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Being Mindful of our Mental Health
By Anniesha Lyngdoh and Jochanan Diengdoh
The Covid 19 pandemic has left us with feelings of uncertainty and apprehensiveness about the future. Such precariousness intensifies the risk of experiencing stress. Our body is equipped to deal with stressful situations and activates the fight or flight response to tackle it. However there is a downside to it as well. Stress can drain our physical and mental energy. Our physical health deteriorates making us more susceptible to bacteria and viruses as our immune system is compromised. Stress also hampers our mental capacity to think rationally, to learn something novel, to plan and execute a task effectively and to stay focused. It can impair the way we regulate our emotions and increase the risk of experiencing an array of negative emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, and jealousy.
According to a recent study by The Mavericks, 61% of their respondents in India felt their mental health was somehow impacted during this crisis and this is what many are experiencing first hand. Another study by the Indian Psychiatric Society suggests a 20% rise in cases related to mental illness many of which had to do with the uncertainty this crisis has led us to. This unravels the importance and the need to value mental health in the same degree as we value physical health. Mental health encompasses thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Any disruption can affect various facets in life whether it’s the interpersonal or social domain. Psychologists have found effective benefits of being mindful which is awareness of the present and what’s in front of us. It’s about acceptance, acknowledgement and contentment. When we step towards these elements, even if we cannot eliminate the problems, we can maintain calmness and mental clarity to deal with the new challenges we encounter. It is therefore imperative to optimize our mental health with the resources available within us so we can readjust our lives to adapt to the new challenges and cope with them in an effective manner. Hence despite the 2020 rollercoaster ride, there’s always a way to make it worthwhile.
Re-organizing our lifestyles:
We may be physically restricted from pursuing our daily activities and that can result in restlessness and frustration but not everything is restricted. Mentally, we still have the freedom to make choices to cope with the current scenario. Reorganizing our lifestyles help us to direct our behaviour effectively and be committed to achieving our goals. Once we make independent decisions we will feel responsible about achieving our goals. The sense of satisfaction after accomplishing the goals will in turn motivate us to create and achieve other goals. This is an area that makes an individual take control of his/her own life decisions
Working from home:
You or your child taking online classes, extra added home chores and duties, change in timings and routines can trigger the stress of re-adjusting and multi-tasking. Add to that the loss of motivation and the technicalities of technology and it’s another crisis indoors. All these require major re-organizing, and add to both physical and mental well-being. So it is vital to prioritize our needs and tasks to find the balance. It is essential to maintain a healthy diet, build a routine and plan ahead on things that we have control over, allowing some time and space for ourselves to take a breather, seek help from others to lighten the weight of multi-tasking.
With the new norm of social distancing and stay-ins, recent studies report a sense of disconnect from friends and colleagues. Yet one of the greatest boons this pandemic has given us is to spend quality time with our loved ones. Those unable to connect in real life can take advantage of virtual forums to stay in touch. Despite this there can be loneliness and quietness as this pandemic has made us weary and worried about the future. Hence, sharing our views and lending a listening ear can ease the burden in our minds. Communication can act as a catharsis to deal with pent up emotions. Listening and understanding will teach us the art of being kind and empathetic. Therefore communicating and connecting in a non-judgmental manner regardless of the social platform used, is the need of the hour.
Emotional Self Regulation:
We should take time out to navigate the emotions and observe how they’re affecting our behaviour. Have we become increasingly impatient? Anxious? Short tempered? Do we lash out at others frequently? Negative emotions can drain us out and hinder our ability to function effectively in mind and body. Being aware of experiencing such emotions is the first step. Addressing it is the next step. We need to address them with an open mind and take time to get to the source of the emotion. Then we accept their detrimental effects on our lives and finally equip ourselves with techniques that can help manage our emotions and be more in control them. They can range from breathing exercises to yoga, meditation and mindfulness. We can resist reacting impulsively which can worsen the situation. Instead let us cultivate positive emotions and improve our level of resilience as well as our relationship with others.
‘Creativity is not competition’- Autumn Sky Hall. We can be creative in our own ways. Most of us are busy with our responsibilities and duties and have no outlet for genuine creativity. But creativity does not require one to be a professional. It’s about bringing to life the ideas of our minds and expressing them in any form. They can range from creating music to writing, photography and other forms of art. Being focused on doing something we love brings about a sense of calmness and reduces the stress level. It can foster self growth and help realise one’s own potential and maximize it to the fullest. The bright side is that creativity also enhances positivity which is a much needed dose at the moment.
So while in the midst of this pandemic we need to be mindful of our mental health and that of others as we go through the process of acquiring a healthy mind. The resources we have within us are limitless. This pandemic has opened doors to re-examine our capabilities and to challenge us to deal with something we have never dealt with before. Every situation teaches us something. One of the lessons we can learn from the pandemic is how integral mental health is to our lives and to value this because mental health can equip us to deal with adversities effectively. We may not be able to change the circumstances of our lives but we can definitely change how we appraise the situation. As humans we have the ability to overcome any situation if we have the strength of mind to do so. Ryder Carroll said, “No matter how bleak or menacing a situation may appear, it does not entirely own us. It can’t take away our freedom to respond, our power to take action.”
(Anniesha C Lyngdoh is a
Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, Martin
Luther Christian University.
Jochanan Diengdoh is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, Martin
Luther Christian University.