Today, the World Health Organization celebrates Mental Health Day to acknowledge the importance of mental health for overall well-being. Every year attempts are made to create awareness on the various themes that are considered as the need of the hour predicaments.
This year, it is not surprising that the focus is on the way our lives, especially our well-being, has been affected by the pandemic.
Across the world people are facing almost similar problems related to COVID-19. There is a constant sense of fear and dread of being infected by the virus. Life as we know it has abruptly become different and people are reaching their wits end trying to cope with the various difficulties arising as a result of these changes. There is uncertainty in almost every situation. The concerns are not only revolving around the physical well-being but on the repercussions that arise due to the need for isolation and overall lockdown.
Some of you might be having a direct fight with the virus. You may be infected or have lost a dear one to the virus. For others, especially the frontline staff, every day the amount of energy that you expend to stay protected is exhaustive.
Although we are in the fifth stage of the unlock, it is evident that we in Goa are at the peak of the virus spread and as such every time we go out for basic amenities, there is a dangling sword on our heads, “Am I infected?” Such constant apprehension eventually takes a toll on our well-being, especially if we are not equipped to handle stress. But it doesn’t stop here.
Then there are your children; each facing their own personal battle with the pandemic crisis. Stuck at home, away from friends, having online classes with no teacher interaction, and the youth who wonder what their future holds for them. Diminishing job prospects, and the overall impact of the lockdown has made us shift our gear and we are forced to face the reality as is.
Difficult relationship and communication problems come to fore. Economic crises arise, small businesses are wondering how they are going to survive. The larger picture of life today is not very attractive and it is not at all surprising that mental health of every human will receive a beating. Thus it is very important, whoever you are, whatever work you do, take an hour every day to invest in your well-being.
It is natural that everyone will be affected but the damage of this fall will be even worse if you let stress get the better of you.
If you have been feeling depressed, anxious, frustrated, hopeless and angry then you need to take heed and gain your balance. Mental health should be your priority.
Here are some steps to help invest in your well-being.
► Assess your well-being. Take a reality check. What are your main concerns? What are the things that you are presently doing to help yourself?
► List your negative emotions that could be affecting your physical health. Like anger, frustrations, fear, sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, dread, etc. You are your best judge. These emotions will affect your sleep, appetite and mood. It will come in the way of your communications. Spend some time and reflect on the seriousness of this relationship between your emotions and your physical health.
► Acknowledge that your mental health is of utmost priority and nothing else truly matters. Everyday invest an hour or more for your health. This you could do by either exercising or spending time with nature.
► Take up meditation. Harvard University shows that 20 minutes of meditation everyday change the way your brain functions and helps with stress reduction. There are many styles of meditation. The internet has many different techniques to offer, different music you can download. The list is truly endless. All you need is the first step. Become aware. Being mindful is yet another style of meditation that protects you against stress related disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder. They say that our brain plasticity is amazing enough to restore itself. Meditation is the tool to do this. Scientists are just discovering the benefits of meditation and it is prescribed as a supporting therapy for people suffering from various mental illnesses.
► Seek help. If you think your emotions are affecting your physical health then don’t hesitate to talk to someone. Get an appointment with a counsellor or psychiatrist. There are many psychologists doing online consultation so it is not too difficult. Visiting a counsellor will help you reorganise your emotional health so that you feel more in control.
This mental health day commit to your well-being. Choose something that works for you and persist.
(Writer is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and officiating principal and associate professor at Carmel College for Women)