Mindfulness: An antidote to lockdown blues

By Kajal Makwana & Ashika Jain

As the third-month wheels in wearily, you may realise that the pandemic has given all of us a dose of lockdown blues. We seem to be placed on a roller coaster of emotions ranging from anger, frustration, happiness, sadness to even grief.

As each one of us is trying to manage the swing on this spectrum, perhaps using techniques best known to us like distraction or relaxation or building and fostering connections to ease the collective pain, many of us are being caught off guard by the frequent spikes and dips e.g. feeling thrown off by a seemingly sudden bout of anxiety and racing thoughts or spiralling downwards due to a low mood.

While access to professional mental health support is advisable where these spikes seem out of hand and unmanageable, you can rely on mindfulness as a powerful technique to battle mild to moderate psychological distress and learn to better manage your emotions.

Along with clinical concerns like anxiety and panic, mindfulness can also reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Mindfulness has physical health benefits like lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease, alleviating chronic back pain and improving sleep and the ability to do daily tasks. According to a Harvard study, half an hour of daily mindfulness meditation can increase grey matter in the hippocampus of your brain, positively impacting memory and learning, visuospatial processing and executive functioning.

Despite known short and long term benefits, if it still feels difficult to get a handle on, you need to re-evaluate your technique – maybe it’s not the right fit for you or you need to spend more time practising it or you need to be aware of how the benefits are showing up.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, defines mindfulness as, “The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. Simply put, being mindful means being in the here and now, being aware of your breath, observing thoughts, feelings, emotions and body sensations as they arise.

Here is our pick on the five most widely prescribed mindfulness techniques – what they are used for, how to use them and some quick tips to ensure you are doing it correctly:

1. Box Breathing

What is it used for?

This breathing technique aids in instant regulation of heightened emotions. If you are just beginning with mindfulness, start with this.

How to use it?

Sit comfortably and place both your feet firmly on the ground. Inhale to a count of four. Hold your breath to a count of four. Exhale to a count of four. Pause for four counts before your next breath. Visualise drawing the four sides of a box in your mind as you do these four steps.

Quick tip:

Make sure your stomach expands as you inhale and contracts as you exhale. Keeping one hand on your belly and the other on your chest while doing the box breathing can help you get it right.

2. Grounding

What is it used for?

This coping technique is very useful to bring your mind and body awareness into the present moment to combat feelings of panic and anxiety.

How to use it?

Look around you. Find and name five things that you can see. Next, touch four things around you. Next, listen to three things that you can hear around you. Then, acknowledge two things that you can smell. Lastly, find one thing that you can taste.

Quick tip:

Focus on using your senses fully and exclusively for each step. Make sure that all the things you list out are different from one another.

3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

What is it used for?

This relaxation technique can help you calm your mind and body, especially useful when you have trouble falling asleep because of stress.

How to use it?

Lie down comfortably with your arms by your side. Close your eyes and bring your complete attention to your body. Take in a few deep breaths. With each deep breath systematically relax your body, focusing on your toes first as you relax them, then move on to your calves and knees – relaxing each body part as you go. Slowly move your focus one by one to your thighs, abdomen, chest, hands, forearms, arms, shoulder, neck, jaw forehead and relax. Stay in this pose for a few moments, focusing on your breathing and gently open your eyes.

Quick tip:

Your mind may wander, accept it as normal, gently bring your attention back to your breath and continue the process.

4. Being a Passive Observer

What is it used for?

This technique is beneficial for taking down ruminating thoughts that may be the cause of incessant worry and discomfort.

How to use it?

Be a passive observer to your thoughts. Sit comfortably and place your feet firmly on the ground. Close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting by a flowing river. Now pay attention to your thoughts. Witness each thought as it comes to the forefront of your mind, place it on a leaf and let it float away. Simply observe and allow the thoughts to come and go. As soon as you experience a sense of lightness, gently open your eyes.

Quick tip:

Refrain from stopping or judging your thoughts, learn to look ‘at’ your thoughts not ‘from’ them.

5. Self-Soothing Visualization

What is it used for?

This soothing technique comes to your aid when you need to find some solace and peace – especially when your physical and or emotional environment cannot offer you that.

How to use it?

Create a conducive ambience with some comforting music and fragrance in the room. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Visualize being transported to a place you like – maybe a place you imagine going to someday or a cherished memory you would like to revisit. Take in and absorb the sensory inputs of that place and time – the temperature, the wind, the smell, the person, the feeling. Immerse yourself completely to allow a sense of calm embrace you. Slowly open your eyes when you are ready.

Quick tip:

Use your wise judgment to choose a memory linked with only pleasant feelings and a place that you can easily visualise or recreate in your mind.

Choose a technique and try it out, building on it each day to leverage the power of mindfulness. You could also cultivate this wonderful practice by integrating small moments of being mindful in your day as simple as enjoying a cup of tea by being fully present and using all your senses to experience those moments.

Now that you have more understanding about five of the most widely used mindfulness techniques, you are ready to begin your mindfulness journey!

 

Resources: 

https://disturbmenot.co/meditation-statistics/

https://www.londonmindful.com/blog/mindful-walking-at-home-in-nature-and-in-the-city/

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind/articles/meditation-tips-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/03/9578446/mindfulness-during-coronavirus

https://www.antioch.edu/new-england/2020/04/01/9-ways-to-remain-mindful-during-the-pandemic/

https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2020/04/mindfulness-coronavirus.php

 

Acceptance and commitment: Hope in a crisis

By Kavina Kothari and Krupa Naik

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, ACT as the name suggests, helps one accept and embrace their thoughts and feelings instead of running away from them. It encourages you to slow down and focus on your choices. 

In times like these, when we are overwhelmed with our feelings and struggling with shared anxiety of when things will resume normalcy, accepting can help us learn to deal with the crisis instead of trying to escape and avoid it.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can help us accept those recurring thoughts and deal with them. A form of mindfulness-based therapy, it is known to enhance psychological flexibility by helping us evaluate our character traits and behaviours to reduce avoidance and examine our commitment to making a change. Instead of obsessing, worrying or feeling helpless ACT invites you to accept your reactions, choose a healthy response and take action. 

How can we use this valuable therapy technique to ease some of our stress in this troubled time?

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Here are some ideas for applying acceptance and commitment to better deal with the uncertainty at this time:

1. Acknowledge thoughts and feelings

Accept that you may be anxious or restless about the future. Acknowledge that these feelings are reasonable given what we all are going through at this time and that you are not alone in thinking or feeling this way.

2. Commit to staying strong

Acceptance also means letting go and not ruminating in the despair. Identify small steps you can take towards making the most of this time, e.g. rediscovering a skill or talent, connecting with an old forgotten friend, setting a new goal for self-development.

3. Build present moment awareness

Even as you are stuck at home and your mind is spinning in a million directions, try to slow down. Use your breath to become mindful of the moment. Meditate, practice yoga or tai chi to help you enhance your concentration.

4. Decontaminate – inside and outside 

Preserve your safety parameters with sanitizing and sterilizing, and remember to do the same you’re your mind and energy too. Identify toxicity in your relationships and behavior and make a conscious effort to let go of what no longer serves you. Invest in healthy ways of communicating and being to enable your circle to flourish and grow.

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Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

5. Go with the flow

Everyone is also grappling with changed routines at this point in time. As you slowly learn to adapt to a ‘new normal’, remember to gently let go of the need to control. Accepting what is and what isn’t in your circle of control can bring a sense of ease. Be gentle with yourself and others as you go with the flow to make things easier.

6. Find meaning

In a dark distressing situation, it is often difficult to find purpose. Use this time to redefine your values and ideals. Identify what is truly important to you – may be meaningful relationships, being authentic to people, offering help and support etc. and then slowly develop consistent behaviors aligning to these.

7. Tap into resources

Face the disruption by preparing for it. Identify needs and trustworthy resources that you can tap into if required. Rely on your circle of support of friends and family to share your experiences with and feel less isolated. Have handy a list of helplines including access to health professionals should you require assistance.

8. Practice self-compassion

Know that it is okay to feel low or angry or less productive on a certain day. Be patient with yourself, hug yourself or engage in small gestures that bring you joy. Cultivate the practice of gratitude to help you appreciate the small things in life. 

This crisis has allowed us to prioritize our physical and mental health. Use this phase of life to also nurture the bonds of your relationships and community. Remember collective care and support can help us tide over any challenge, stay strong and hopeful as we prepare to find our normal again.

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Distress tolerance for dummies

By Krupa Naik & Kajal Makwana

man lying on white flowers

Emotional turmoil is natural aftermath of every crisis and currently, the world seems to be reeling under it in varying degrees. In the absence of a structured blueprint to help us map through our current distress, we are left to rely on our inner reserves of tolerance and patience to sustain our sense of stability and mental peace.

Everyone is facing some discomfort in the form of worry, confusion, anxiety, overwhelm or loss of control. How we respond to this emotional distress depends on our willpower and conditioning, some of us may find it easy to distract ourselves while others may feel their patience waning at every opportunity.

Social distancing norms and a stretched quarantine period are testing our interpersonal effectiveness in a novel way. Staying cooped up with family members is causing our defense mechanisms to surge at an all-time high and we risk being abrasive with others or dismissive of their feelings. Given the lack of social connections, it is crucial at this time to keep our relationships positively maintained.

As we diligently follow safety precautions, take care of our diet, exercise and sleep we also need to normalize our experience of emotions by accepting that anxiety, fear or worry are likely to arise in unprecedented times like these. We should strive to strike a balance between our emotions and our rationality.

So how do we regulate our emotions? How do we keep perspective and choose healthy responses?

Let’s examine the choices we have:

banking business checklist commerce
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. Problem solve?

Find out what is it that you can control about the situation and work on it – maybe your health and safety, maybe your part in not spreading infection.

2. Alter your feelings about the situation?

You change the way you feel by checking on the facts so that you can be mindful about what is worth worrying about and what is not

3. Distract yourself?

Get through your day by accepting the reality and distracting yourself with various activities whether it’s enjoying a board game with family, reading or watching your favourite show

4. Wallow in the misery?

You still have a choice to continue feeling terrible about the situation and evoking monstrous amounts of self-pity but that really won’t assist you to move forward

Dialectic Behaviour Therapy teaches us to be mindful, a critical skill which helps us go with the flow in this wave of uncertainty. Here are some simple techniques inspired by DBT that we could use to overcome emotional discomfort and respond skillfully:

person on a bridge near a lake
Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

Recognise your thoughts and feelings

Emotions are important for our survival and we need not fight them. Simply notice your thoughts and feelings, accept them and gently bring your attention back to whatever it is you are doing at the present moment.

Recognise others’ thoughts and feelings

The best way to show your care at this time is to listen to your loved ones, validate their feelings and experiences. Offer your support as and when required.

Be in the moment

Allow yourself to pause several times a day to observe your breath. You could try controlled breathing to achieve a calming effect. Such moments will allow you to simply be without focusing on past or future anxiety.

Be realistic

Rely on credible sources of information and gain perspective by focusing on the positive aspects of hope and recovery. See reality from the perspective of danger as well as the possibility of fully participating in each moment of life.

Be connected

Reach out to others for comfort and support. Communicate your feelings and allow others to share theirs.

Be appreciative

Celebrate your strengths and those of your loved ones. Appreciating small achievements can empower your self-worth, reduce the intensity of pain and help you focus on strategies for rebuilding your future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Own your emotions before you own your relationship

By Ashika Jain & Kavina Kothari

bench nature love people
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As citizens of the new millennium, we were anyways grappling with understanding the finer aspects of relationships or appreciating the small joys of companionship and it took the jolt of a pandemic to bring us back to acknowledging pent up frustrations in our relationships.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have moved our focus to all the flaws and shortcomings of our loved ones. Every interaction with a family member or co-occupant holds the latent potential of flaring a conflict. Couples who were dating are giving in to impulsive decisions and calling off relationships. Married partners seem to be getting on each other’s nerves having no outlet to vent. Tensions simmering during the first lockdown between family members seem to have reached their peak now.

Family members and spouses find themselves holed up together, unable to break free from stagnant communication and behaviour patterns. Whether it is communication clampdowns or incessant nagging that allow problems to fester and breed, all routes point to the stark truth that we fail to own up to our emotions. We fail because we forget that others are a mirror to our internal worlds and instead blame them for making us feel in a certain way.

So how can we nurture relationships that are not solely dependent on wants, expectations and conditional love? How can we see our relationships as an extension of ourselves? How can we be more appreciative of them in terms of how they help us grow?

Maybe the answer lies in a need to reflect on what’s going on inside of us that is making us feel this way. This includes figuring out whether we are projecting our faults onto a loved one or if our response is helping us appreciate them in any way. We need to examine if respect is present in our interactions or if we are shielding our ego under the cushioned covers of our defense mechanisms. We need to understand if old unhealthy behaviour patterns or perceptions are fogging our view of our relationship.

two unhappy multiracial women in room
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Here’s what we can do in the current time to prevent our relationships from suffocating:

1. Talk less, listen more

This might be a good time to keep the saying ‘You have two ears and one mouth for a reason’ at the forefront of your mind. The first step to assuage all tension by listening to the other, which includes allowing them to finish and keeps misunderstandings at bay. Listening also allows you to modify your response from an instinctive one to a thoughtful one.

Besides, doesn’t it feel nice to speak without being interrupted, even once?

 2. Divide and conquer with a pinch of accountability

We are all probably doing more than our usual share of household chores at this time. It might be a good idea to divide and rotate tasks among family members and operate with accountability. You could even make a fun game out of it with some rules like timelines and penalties or fun challenges. Go on, get creative.

How much fun would a household environment be, if someone didn’t complete chores at the agreed time and would have to make dessert the next day or even complete a Tik Tok challenge?

3. Tap Into your inner altruist

Well, ‘charity begins at home’ and this might be the best time for you to start becoming charitable. You will be surprised to see how much tension can be released – not just within you, but also within the other – if you simply perform some kind thoughtful acts for each other setting aside expectations of anything in return.

Wouldn’t you like it if someone brought you a glass of water when they were getting themselves some?

4. Silence your inner critic

It’s difficult, yes, we know. Right now, all the annoying habits of loved ones seem amplified – which is exactly why it is more important than ever to silence that inner critic. Vocalising your opinions about their odd quirks will not ease the friction. Keep calm and remind yourself that they are an extension of you. Or better still, for every critical thought challenge yourself to think of a positive one.

Yes, they leave the toilet seat up, but aren’t they also the first one to ask how your day was?

5. Create boundaries

Being in a physically confined space with loved ones can feel emotionally draining. At a time like this enmeshed familial relations can start to feel unbearable. This is why boundary setting is something we all can implement and it doesn’t have to be as harsh as it sounds. It can begin with small things like asking not to be disturbed during your work hours to more difficult things like politely declining from participating in group activities when you don’t feel up to it.

6. Talk about your feelings

Yes, there is a way to do this optimally. Talking about how you feel (e.g., ‘I feel angry when you always leave the lights on’) v/s how someone is making you feel (e.g., ‘You make me so angry because you always leave the lights on’) helps you own up your emotions and regulate them better. Politely sharing how you feel shifts blame from the other and makes them more likely to consider the consequences of their actions.

7. Share and care

We have all heard the saying sharing is caring. This caring can be shown in various ways – which don’t always have to look like a sacrifice. It might be a good idea to learn new things and make a weekly routine of ‘sharing’ these new learning with the others in your home. These could range from trying a new recipe to reading a new book to even discovering a new hobby.

Understanding that we hold the power of control over our emotions can help us step out of destructive patterns before they suck the life out of our relationships. Knowing yourself and knowing your significant other can help us move forward to better compatibility, mutual respect and bonding – the three basic tenets of any healthy relationship.

 

Tackling Resistance in Pandemic Times

By Krupa Naik & Kajal Makwana

Resistance in the therapy process has always been assumed to emanate from the client as direct and indirect paradoxical behaviour. Due to the lockdown, many practitioners are offering service through telehealth mode and are experiencing such resistance from the clients during the process.

How is pandemic anxiety propelling resistance?

This resistance can be attributed to various factors – not feeling safe due to the absence of ‘physical’ therapy space, unfamiliar with the virtual model of communication, having family members around, fear of being ‘monitored’ while interacting on a device, denying reality or feeling afraid to self-evaluate.

pexels-photo-4031867.jpegIn current pandemic times, with the mandate of a continued lockdown looming over us, emotional strife runs high. Feelings of suffocation, boredom, isolation and loneliness set in due to reduced social contact confinement and loss of normal routine.

Remote working for those who are new to it is more of a drudgery trying to balance the many responsibilities of home versus work, figuring out how to fit in by quickly adapting to virtual skills, juggling the blurred boundaries between work and home, and doling out the required productivity that the job role demands.

Financial stability seems to be on shaky ground with markets spiralling and businesses threatened by a grinding halt. Many are left wondering if their employment or income status would be adversely affected post the pandemic. Others are worried about their children’s future.

Losing control translates into fear automatically and frustrations tend to spillover in all aspects of our lives. Rumour mongering, hoarding, complaining or criticizing our loved ones, our resources, public policy – all become natural fallbacks as we are unable to figure out appropriate responses to the situation.

Confusion and uncertainty augment the anxiety and worsen our mental state. We are left grappling with worse case scenarios in our head and find it difficult to regulate the resulting emotions. Past traumas lingering somewhere in our subconscious are unwittingly activated. Rendered helpless and powerless, our functioning is at the risk of failing. In this fragile state, we are afraid to be any more vulnerable, we are afraid to open up. We resist.

How can therapists tackle resistance?

Resistance is a clue for the vigilant practitioner as it bears testimony to the existence of the push-pull of the change process.

white ceramic sculpture with black face mask

Resistance can also be a result of a faulty interaction, a therapist’s inability or lack of skills to handle client response. If something’s not working in our toolkit, we need to change it. Therapeutic agility is all about the skill to tap into the client’s inner wants, feelings, thoughts and action without facilitating victimhood.

More now than ever, therapists need to drop the idea of enforcing change in the client’s situation – because they can’t. Therapists can also begin with the premise that resistance may be an indicator of the client trying to gain a sense of power in their already crumbling life and therefore it is imperative that therapists shift their focus from change to exploring and understanding the client’s world and responses.

Here are a few questions for you to consider so that you can better explore your client’s perceptions of their current reality and help them make better choices:

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What is this pandemic situation doing to them?

What are the unreasonable demands they are facing as a result?
What do they feel is out of their control?
What do they wish was accepted of them?
What is the immediate problem they would like to focus on?
What is in their control?
What have they been doing to cope?
What is or isn’t working for them?

Ensure you are clued-in to the details of your client’s situation, what they find emotionally compelling or the goals they wish to pursue now. Empathy and dialogue are key here as they help you fine-tune your approach to your client’s changing needs.

In the process, you may facilitate valuable insights they can use to improve their state. After all, managing resistance successfully is the key to the success of therapy.

 

 

Use This Lockdown Period to Build a Closer Bond With Your Children

By Kavina Kothari & Ashika Jain

Locked down at home with your children all day every day? (well, at least until mid-April!)

It might feel exhausting or frustrating to match their energy and enthusiasm levels – you may even sometimes wish they asked fewer questions. Instead of simply finding ways to keep them entertained (cell-phones and iPads?), you can use this time to create an even stronger emotional bond with your children.

A strong emotional bond founded on a secure attachment will allow your little ones to build resilience skills and grow into emotionally healthy and mature individuals capable of handling adversities.

As a parent, you may want to protect them from any and all pain however, in reality, you may not always be around and life is unfair. Our success as adults is largely determined by our ability to survive and thrive through life’s difficult moments starting early childhood.

woman in white long sleeve shirt playing with a girl in denim dress

Being mentally strong stands at the core of this ability to thrive. So, how can you assist your children to become resilient or adept at handling what life throws at them? How can you form a deeper emotional connection with them, not only to strengthen the bond but also to ensure their ability to thrive in adulthood?

A great place to start is by enhancing your own empathy levels. Empathy can be an effective tool to help foster care and understanding in filial relationships; both of which are integral to secure attachments and healthy socio-emotional development of children.

woman in white long sleeve shirt and a girl sitting beside white table
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Here are the different ways in which you could inculcate empathy in your daily parenting – especially in the early years:

1. Listening
Listen to your children. Being heard is different from feeling heard. Feeling heard is one of the strongest and most positive ways to build emotional health. Feeling unheard leads to feelings of being disregarded or ignored and it can have a direct impact on self-esteem. Practice active listening through healthy conversations by ensuring eye contact when your children are talking, affirming with positive non-verbal cues like nodding or patting and paraphrasing what they say to validate that they are heard.

2. Talking About Their Feelings
Address how a child might be feeling about a particular event, person or thing – offer those feeling words (negative or positive), so that even they can make sense of what they are feeling. Helping them get in touch with their own feelings as well as those of others will enable them to learn that feelings are normal and can lead to deeper insights. Encourage sharing concerns e.g. about the fears they may have or acknowledging if they seem upset by an event.

3. Not Running Away From Difficult Emotions
Your child will feel sad, angry, or disappointed, and you may rush to try and fix it right away because the parent in you wants to protect them from any and all pain. At times like these, allow the child to experience and label these difficult feelings as normal (because they are). Facing difficult emotions will strengthen their ability to tackle challenges head-on. For example, enquire about their anger or disappointment over a recent event at home.

4. Being Non-Directive
During playtime remain as non-directive as possible. Allow the child to choose what they want to play and how they want to play without judging or evaluating. Use this time to observe them as they explore. Refrain from commenting or sharing your approval or disapproval – if a car is flying, let it fly! Simply being present will allow your child to feel acknowledged and help their imagination and creativity to flourish.

5. Offering Unconditional Positive Regard
Unconditional positive regard means showing complete support and acceptance, whether for yourself or others. Ensure that your love for your children is not conditional to their good behaviour or obedience or achieving certain goals and is not withdrawn if they make a mistake. Accept them as they are, with their shortcomings or imperfections. Just as corporal punishment is a no-no, agreeing with or supporting your child for every action or decision is also not advisable. Instead, value and respect them for who they are while teaching them the importance of boundaries. Unconditional love helps in breeding a sense of safety, security, positive self-image and self-confidence.

6. Being Patient
Showing patience, not only towards your child but also towards yourself – developing good emotional health takes time. Your child may not be able to respond in an empathic manner right away simply because you have been using empathy in your parenting approach. Your continued approach will help them over time, to acknowledge, to understand and manage their own emotions in a healthy way.

Try building on these different aspects to exercise empathy and strengthen your relationship with your little ones whilst also helping them grow into emotionally healthy beings. With continued practice of these skills, the bond you strengthen with your children might just prove to be the silver lining in the dark cloud of a lockdown!

 

 

Essential self-care for mental wellbeing

Since childhood, we are conditioned to focus on our body, be it appearance, grooming, nutrition, or fitness; often taking great pains to nurture and maintain our physical health. After all, isn’t a healthy body is supposed to be the secret to one’s personality and longevity?

Well, what about the mind? How much importance do we give it on a daily or even weekly basis?

Taking care of our mental health should be a priority for all of us, yet we are forced to pay attention only when we are at our wit’s end. Often because we lack understanding of how-to and where to start.

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Here is a quick checklist to help put you enhance awareness around setting a healthy routine of self-care for your mind.

Know how you feel

Emotions are an indicator of our mental state and all emotions are essential for our survival. You need to acknowledge, embrace and accept your emotions. A great starting point is by allowing yourself to feel i.e. firstly ‘being okay’ if something strong comes up, labelling the emotion comes next so that you have a hang on the intensity of what you are feeling. Being in tune with your emotions helps you tap into the quality of your thoughts and ultimately your behaviour, eventually helping you to channelize it more positively.

Know what you say to yourself

Many times we tend to tell ourselves ‘why me’ or ‘I don’t deserve anything good’ whenever we are faced with an unfortunate turn of events. Such limiting thoughts may block our cognitive functioning or elicit unwarranted reactions from us and impact our mental state. Pairing up a problem statement with a realistic evaluation like ‘While I know what is happening is not the best, this is a phase and I will be able to manage it’ may help us calm down in the face of challenges and cope with them in a healthier way.

Know when to pause

Feeling low, irritated, angry, disappointed is all part and parcel of life. We all go through such moments and it can be a relief to know that you are not alone. Whenever you feel the going has been particularly rough for you in the day, step back and take a pause. A mini-break can help you calm down, regain perspective and help you step back into the daily grind. For example, you could take a mini minute every 2 hours and simply visualize yourself at your favourite holiday destination.

Know your rituals

Research has proven that practices such as meditating, using breathing techniques and specific affirmations, mindfulness, listening to music, practising forgiveness and gratitude journaling helps us ease our mind and function from a more relaxed state as we tackle everyday concerns. Set aside some time where you can engage in your favourite ritual like spending time outdoors or taking your pet for a walk or appreciating yourself for the day or a nighttime routine, to help you tackle the tough moments and recharge in a healthier way. Such activities also enable you to get into the ‘flow state’ which can peak your enjoyment of the process and in turn propel a new level of creativity.

Know your fears

It is important to know what you are afraid of and to know that hope is stronger than your fears. Try to inculcate hope every day by believing in yourself. Instead of only focusing on your fears, look at the bigger picture of your present situation, try to inculcate a positive perspective into your future goals and plan accordingly. Know that small steps each day will take you closer to where you want to be.

Know when to reach out

If you feel that you have tried these techniques but are unable to see any progress or feel drained and unable to sustain any efforts in this direction, you could always reach out to a friend, loved one or mental health professional. Counselling is a process where the therapist is your co-traveller for some part of your journey of life, offering you a safe space so you can see things in a clear light. Counsellors use different skills and therapy techniques to understand your concern and help you reconnect with your goals. Don’t let stigma come in the way of your mental well being.

 

Shhh, hide the blues!

Indian statistics indicate that about 150 million people across the country are in the need for mental health care interventions, both short term and long term. Add to this, the glaring data by the World Health Organization (WHO), where for every 100,000 people in India, the mental health workforce includes only 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.12 nurses, 0.07 psychologists and social workers and we have a pressing need for a robust mental health care structure.mentalhealth

The flip side is that many people do not have a clear understanding of mental health except mental health professionals. The stigma around mental health relegates it to the shadows. Hiding mental health concerns can also have a profound effect on the quality of life.

Most of the time mental health concerns are kept hidden, does health only include physical health? The answer is obviously “no” as the World Health Organization (WHO) explains that mental health is an integral part of health and is more than the absence of mental illness. Hiding mental health concerns can have a profound effect on the quality of life. Some common aspects which affect mental health are stress, mood swings, excessive fear, tension and worry etc. which can get intense over time if left unaddressed.

Here are 3 things for you to consider:

  1. Do you know the difference between just being sad or upset for some time over something and actually having the symptoms of a mental health concern? It is important to understand that Depression is just not limited to sadness, Anxiety is just not limited worry, a Phobia is just not limited to fear, Stress is just not limited to tension and the Absence of physical symptoms do not rule out an underlying emotional concern.
  2. Do you know anything about the professionals working in this space? Apart from psychiatrists who alone can prescribe medications, mental health professionals also include counsellors, psychologists, therapists, clinicians and psychoanalysts. These professionals are not mind-readers or magicians but will use scientific therapeutic measures to analyze and treat mental concerns. Once you recognize your need for professional help, it is advisable to enquire about the qualification and experience of the professional and whether they would be able to help you resolve your concern.
  3. Do you speak openly about your mental health or how you are feeling? Being open and accepting your vulnerabilities or your ups and downs is the first step to acknowledging that you are human and destigmatizing mental health issues. Everyone avails of leave for physical concerns, but rarely does one give that much attention to mental or emotional concerns which form the crux of our wellbeing. In 2017, a woman in Michigan applied for and got sanctioned leave to focus on her mental health.

While internationally, people have gradually begun to understand the importance of mental and emotional health, in India, we still have a long way to go. In the next part of this article, we will share some techniques that will help you take care of your mental health.

How To Reduce Stress At Work

Being busy has become normal for us these days. We love filling our day with meetings, presentations, important calls without realizing that we are actually operating on auto-pilot, and not really wondering if all our actions will actually lead us to where we wish to go. Most of us are not even sure where we want to go! We are just running the rat-race without introspecting what is the finish-line we wish to reach, or if we are even participating in the race we want.

Making a few changes to our routine and being more mindful can help us break these patterns, and tiny steps aren’t always difficult to implement. Here are a few tips to help boost spirits even on a working day:

  • Have A Relaxing Start To Your Mornings: Do not wake up in a cranky mode at the sound of your third or fourth alarm going off. Add something interesting to your morning routine – for instance, begin the day by listening to your favourite tracks while you get ready for work; or look forward to work after indulging in your choice of breakfast, or having a sip of your favourite tea. Wake up and just savour your surroundings – take in the sights and sounds you usually ignore. You may not see tangible ways in which this is helping at first, but the idea is to re-wire the brain to forming new habits, and breaking old patterns.
  • Set Small Goals: Instead of braving to complete the entire list of tasks you have starting with the most important or the first one on your list, begin by finishing every small little thing – finish that one-minute follow-up call first. Review that one completed report and send it across, instead of waiting to finish that entire pile and mailing them all together.
  • Be Nice To Your Colleagues: Having a friend at work always helps! Help out your colleagues even if you have a huge pile of work to finish. Make it a point to socialize with them during lunch. Interact with them, understand their world. Do not judge them. You’ll feel the lightness in your work-space.
  • Do Not Criticize Yourself: We are all achievement-driven and wish to reach the top. Some of us have a tendency to be really hard on our own self when we don’t achieve the goals we desired, or if they are not achieved in the time-frame we had planned in mind. Do not focus only on your failures. Trace your line of progress in general and review all the good things you’ve done, and see what you can do about your shortcomings – beating yourself up is never the solution.
  • Make Your Work-Space Bright And Interesting: Get rid of all the clutter. Put up a picture of your loved one, or an object that gives you a sense of calm, or even motivational quotes. Dull spaces demotivate us from working especially if the tasks we do at our desk are boring and mundane. Jazz it up a bit and keep your work-station clean!

Don’t you feel these things are simple to do? What are some of the things you do to reduce stress-levels at work?

Getting Out Of The “Busy” Trap

“Hey, how are you? How’s life?”
“VERY BUSY!”

No matter what time of the year it is, and no matter what our profession – banker, homemaker, student, architect, or software engineer – there is a constant assertion of the scarcity of time. No one around ever seems to have time for doing all the things they want to do; and this grievance is not just limited to people who work long hours or do back-to-back shifts. To add to being busy, almost all of them report feeling tired exhausted. What is even more striking – people’s lamented busyness is almost always self-imposed – it is they who have chosen to surround themselves with work and obligations voluntarily, taken up hobbies and activities, or encouraged their children to participate in extra-curricular activities and classes which has in turn led to additional responsibilities even at their end as parents. Everyone is busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, and often, they dread what they might have to face in the absence of busyness.

shutterstock_223323460Being busy is more of a boast disguised as a complaint, and the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That is a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.” In fact, there are people who feel guilty and anxious when they aren’t working or doing anything constructive. Organizations are filled with people who let their leaves lapse because they feel they don’t have a good enough reason to justify their need of a break. Employees proudly declare how they have never taken a day off in their entire tenure of service, except the occasional sick leave when they really could not make it to work. But are sick days the only time one requires an off?

Even children are not spared from the busy trap. They are scheduled down to the quarter-hour with school, tuition classes and extra-curricular activities. They return home as tired as the adults. They are never exposed to any form of unstructured time, and hence are in constant need of stimulation. People fail to realize that idleness is not really a vice – sometimes, the space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for taking a step back from life and viewing it whole, for making unexpected connections, or for just doing something spontaneous – being idle, paradoxically, is exactly what is required when one has an entire chunk of work to get done. Archimedes’s “Eureka” moment that came to him in the bath, Newton’s apple – history is filled with stories of inspirations that came in idle moments.

All we need to do is take the pressure off our shoulders. Stop with our check-lists and things-to-do-today lists. Pause for a moment and carefully review – what are the actual commitments that are absolutely non-negotiable? Only a handful, surely!
Are there things that can be put off for later?
Is it okay if you say no to some people?
Is it alright if you don’t work towards achieving all your dreams at the same time?
The answer is yes, yes and absolutely yes!
Take a pause from your everyday life, doing only the things you have to do, and spend some time just looking after yourself. Rest. Spend quality time with a friend or a loved one. Read some fiction. Reflect on how you are feeling. We often get stuck in a “doing” mode, moving towards our goals, believing that the rewards lying on the other side of those actions are what we really what. But what do you really want? I speak only for myself, and I know at the end of the day, I want freedom to enjoy my life and feel good about myself.

There is no point in drowning oneself with work, being busy the whole day, the entire month, months on end, feeling miserable each day, each moment, only to receive the promotion one was chasing, and then be further burdened with more work, more responsibility. Instead, stop for a while. Breathe. Realize that all freedom and all acceptance is here. Work never comes to a halt. There is always the next project to begin once one ends. But take time out to celebrate the completed tasks. Appreciate the hard work you are doing. Appreciate all that you have in the moment right now before pursuing more.

There is a time for taking action and future progress. There is also time to pause and just be in the moment. Use your time wisely.