with the government in the shape of customs duties or sales tax.”
The ICCI president called for measures to make the upcoming budget business-friendly in the prevailing environment.
“The budget should be business-friendly since that will help us make the economy flourish. If new businesses cannot be set up, at least the existing ones that have suffered setbacks should be allowed to survive and sustain in these difficult times,” he added.
As business community demands relief in the upcoming budget, the country’s economists predict that the government is likely to face major revenue constraints due to a decline in the collection rate within the current economic framework. “If you have no income, you will not be able to make expenditures,” Dr. Abdul Qayyum Suleri, member of the government’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC), told Arab News.
“The second major challenge the government is facing is the locust attack which is going to cost the country about Rs 1 trillion in the worst case scenario. If the damage is contained, the loss will be about Rs 250 billion,” he added.
However, Dr. Khaqan Najeeb, who was part of the budget-making process last year since he worked as an adviser with the finance ministry, suggested that the next budget could be crafted with a different approach, keeping in mind resource generation through tax compliance, deficit reduction by curtailing expenditures, and deficit financing by shifting to non-debt creating instruments.
“Shifting the financing of budget to non-debt creating instruments is the only way to flatten the curve on debt build-up. Divestment, past recoveries, collecting dividends from state-owned companies, arrears of taxes and energy, all can contribute in financing the deficit. This can restore the public’s flagging faith in the integrity of the policymakers to break the debt cycle,” he added.
Dr. Suleri said that apart from debt servicing, defense and administrative costs and development expenditure’s additional resources would be required to fund the health sector and locust control operations.
“Pakistan will need about $15 billion of additional borrowing amid remittance, foreign investment and export decline,” he noted while observing: “Two sectors – energy and loss making public sector enterprises – will be under pressure since the International Monetary Fund may object to budget allocations. Increase in salaries and pensions may fall into this category.”
Economists expect that few ongoing development projects will be financed while major share of funds is likely to be diverted to the health sector in the current situation.