Finding Comfort In Chaos

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I never thought I would write about this, but here I am trying to make some sense of it. This is going to be slightly long so stay with me.

Being in the medical field, I come across anxious and worried families of the patient all the time. A part of my job is to answer their questions, make them comfortable, ease them out to the best of my capacity. I didn’t give it much thought rather enough thought to the things they must be going through. Of course, I knew it wasn’t easy, but I naturally thought more about the patient and from a treatment point of view. And then one day, I received a phone call back in March,2018. A call that gave me the chills, gave me a different perspective and showed me what’s it like to be on the other side.

My mother had suffered a massive heart attack with multiple blockages and my fellow medical colleagues and Grey’s Anatomy fanatics will relate to this when I say we were way past the golden hour. I was away from home which made it more difficult but like my mother says by god’s grace everything went well. The first few weeks were critical, but as strong as our mothers are she fought right through it. And I told myself, the tough part is over, it was a bad phase, we will sail through it. 

Fast forward to the end of the year, both my grannies started showing similar symptoms as my mom, we rushed them for all the tests. Within a couple of days, they were both diagnosed with massive blockages and needed immediate intervention. They both got operated on the same day. One of them was badly affected and was bed ridden for a long time. It was a tough time for my family as we were juggling between them, sharing the day and night shifts and just seeing them in so much pain was very heartbreaking and overwhelming. It breaks my heart till date whenever I talk or even think about it.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, a few months later my grandfather suffered from a stroke, this was his third one and got the best of him. This was followed by my brother’s massive neurosurgery, a very near and dear one’s death to covid, my father’s severe pneumonia, mom’s second big surgery and my grandfather’s untimely demise a couple of months back. Last 3-4 years have been maddening and things are still settling down accompanied with personal and professional work life balance which has been very challenging. I have been fortunate and privileged to have family and friends who supported me throughout. I wouldn’t be able to get through it without them.

Caregiver’s Stress

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It was during this period that I experienced what we call ‘Caregivers stress’. Caregiver’s stress/burnout isn’t spoken about a lot, mostly because it is difficult to recognise,  but there are a lot of studies that discuss it at length. It’s defined as physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. It often leads to development of compassion fatigue which is the stress, strain and the wariness that arises while caring for a person. Being a primary caregiver for most of my family members was not an easy task. My mom and I went through an emotional turmoil.

As majority of the medical decisions were made by me, thinking about the repercussions and bad outcomes made me anxious all the time. I was constantly overthinking and had panic attacks I would have a nervous breakdown and cry out loud sometimes. Feeling irritable, helpless, hopeless and getting angry so easily. It felt like I was slowly losing my mind and sanity. I am not writing this to impart knowledge or tell you how to deal with it. I am still figuring it out myself. But what I can tell you is that it’s okay to feel like that. Seeing your loved ones suffer is not easy. It’s okay to not be okay.

What I have learnt or rather still learning from my experience is that you need to identify it and put your needs first too. It is important to get out and indulge, be in a social environment. It is very difficult at first because the worrying never stops but it is one of the most important things and needs to be done.

Talking about it or writing it down helps too. It wasn’t easy for me to write this all down but the more I thought about it the more I realized how important it is to speak about it. Maybe it will help someone going through something similar, maybe it will just create an awareness. Acknowledging it is step one. Therapy sure did help too. On my tough days, I looked up to my younger brother who gives me so much strength and inspires me to do better each day. He encouraged me to take some time off for myself and always pushed me to move ahead.  My mom has been my anchor all this while and I am forever grateful for that.

Things have been slightly better than before; we are being hopeful and keeping the faith. This story is unfinished, there is so much still happening, and I am not waiting for a happy ending or for all my problems to disappear. At this moment, I am looking for anything good, big or small, that life has to offer.

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Practicing Gratitude : Why You Should Practice Gratitude In These Times

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Virus. Pandemic. Lockdown. Quarantine. Unlock. Virus 2.0

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It’s hard to stay positive when these are the words we’re being exposed to day in and day out. Of course, the fact that we’re cooped up at home  only makes the situation worse.

Over the last few months, I have read a lot of books in order to find the secret behind being happier and trying to maintain a healthy balance in life; physically, mentally and spiritually. Although different books and authors have different perspectives and methods, one of the most common amongst them is ‘Gratitude’.

It may seem like the new normal will never end, but don’t lose hope just yet. Why? Because this is a good time to remind ourselves of everything we have to be grateful for. And when you think about all the things you once took for granted.

So while you stay safe, wash your hands, and maintain social distance, also remember to add ‘practising gratitude’ to your list.

What is gratitude, though?

It is an emotion or feeling, a recognition and appreciation for what one has, that comes from acknowledging the goodness in one’s life. It opens your eyes to the fact that what you have is truly enough. Research demonstrates that the practice of gratitude can enhance overall wellbeing, and other studies have shown that people who practise gratitude are more resilient in the face of trauma. What’s more, spending a few minutes every night writing down what you’re grateful for can even help you sleep better. In short, gratitude makes us happier — and that’s definitely something we need now more than ever!

Researchers in Positive Psychology have found that gratitude and happiness are always strongly correlated. A possible theory is that gratitude moves people to experience more positive emotions, to thoroughly enjoy the good experiences, better their health, face adversity, and develop and maintain relationships of strength, which in turn makes you happier.

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The three common ways people can express their gratitude are:

  • By being gracious of their past (i.e., think of positive childhood memories)
  • By being gracious for the present (i.e., taking time to be present and enjoy)
  • By being grateful for what’s to come (i.e., hopeful and optimistic of the future) (Giving thanks makes you happier).

There is a direct link between happiness and gratitude. Expressing gratitude brings about happiness for the one giving thanks. The more someone is thankful or feels gratitude, the less there is time or room for negative thoughts.

Oscar Wilde once said, “What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”

Ps. Here’s a poem I wrote a long time ago about being grateful about some of the people in my lives.

Here are a few ways in which you can get started:

Maintain a journal

Close-up Of Gratitude Word With Pen On Notebook Over Wooden Desk

Count your blessings and write them down every day — be it the great cup of coffee you enjoyed in the morning or that recent video call you had with your friend. Soon, you’ll realize that you have more than you need to be happy.

Express appreciation mentally

If you can’t find the time to write every day, think about something you’re grateful for — e.g. the healthcare workers, police officers, and other essential services that are ensuring we remain safe — and be thankful for their hard work.

Meditate

While meditation usually involves a complete focus on the present moment, the practice can also be used to focus on what you’re thankful for — such as pleasant weather, a nutritious meal, or a good night’s sleep. Try the guided gratitude meditation on the cure.fit app or website to get started.

Why should you practise gratitude?

Now that you know how to inculcate the practice — and the feeling — of gratitude in your daily lives, here’s a deeper look into the myriad benefits that come with it:

Improved heart health

Being grateful helps you stay healthy. Research has shown that a positive attitude brings down the risk of depression, stress, and anxiety, all of which are factors behind heart disease. Further, according to various studies with participants that suffered from asymptomatic heart failure, individuals who were willing to see the brighter side of life and exhibit ‘trait gratitude’, slept better and took better care of themselves! Happiness, better health, and a good night’s sleep? It’s a win-win.

Stronger relationships

Of course, showing someone appreciation makes them feel good — but the effects of gratitude go even deeper than that. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude is associated with positive future relationship outcomes, while other researchers compare gratitude to auxiliary emotions that bring people closer, such as trust. So show your loved ones how much they mean to you — and go the extra mile to reach out to friends or family you may have lost touch with. Now’s the time to let people know you’re thinking of them, and how much you value them.

Better self-esteem

Yes, noticing what other people don’t have will make you feel better about yourself — but the most important part of practising gratitude is going beyond comparison to appreciate what you have. And that’s when you stop comparing yourself to others completely. This is what helps you get rid of toxic emotions such as greed and envy, and cultivate better self-esteem!

While these are compelling enough in themselves, there’s another reason you should start practising gratitude — sooner rather than later. Research shows that regular expressions of appreciation alter the molecular structure of the brain and keep grey matter functioning the way it should. Further, the feeling of gratitude activates multiple regions in the brain, boosting the production of ‘happy hormones’ like dopamine and serotonin.

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To sum up

People who practise gratitude have a positive attitude and feel better about their lives as well as their connections with others. So there’s really no reason to wait — there’s no better time than the present to remember all that we have to be grateful for.

As Melody Beattie once said,

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

So what are you feeling grateful for, today?

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The Imposter Syndrome Is Real!

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Like your friends or colleagues are going to discover you’re a fraud, and you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments?

If so, you’re in good company. These feelings are known as Imposter Syndrome, or what psychologists often call impostor phenomenon. An estimated 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives, according to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.

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Overview:

1. What is imposter syndrome?

2. Types of Imposter Syndrome

3. Imposter Syndrome and Mental Health

4. Why do people experience imposter syndrome?

5. Coping with Imposter Syndrome

So what exactly is imposter syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “Fraud“. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. These individuals attribute their success to luck, or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be. While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognised to affect both men and women equally.

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Simply speaking, Impostor Syndrome can apply to anyone ‘who isn’t able to internalize and own their successes’ or people who downplay their own expertise in areas where they’re more genuinely more skilled than others.

Expert on the subject, Dr. Valerie Young, has categorized it into subgroups: the Perfectionist, the Superwoman/man, the Natural Genius, the Soloist, and the Expert. In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Dr. Young builds on decades of research studying fraudulent feelings among high achievers.

Types Of Imposter Syndrome

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Imposter syndrome can appear in a number of different ways. A few different types of imposter syndrome that have been identified are: 

  • The Perfectionist: Perfectionists are never satisfied and always feel that their work could be better. Rather than focus on their strengths, they tend to fixate on any flaws or mistakes. This often leads to a great deal of self-pressure and high amounts of anxiety.
  • The Superhero:Because these individuals feel inadequate, they feel compelled to push themselves to work as hard as possible. 
  • The Expert: These individuals are always trying to learn more and are never satisfied with their level of understanding. Even though they are often highly skilled, they underrate their own expertise.
  • The Natural Genius: These individuals set excessively lofty goals for themselves, and then feel crushed when they don’t succeed on their first try.
  • The Soloist: These people tend to be very individualistic and prefer to work alone. Self-worth often stems from their productivity, so they often reject offers of assistance. They tend to see asking for help as a sign of weakness or incompetence. 

For an in-depth analysis and better understanding of these types and to identify if you fit under any of these types, click here.

Imposter Syndrome and Mental Health

If you often find yourself feeling like you are a fraud or an imposter, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist. The negative thinking, self-doubt, and self-sabotage that often characterise imposter syndrome can have an effect on many areas of your life.

Impostor syndrome and social anxiety may overlap. A person with social anxiety disorder may feel as though they don’t belong in social or performance situations. You might be in a conversation with someone and feel as though they are going to discover your social incompetence. You might be delivering a presentation and feel as though you just need to get through it before anyone realizes you really don’t belong there.

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Impostor syndrome also occurs in the context of mental illness and its treatment. Certain individuals may see themselves as less ill (less depressed, less anxious) than their peers or other mentally ill people, citing their lack of severe symptoms as the indication of no or a minor underlying issue. People with this form don’t seek help for their issues, seeing their problems as not worthy of professional attention.

Why do people experience imposter syndrome?

There’s no single answer. Some experts believe it has to do with personality traits—like anxiety or neuroticism—while others focus on family or behavioral causes. Sometimes childhood memories, such as feeling that your grades were never good enough for your parents or that your siblings outshone you in certain areas, can leave a lasting impact. “People often internalize these ideas: that in order to be loved or be lovable, ‘I need to achieve,’”.

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Factors outside of a person, such as their environment or institutionalized discrimination, can also play a major role in spurring impostor feelings. “A sense of belonging fosters confidence,” says Young. “The more people who look or sound like you, the more confident you feel. And conversely, the fewer people who look or sound like you, it can and does for many people impact their confidence.”

This is especially true “whenever you belong to a group for whom there are stereotypes about competence,” Young adds, including racial or ethnic minorities, women in STEM fields or even international students at American universities.

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Coping With Imposter Syndrome

  • Share your feelings : Talk to other people about how you are feeling. These irrational beliefs tend to fester when they are hidden and not talked about.
  • Focus on others : While this might feel counterintuitive, try to help others in the same situation as you. If you see someone who seems awkward or alone, ask that person a question to bring them into the group. As you practice your skills, you will build confidence in your own abilities.
  • Assess your abilities : If you have long-held beliefs about your incompetence in social and performance situations, make a realistic assessment of your abilities. Write down your accomplishments and what you are good at, and compare that with your self-assessment.
  • Take baby steps : Don’t focus on doing things perfectly, but rather, do things reasonably well and reward yourself for taking action. It is all about finding yourself and building yourself up.
  • Question your thoughts : As you start to assess your abilities and take baby steps, question whether your thoughts are rational. Does it make sense that you are a fraud, given everything that you know?
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  • Stop comparing : Every time you compare yourself to others in a social situation, you will find some fault with yourself that fuels the feeling of not being good enough or not belonging. Instead, during conversations, focus on listening to what the other person is saying. Be genuinely interested in learning more.
  • Use social media moderately : We know that the overuse of social media may be related to feelings of inferiority. If you try to portray an image on social media that doesn’t match who you really are or that is impossible to achieve, it will only make your feelings of being a fraud worse.
  • Stop fighting your feelings : Don’t fight the feelings of not belonging. Instead, try to lean into them and accept them. It’s only when you acknowledge them that you can start to unravel those core beliefs that are holding you back.
  • Refuse to let it hold you back : No matter how much you feel like you don’t belong, don’t let that stop you from pursuing your goals. Keep going and refuse to be stopped.

A Personal Note

Remember that if you are feeling like an impostor, it means you have some degree of success in your life that you are attributing to luck. Try instead to turn that feeling into one of gratitude. Look at what you have accomplished in your life and be grateful.

Don’t be crippled by your fear of being found out. Instead, lean into that feeling and get at its roots. Let your guard down and let others see the real you. If you’ve done all these things and still feel like your feeling of being an impostor is holding you back, it is important to speak to a mental health professional.

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Nutrition: An Essential Ingredient For A Healthy Mind

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Representational Image

Note : This article is neither written or owned by Bombay Ficus. It is written by Kripa Jalan and Sharang Shah and published here.

Globally, massive strides have been made in the last few decades to improve both the quality of and access to healthcare, but this progress has been lopsided. While certain forms of healthcare such as maternal and child healthcare have greatly improved, others such as mental healthcare play laggard in achieving SDG coverage targets.

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The WHO estimates that 25% of the world suffers or will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their life . Closer to home, the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 revealed that nearly 15% India adults need active intervention for one or more mental health issues and one in 20 Indians suffers from depression. It is estimated that in 2012, India had over 258,000 suicides, with the age-group of 15-49 years being most affected. Covid-19 has only ended up exacerbating the already grim situation.

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India was already not equipped to handle the initial case load; let alone the additional increased burden of the pandemic. The ideal psychiatrist to population ratio is about 1:8,000 to 10,000. According to estimates by professionals, in India, there is only one psychiatrist for every 2-lakh people. The shortfalls for other mental health professionals is also staggering: the need of Clinical Psychologists is 20,000 and there are only 1,000 available; for Psychiatric Social Workers, the requirement is 35,000, but only 900 are available, for Psychiatric Nurses, we need 30,000 and only 1500 are available.

To its credit, the government has put into motion the framework to help solve for this issue in the long run. In 2017, the Parliament of India passed the Mental Health Care Act , which puts the onus on the government to build up human resource capacities to ensure that mental health services are available in each district in the country. Unfortunately, the on-ground effects of these measures are at least a decade away.

With close to 250,000 suicides a year across the country, a decade is a luxury that India does not have. Other avenues of government policy can be explored and operationalized to reduce the burden of depression and anxiety in the short-run, and to increase general well-being levels among the population. To achieve this, one of the areas that the government can lean on is food policy.

Food is one of the biggest causes of illness and the consequent economic burden it places on families, societies, and countries alike. However, it can also be the solution.

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Over the past few decades, the diet of middle-class India has shifted from a primarily cereal-based diet for highly processed convenience foods, rich in refined sugar and trans fats .These foods are a contributing factor to increased rates of obesity and non-communicable diseases – caseload of diabetes in India has increased from 3% of Indian adults in 1970 to 11.2% in 2017. Research also reveals that the degree of hyperglycaemia in individuals with Type 1- and Type 2- diabetes is positively associated with risk of depression , and poor blood sugar control may harm mental health by increasing gut and brain inflammation, in turn compromising mental health. In fact, several components of the industrialized diet, disrupt the gut microbiome.

There is now a substantial body of evidence pointing to the existence of a strong relationship between the gut and one’s mood ; it is one of the reason’s we experience sensations such as butterflies in the stomach when we’re nervous/excited about something. Similarly, the gut is abundant with serotonin receptors ; shifts in gut health can impact our mood. A precarious balance of good and bad bacteria living in our gut can have major impacts on our daily experience. This is the reason medication like anti-depressants can impact our bodily functions and have warnings for side-effects such as diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal issues.

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As such, the food we consume is a critical ingredient in balancing our emotions. Consumption of whole food diets heavy on fruits, vegetables and unprocessed foods is linked to higher levels of well-being, while ingesting junk and processed foods heavy is a precursor to lifestyle diseases and has been linked to depression . Sugar and trans-fats , key ingredients in processed foods, have been found to cause emotional instability and dysregulation. Further, they contribute to inflammation, which is the root cause of several diseases and known to be associated with schizophrenia.

To effectively use these findings for improving the well-being of the population, the government needs to take a multi-pronged policy approach, which include mandatory limitsand awareness about reading labels. In this regard, there are already regulations in the pipeline, which need to be notified. The regulations limiting the amount of trans-fats in edible oils and processed foods have been pending notification for over a year and are nearing the government’s own set deadline of being implemented by January 2021 . While the government launched a trans-fat free logo last year, the same is one part of the puzzle. Labelling of high fat/sugar/salt (HFSS) has been in the works for over two years, with no indication of a deadline for completion . Such a regulation would be necessary for consumers to make informed choices that would impact their own well-being.

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The mental health and chronic disease epidemics demand to be treated with the urgency they deserve. This will require a massive shift with a focus on public health as a national priority. It would be essential for individuals, communities and both private and public healthcare sector to come together with a clear public health message. At the government level, one cannot take a one-size fits all approach; it is necessary to continuously look at the relevant science and keep expanding the umbrella of activities. Nutrition is a low-hanging fruit that has already been on the government radar from a physical health perspective. All that needs to be done is to expedite this process.

(Kripa Jalan is a professional nutrition consultant, Founder of Burgers to Beasts and a graduate student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Sharang Shah is a policy consultant with Chase India)

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Of Anxiety And Uncertainty

 There are certain things in life that no college, book or internet can teach you. One needs to simply experience it.

                    A year ago, when I was lying in an ICU bed having a gut wrenching, muscle freezing feeling trying to explain the doctor that something is wrong with me and him looking at me with pity trying to tell me otherwise. That day I learnt that being on the other side of the table ain’t no fun. Despite being a very expressive person I was struggling to articulate what I was feeling. 

                   The things that I encountered may differ from person to person. Humans as we know are complex yet fascinating and there are going to be innumerable versions of their experiences. Mine takes me back to the anxiety attacks where I have cried frantically for hours, going berserk over the limitless thoughts running through my mind. I have felt so vulnerable at times when my mom looked at me helplessly wanting to help and me failing at explaining why I was feeling what I was feeling.

There is so much chaos in the head, you feel all the things and thoughts spiralling out of control and a scream at that time would almost feel cathartic.

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                    Then came the anti-anxiety pills. I share a love-hate relationship with them. They kept me company at most nights and soothed me but made me feel groggy and lethargic during the day. Anxiety is an emotion as strong as happiness or sorrow, it’s a feeling of constant state of despair. It’s not all in my head, you know?

                      Anxiety also seeks isolation. From being the first one to plan social events, I slowly began to be the first one to turn down those events. It didn’t happen overnight, it’s a process and a progressive one.

                      It also taught me that having a support system is comforting. No, it does not make it less painful but it helps you get through the pain. As much as I would like for it to go away, I now embrace it with the hope of it making me stronger and better. It is not a quick fix, I know, but it helps.

I have always been the kind to care too much, to give too much. Many think ‘Oh! That’s a wonderful thing to do, that’s the way to be’. But the most daunting thing about this kind of nature is feeling too much. Expecting people to understand and reciprocate in the same manner to you. And it is one of the common causes of an anxiety disorder.

No, I am not writing this as another motivational anecdote for people feeling or going through similar things. This is for those who are around the ones diagnosed with anxiety disorders.

The do’s and dont’s we all need to know. I am aware it is not the other person’s responsibility or duty to always be as understanding and patient. But there are a few things that are done completely wrong or said in the worst  possible manner that need to stop.

1. No, it’s not in their head and no it won’t just go away.

2. Please stop comparing similar situations from your life and telling them it happens to everyone. Remember, to each, their own.

3. They don’t need to listen to a solution, sometimes they only want to vent or cry. Give them their comfort. Give them their space while being with them alongside.

4. Ask them to seek professional help. They may be reluctant and will say no. Be patient, support them. 

5. It may seem like they’re worrying for no reason and it may sound very futile to you. Please don’t act like it really is.

6. Be kind. As they say,”Everyone is going through a journey you know nothing about, be kind.”

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There are some other things you can do to resolve clinical symptoms:

  • People with anxiety face clinical symptoms like fast heart rate known as palpitations, tightness in the chest, breathlessness and sometimes high blood pressure.
  • Deep breathing and yoga can go a really long way. Try to do it along with them, it gives them a sense of comfort and support.
  • Chamomile tea too can do wonders along with some meditative music (you’ll find a lot of these on YouTube).
  • There are various support groups and online forums that they could join, they can talk to people experiencing and going through similar situations without being judged.

Motivate them to take up some activities, cooking personally helps me a lot. I know a few others who read, write, paint. It is all about channelising the negative energy into a positive one.

Lastly, in this world full of hatred and chaos, be their calm.

Ps. Also find us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Mental Health Is ‘My Thing’

With everything that is going on around the world, we are exposed to crises on a daily basis each time we scroll through our feeds. So naturally, one day gender equity is our thing, one day it is equal wages, another morning we are moved by farmers’ plight, and then our new thing is mental health awareness. It keeps changing – our cause, our rationale, our tipping point. Because that is what everything has come down to. A thing. So what are we really doing about these things? Just to save your time, this does not concern people who are fence sitters on issues that affect people on a day-to-day basis – online and offline.

I know it is overwhelming to read, watch, and listen to so much in one shot. Nobody really can. But whatever we do, can we do that with a little empathy? This has been something I have been wanting to talk about ever since the lockdown began, when we saw the migrant exodus in India. We cannot put up a fight against each battle, but there seemed to be an exceeding amount of ignorance and carelessness on issues that grew to hurt me.

It took an Indian actor’s death for the conversation around mental health to surface in our society. Even though there are finer details that are being combed through, my question is WHY. Why does it take a celebrity’s passing to throw light on a taboo that has been part of our society since the beginning of time?

Why does everything have to be so fleeting? Today’s topic is mental health awareness. Tomorrow’s will be something else and we will have opinions on that too. We all have our own battles to fight, yes. But in that case, can we please not join each and every bandwagon mindlessly? Because by doing that, we are only diluting the enormity of the problem people actually face.

Reading all the articles and messages around his demise was very triggering for me because of the artificial concerns expressed on how our society does not treat mental health as a legitimate issue. This has been an ongoing battle for many people like me who was ‘mature for my age’ or an ‘intense personality’ – we are this way because we feel and comprehend things in a different way. We felt a lot and we genuinely did not know better ways to process. And let me also tell you, that this is not a conscious choice. When we read long articles and stories about how depression is ignored, we know it is. There is countless research on how there is a prejudice in the Indian society against mental health. So instead of talking about it as something that just ‘happens to you’, please take some time out to understand the meaning of words like depression, trauma, and anxiety. Because these things are not incidental.

Casually tossing terms like OCD and anxiety and romanticizing about them does not make anyone a part of some imaginary community. Our mental health is not a quip for us going through it and it should not be for onlookers either. While I always give room for people to educate themselves and alter their opinions on passing issues, this is not a passing issue. So please, the next time a big wave hits the shore, do not blatantly join a campaign and narrate a story about how you ‘got anxiety’ when it was really just a reality check. I am sorry, but this is not cute anymore. If we are able to read this, we also have the capability to open our browsers to find answers or reach out to someone to help. And if incase we are not in the headspace to, then that is okay too. But let’s not dip our toes in the water and opt out when it gets uncomfortable.

This is not a random outburst that will fade away with the next headline. My entire thesis-writing journey revolved around equipping adolescents with ways to deal with mental health adversities. While it began with personal motivations, it was and has continued to be an eye-opener for me purely because it calls attention to the giant treatment gap that exists in our country. It is not a lost cause; there are several initiatives that are driving change through their content. But it will only take effect if people respect each battle even if it is not their own. We are not obligated to post an update about how moved we are only because we want to sound woke. Because trust me, some of us can see right through it.

All it takes is a little bit of empathy. We don’t have to suffer from something to empathise. If you need ideas on how to make a difference, here are a few – talk to someone, look up groups online and offline, educate yourself, spread awareness, ask questions. If you want to help, please make it count. Even if we reach out to one person to check on them, it means a great deal.

This pandemic has amplified our emotions in various ways, and it would be a shame if we came out of it as oblivious as we entered it.