“Treat your body like a temple,” it’s often said.
Eat right, take care of your body, exercise etc. We talk about these things so often, the sound of these words has become almost like background music to our lives. What is sad is that when we talk about ‘body’ being a temple, we conveniently exclude our ‘minds’ from the concept. If we have a toothache, or a cold, or a fever, we make sure to attend to it. It is almost funny how we ignore when our brains show us signs of an issue as opposed to when any other part of our body does so. What happens to mental health then?
Mental health today has become a completely separate field of study and science. This is great, except that this is also proof of the common practice of excluding mental health concerns from the scope of mainstream physical health, even though mental health concerns manifest as physical effects.
Mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realises their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community,” according to the World Health Organization. Various social, psychological, and biological factors can determine the level of mental health in an individual.
Good mental health can be associated with a balanced life, well-developed and healthy coping mechanisms, and frequent breaks and checks in favour of maintaining mental health. On the other hand, poor mental health can be a result of physical/sexual violence, stressful working conditions, pressurising socio-economic conditions, discrimination, exclusion, poor physical health, unhealthy life practices, and so on.
Most common mental health conditions or disorders may include clinical depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others. In today’s time, while awareness about the ‘subject’ of mental health is on the rise, mental health issues are soaring, too. Based on the data by the WHO, there has been a 13% rise in mental health conditions and substance use disorders in the last decade (to 2017).
The most recent global-level trigger of anxiety and mental health concerns is the Covid-19 pandemic. In early 2020, the pandemic rapidly spread across countries, leaving people with little time to prepare and cope. This, followed by a worldwide lockdown, left people in shock, pushing them further into uncomfortable situations. With the pandemic and the lockdown came feelings of fear, worry, anxiety and stress.
The fear of getting the disease, worrying for loved ones who were infected, the anxiety of being stuck in one place – not being able to meet friends and family, stress of social, physical, financial deprivation caused due to the pandemic – all of these took over the minds of even the best of us. Adjusting to the ‘newer’ systems of work from home and online classes, several people faced difficulty finding their balance.
Dealing with anxiety and stress while being stuck in a lockdown can be even more challenging than regular circumstances. As hospitals and medical centres were flooded with patients who tested positive, accessing even basic health assistance became a challenge. Finding help for mental health was a far cry.
Slowly, with the development of vaccinations and increasing accessibility to them, people have started to heal from stress. The thing with stress and anxiety is that they leave a long-lasting impact which turns into underlying conditions, leading to serious mental health conditions. An experience like this pandemic is set to leave people a little shaken, even as its intensity dilutes.
The good thing is that we are all in this together. People across countries and continents were hit all at once and will come out of it together too. As the world has started to heal, and the disease has become relatively manageable, help, too, is becoming more available. Here are some ways you can manage the effects of the pandemic on mental health.
The best way of responding to the signs of stress your body shows is by addressing them directly. Accepting your emotions is the first step towards addressing them. Talking about your emotions with someone professionally qualified in the field can help you understand yourself better. Therapy is now easily available in most cities in India and even online. There is no shame in getting help.
Diet has a major influence on how your body and mind feel. A happy, healthy and balanced diet can help keep your body’s energy levels up and spirits high. When you eat a healthy meal, it has the capability of lifting up both your energy and mood instantly. Maintaining a healthy diet during lockdown is even more important and plays a significant role in sustaining good mental health.
Staying hydrated can be counted as the single most important practice to maintain a healthy body and mind. Healthy water consumption helps your body drain out toxins and acids which supports both your physical and mental health. Drinking water, and mindfully, is something that you need to plan and follow – to procure maximum benefits of staying hydrated. Drinking water at the wrong time- while having a meal- or the wrong way- glugging- does not help. Instead, it might even be counter-productive. So, plan your water and drink mindfully. Stay hydrated.
In a world where everything happens behind a screen, more so in a lockdown situation, it is easy to lose touch with friends and family. Staying connected with your loved ones plays a significant role in maintaining good mental health. Feelings of anxiety and stress may trigger many people to isolate themselves, leading to possible unhealthy behaviour patterns. While it is important to take time to process your emotions, isolating yourself emotionally would only slow down your healing. Stay in touch, stay connected.
As we witness the second wave of the virus declining, most public facilities have started to resume, including gyms and fitness centres. While you may not be ready to go back to a crowded space for working out, taking time out to keep yourself physically active is absolutely necessary to maintain good physical health and manage mental health triggers and concerns. Exercising can help keep your body active and your mind alert – helping you tackle challenges more easily.
Maintaining a journal is a widely loved way of managing one’s emotions. Whether you do it as a daily practice or use it as an escape from a difficult situation, journaling can help you understand your feelings. You can use creative ways to track your moods, emotions, identify patterns and understand yourself better. There are various ideas and ways you can maintain a healthy journaling practice, so why wait? Start today.
Understanding and managing stress symptoms can be tricky. Most times, when stress manifests itself in the form of physical symptoms, it can be confusing. But you need to identify triggers and understand your emotional patterns in order to manage your mental health. Once you understand what affects you and how it shows, you can break the chain. Only trick? Observe.
It can be very easy to lose track of what you have achieved when the world is crashing down around you. In these times, if you start to feel low, one great way to instantly feel better is counting your blessings. There might be a lot of things going wrong, but there will definitely be so many more going right. You can list your blessings and put them up on your desk wall. Looking at these notes can remind you of your blessings and keep you positive.
Another great way of maintaining good mental health is sharing your blessings! Sharing your blessings can mean many things. Some ways of doing so include helping someone, making a small contribution to a cause or donating your time. You can find countless such opportunities with Wishes and Blessings. At Wishes and Blessings, we run several projects across areas of work like elderly care, education, nutrition etc. Contact us to donate your time, or an amount, or spend time with our beneficiaries at our centres.