10-Day projects to turn around the way you feel

When we talk of the pandemic and the emotions we associate with it, words like anxiety, uncertainty, stress come forth from most people. The fact is that in the past year and a half there has been an unprecedented rise in people reporting behaviour that points to a mental health crisis.

Not all of us think we are overwhelmed enough to warrant a trip to the therapist. We think we have coped with harder things so why should this be any different. However, even after all these months, after the lockdowns and changed social behaviour and the shattered hope that once we have the magic wand of vaccines everything would be just as before, we still have uncertainty.

Still at home, stepping out tentatively, learning to manage routines that keep us safe, it’s time to relearn how to recharge. There’s a sense of weariness, of does-this even-matter, to sameness, so much so that many of us crave an energy boost.

Over the past few months, I have repeatedly tried to kickstart a fitness routine having fallen off the bandwagon sometime last year. I enjoy long walks, occasional runs, yoga, aerobics, meditation and now suddenly I had no energy to do any of these. The walks are now limited to a small area, which I guess feel restrictive. With the limited stepping-out activities of the household, I now have all the time in the day to exercise but can’t seem to stick to a routine.

Recently, I was reading an article by Cami Ostman, a family therapist, on ways to recharge and to break out of a slump with a nod to the different situation we are in today. She talks about creating personal challenges  with a firm time frame. She created a 10 day challenge to run everyday for 10 miles. The idea is to do something that you love, to push yourself out of your comfort zone and get a sense of accomplishment. And all this in a very doable time frame that doesn’t stretch into weeks or months of an unforseeable future. And it offers a feeling of being in control of one little part of your life.

So there it was – the way out for me. In the past few weeks I have started multiple 10 day projects. I have revamped the kitchen (ok, just improved the looks) with wallpaper and painting and by cleaning and throwing out clutter. I have reclaimed a little patch of the garden for my seedling experiments. I am journaling and feeling better for dumping my worries on the paper. And I am about to begin on my fitness routine.

I really feel this is a good way to feel satisfied that I am making an effort and there is a result attached to it. Try this simple way to recharge and let me know what you think of it.

This post is part of CauseAChatter, and I am talking about Mental Health.

Also posted for Blogchatter Half Marathon.

PPD, Mid-life crisis, the works

A depressive episode can hit you hard. I didn’t even see it coming and when I was enveloped in that fog-like state, everything seemed hopeless, pointless and the reality a little out of reach. It was being behind a thin veil that I could not cast aside.

I am no expert in doling out advice, talking about medication or therapy for I didn’t really embrace any of these. However, when I felt a little better, I understood that I had to take control of a lot of aspects of my life if I wanted to take care of my mental health.

Here’s what I did (again, take this post only as a recounting of my personal experience and to reiterate that it’s possible to get better and take charge of many things)

1. Identifying the triggers – I knew certain things aggravated my mind and disturbed my mental equilibrium. These little things would then blow out of proportion and I would be crippled by a feeling of helplessness and spiralling negative thoughts.

I practiced self awareness to check when and under what circumstances I felt disturbed. That was clue enough to be vigilant.

2. Eating and sleep patterns – My sleep and food patterns would go haywire when I felt unable to cope with many things. Those hidden stresses had an impact on my meal timings and what I ate. I also noticed that I started sleeping more as I felt lethargic.

Keeping an eye on these helped me arrest the downward spiral.

3. Enough sunlight and exercise – Being outdoors works wonders for me. Being out in the natural light had a soothing effect on my dark moods. Even on the days I had no motivation to exercise, I made sure that I went for long walks. I felt calmer after a couple of days of doing this.

4. One positive thought – I would frequently catch myself repeating a thought or a narrative in my head. Telling oneself to not think negative is just not enough. I needed to replace that behaviour of being fearful with being joyful. So I put in one good thought in my head at a time and put that on repeat.

5. Associating places and situations with positive thoughts – Certain situations brought out the worst in me. When my hands were busy but my mind was free, I tended to slip towards negative thought patterns. I identified these places and events and made sure that I replaced those with enough positivity.

I hope these pointers help someone understand that it’s possible to take charge of so many little things that are really the big things in life.

This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter and I am talking about mental health in this series.

Community aids healing in mental health issues

Collective understanding has more impact than an individual’s understanding. This is so true in case of mental health.


Let us look at it in two ways.

Collective subconscious is often deep-rooted into our own value systems and behaviours. If there is an overwhelming belief that talking about mental health is wrong, taboo or just not worthy of the time and effort then that percolates into an individual’s behaviour. Result, in this case, of an indifference to how crucial it is to take care of oneself and one’s mental health.

The other aspect of community is that mental health issues are often recognised for what they are by people outside their own inner circle. The immediate family either cannot see the problem objectively or is not aware of the social behaviour that points to things being not right or balanced.

If is crucial to note that the role of community in supporting and resolving an individual’s mental health issues cannot be underrated.

Community services can play a role in spreading awareness and reducing stigma around mental health issues. Recovery and social inclusion are areas where the support of the community makes all the difference. Treatment and rehabilitation speeds up when the individual feels that he/she is still very much a part of the society, thereby reducing isolation.

This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter where I speak of mental health.

If not the spotlight, atleast some ambient light?

Toba Tek Singh, a short story written by Saadat Hasan Manto is considered one of his finest works and as with his other works, holds a mirror to the societal norms.

I read the story in school as part of the curriculum and came away unimpressed, a little disappointed and confused. What had it been about? It talks of a mental asylum and its inmates. After the partition of India, the two countries decided to exchange their people in the ‘madhouses’ based on their religion. The story features rants and incomprehensible (to my young mind) reactions from people living there.

Why was I confused? At 15 odd years, it was the first time I had encountered mental illness. Rather than a feeling of poignancy, all I felt was apathy and a mild repulsion. And this quite well sums up why mental health or illness is much misunderstood.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels



There are lack of conversations. No, I would go back and say we don’t ‘see’ enough mental issues around us just because we don’t talk about them. It’s not that they are not there; it’s that we don’t acknowledge them.

If we do hear of people who are depressed or suicidal or so affected by a mental illness that their daily lives are impacted, the condition is presented only in black or white. There are no greys. There’s no awareness on the spectrum of disorders or conditions one might have.

Let us atleast begin by speaking of these conditions in the same breath as nutritional deficiencies, infections and even lifestyle diseases. Sensitise children, have more chapters in textbooks, more movies, more songs about these debilitating illnesses that are as physiological in origin as the other physical ailments.

After all, how would we treat it if it’s not really visible?

This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter where I speak of mental health.

The Downward Spiral

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Uncannily, she could feel things were spiraling out of control. Downward. She could hear a million voices inside her head, talking all at once. No, they were only four or five- family, relatives, friends, coworkers. But they said things all at once and they went on and on. Sometimes, one or two stopped but they were only silent for a little while. They would never leave her alone.

Her mouth went dry as she walked down the block to run an errand, an ordinary errand. Her heart raced, her hands sweated and she was light headed. There was no one in sight and she dizzily wondered if she should not sit down on one of the benches along the sidewalk.

She could hardly bring herself to answer the phone. Don’t let it ring, please. She looked down at her toes as she crossed streets to avoid acquaintances. Tomorrow, she promised herself, I will call out a greeting. Today, she was just tired.

Everything was tiring. She wanted to sleep more and more. Life was in slow motion. There were things happening, changes coming, children growing, elders getting older but her bubble kept her safe.

She went through her routine. It became intolerable after it became boring. And then she had no energy.

She ate and ate to fill up the void inside her but still the hole kept getting bigger. There was desperation inside her and around her but she could not take a step through the fog around her.

I need help, she thought. And thought of her one friend who understood depression.

Depression is one of the illnesses which still has a lot of misconceptions. The person who is ill is unable to communicate how he or she feels. Family and friends just want the patient to ‘snap out of the mood’. It is time we spread awareness in our own small ways. This post is my attempt to start people thinking.

Blogging for Mental Health

The Official Blog for Mental Health Project asks each person who has had an experience with mental illness, either with themselves or through a loved one, to write a blog post about it. The objective is to pull mental illness out of the closet and change the stigma attached to it so more people who need help, will reach out and receive help. For more information regarding this challenge, please go to their website.

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I have had a first hand experience of mental illness, in other words depression. I have been the ‘melancholic’ kinds ever since childhood. I was asked to ‘lighten up’ and ‘stop being moody’. The ‘sad’ days would happen in response to an event or because of an unfulfilled expectation. Then, for the next few years, I would feel unhappy at regular intervals. Every few days, I would go off food and feel lethargic and tired.

I don’t think anybody understood what this was all about. Nor did I. I remember a depressive episode from when I was 11 or so. I thought it was in my genes- to feel sad. After a major (by my standards) episode a couple of years ago, I had to take charge. To handle this condition or be consumed myself. With God’s grace, I recovered and have educated myself extensively to manage a relapse.

Here are a few of my observations regarding mental illness.

Most people just do not know what it is all about. They do not know the nature of mental illness, its manifestations, its seriousness and how to help an affected person. There is an urgent need to spread awareness and educate people.

There is a lot of social stigma attached to mental illness. An understanding friend and I share our problems and ‘sadness’ and analyse our situation. Beyond that we do not talk about it openly. We would probably be ostracized if we did.

I may be met with disapproval for saying that it is important to learn to take charge. I know it is near to impossible to be in control but when you are better and in between episodes, try to understand yourself. Each case is unique and it helps if you know yours better. The mental health expert would find it useful.

Try to know your triggers, the duration and the regularity of depressive incidents. Know when an episode is looming. Conduct research on what makes you feel better. Take good care of yourself.

As for me, I try to be more aware of a relapse or even of minor incidents that may lead to a problem. I keep tabs on my eating and sleep patterns for a slight deviation can mean trouble. When I start having recurrent negative thoughts I have developed a mechanism to counter that.

All said and done, I know I can still fall prey and for that I pray to the lord to help me out of the dark times.

Pledge

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog of Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics, not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

Special thanks to Priceless Joy for introducing me to the Blog for Mental Health. Read her post on Mental Health here .