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Resilience and Coping in India's COVID-19 Response

An interview with Dr. Sneha Saha on living in India during COVID-19.

Sneha Saha, used with permission
Source: Sneha Saha, used with permission

Life as we know it has been disrupted by COVID-19. Dr. Sneha Saha gives us a glimpse into what that looks like in India, and how people are responding.

Dr. Sneha Saha is an assistant professor of psychology at Christ (Deemed to be) University, Delhi NCR. She has over seven years of experience. Her doctoral study was based on the capacities of positive youth development interventions on adolescents. She is a gold medalist for a masters of psychology degree and research methodology course. Her scale publication of national repute named ‘The Cinderella Complex ScaleA measurement of Women Dependency Syndrome,’ is already being used by many young researchers and showing extraordinary relevance to the community. She is a published researcher with a book, book chapters, and Scopus publications to her credit. She is a certified Clinical Hypnotherapist by EKKA Foundation, Mumbai.

Jamie Aten: How would you personally describe the COVID-19 situation in India?

Sneha Saha: While talking about COVID-19, I reflect on the experiences of people around me. Each one of us has a different story, and COVID-19 is playing a different role in each of those. For some, it has brought time for self-exploration, learning new skills, thinking over life choices, and so on.

For others, however, the situation has been dire. Businesses have flopped, and earnings are limited. People are forced into lower income and financial struggles.

As a country, we are coping. People are coming together to fight the virus and curb the spread. Most of the sectors are now digitized, and work-from-home has become a practice for many industries. Many businesses are mindful of the situation and are using various sanitization and social distancing techniques to keep their business upraised.

JA: What are some ways understanding India's COVID-19 situation can help us live more resiliently?

SS: I think in India, we are using community resilience to cope through the COVID-19 situation. Living in India during COVID-19 is not an individual driven reaction to disaster; instead, it is more about community reactions and plasticity. Although individuals may be impacted by COVID-19, coping with COVID-19 has been community-based in India. Community networks and relationships have always been a priority in Indian culture. This cultural priority has taken the shape of support systems in the times of the global pandemic. Many of the Indian cultural values like Daan (charity) and Diksha (initiation) have come into action showing community resilience.

JA: What are some ways people can cultivate resilience amidst this pandemic?

SS: While addressing my students, I always emphasize compartmentalization. To develop resilience, this concept of compartmentalization can be a good strategy. What I mean by compartmentalization is taking your life and compartmentalizing problems into one compartment, your reactions into another, and your memories into another. What happens when we compartmentalize is that we are not overwhelmed with all the problems, responses, and memories altogether; instead, it comes in small compartments that help us react and adapt better.

Another effective strategy is to go minimal. The times of this pandemic have taught us to live with limited resources—only essential supplies, to be accurate. Attaching one's emotions with the material reality only adds a barrier to resilience. You are not able to cope because you find yourself drawn to commodities rather than reality. A minimalistic lifestyle propagates mindfulness of situations around you and responsibility for your actions. This awareness in itself brings plasticity to human behavior and helps in coping.

JA: Any advice for how we might use what you have learned to support a friend or loved one struggling with a difficult life situation?

SS: In my teaching philosophy, I always emphasize experiences. Even if it is not your personal experience, you can surely learn about a few things from others' experiences. I mainly advise you to rely on your support systems. These systems could be your family or friends, teachers, or even anonymous groups if you feel like it. These support systems are the ones who will share their experiences, empathize with you, motivate you, and help you through your struggles. Even though people are following social distancing, it does not necessarily mean that you become socially distant. For coping better, one should always involve themselves with their support systems. To help and support a friend in distress, simple things in life can be the potion to healing. Things like calling each other, messaging that 'you are there for them,' observing social media posts, and reacting if you think something is wrong—goes a long way to helping others out.

JA: What are you currently working on that you might like to share about?

SS: I am currently involved in a cross-sectional—India, Singapore, Malaysia—research project to understand the psychological implications of COVID-19 in school and college-going students’ mental well-being, adjustment to new pedagogies, and recurring anxiety to the uncertainty of the future.

I have also been working on a qualitative study focusing on the phenomenology of physical and psychosocial factors of ergonomics during lockdown times. India as a country has rushed to working-from-home due to the pandemic; there were no policies and contingencies in place to prepare for complete work-from-home.

Apart from COVID-19 projects, I am presently researching the concept of neuro-marketing in collaboration with Nuria Fernandez, University of Oviedo. Neuro-marketing is experimental research purposefully designed to study how neuro-marketing techniques can influence behavior towards social causes among youth. We are currently looking for a grant to support the project.

Under my guidance, my post-graduate students pursue research on environmental psychology, military psychology, organizational behavior, child prodigies, psychopathic traits, the well-being of eunuchs, and the Cinderella complex. I am so happy to see these young researchers motivated and eager to add substance to existing research through their contribution.

Conceptually I have a few books (Ergonomics and Cinderella Complex) on my mind, and I am looking for a publisher to get the conceptualization into action.


Saha, S. (2020). Living with coronavirus outbreak in India. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(5), 491-493.

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