While growing up, I had many close friends through school and college who have gone through anxiety and depression. Being with them through it all, I assumed I understood what it meant to go through a problematic mental health issue. I assumed that I know how to handle such a situation and be of some help.
A year ago, I joined Innovators In Health (IIH) and moved to Dalsinghsarai block in Samastipur district of Bihar. While working within our communities and alongside my entire team I understood the actual importance of mental health awareness. Having faced the death of persons with TB (PwTB) and seeing numerous challenges in the lives of people within our communities was extremely difficult. It is through my personal mental health that I have started understanding not only the need of community mental health awareness but also the importance of truly understanding the essence of it.
The last year gone by has taught me a lot within this domain – understanding how my team deals with emergency situations during the time of life and death and as a result the stress and anxiety that ensues. Closely working and interacting with them I have begun to adopt a lot of how they deal with such situations. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to understand IIH’s Maternal Mental Health (MMH) Programme from close. Very recently we have begun a pilot of including mental health screening within our active-case-finding TB care model. I am closely associated with it. My motivation within this field has been immense. Through this, I have had the chance to be a part of a five week mental health mentorship programme by Ekaant Foundation.
Through my experiences, there are certain learnings and reflections that I have had that I would want to share. It is not always easy for someone facing any mental health issue to reach out to professional help. However, one can do a few personal reflections and also adopt some tools around lifestyle that will always be helpful.
The importance of thinking and reflecting on oneself
We often spend a lot of our time thinking and contemplating about others – what others are doing, what they are thinking, and how they are acting. In all this, we often forget that instead of only worrying about what others are doing, it is first important look within and to actively think and reflect about oneself. Keeping yourself priority and giving yourself time is often very difficult but also equally essential. It will not only help you to understand yourself better but also monitor a lot of one’s ways and means to deal with any event.
There are numerous ways in which one can think and reflect about oneself, but how can one do this more actively? By involving yourself in activities that involve the self or being part of situations that contemplate you to think about the self:
Understanding the true essence of mental health
What is mental health? Mental health is about creating connections with others, through awareness about selves. Firstly, reflecting on oneself and then having close and attentive interactions with those around you. Both these aspects leads you to find similarities in terms of connections as well as differences between one another which will make you understand that individual better but also provide a unique lens for you to understand yourself better.
Your mental health is an amalgamation of yourself along with an interaction of the people and things that surround you
Every individual is unique and their interactions with the outside world is different as well. Every individual’s interaction with the outside world is subjective. It is known as Subjective Distress. For example, how I relate to an external factor will be very different from how someone else will relate to the same factor. Therefore, it is important to accept that how something affects a certain individual will be vastly different from how it influences somebody else. This is normal.
However, a breakdown of either the self or the interaction of the self with external factors or a mixture of both, becomes a cause of concern. When a person is unable to deal with a certain situation and it hampers their physical or mental health or it results in disrupting how that individual interacts with their surroundings or people then it becomes an issue. A heightened version of this is what may result in anxiety or depression.
Mental Health is a subject where we understand the self in tandem with others. It cannot be understood in isolation. It is interconnected and interdependent with the self and others.
How essential is mindfulness?
I think many of you would have been a part of some mindfulness exercise with soft music in the background and the facilitator taking you through your entire body. After such sessions, you are most often told to incorporate this in your regular life. How many of you have really done it? It is not complicated or time-consuming or even methodical. However the result of it is essential for your everyday life. Just 15 minutes of this, can calm you down and help you think clearly.
Accept and understand what are the aspects that truly bother you on a daily basis
Every single day you are involved in many tasks, activities and duties. Some are in routine and some crop up on a day to day basis. It is important to enumerate what are the aspects that stress you out, bother you or cause anxiety for you on a routinely basis. Often, these are the emotions that we push down to deal with later on. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge them. Secondly, it is essential to find your ways around them. Thirdly, if you’re unable to do so, reach out to someone for help. An activity that can help you identify your routine stresses:
Maintaining your body clock/circadian rhythm
Circadian rhythm is the physical, mental, and behavioral changes within a body that follow a 24-hour cycle. It is essential to maintain your cycle. In an ever-changing world, there are those that sleep early, and wake up early. Then there are those that sleep late, and wake up late.
There are some that work better during the day and there are some that work better at night. Either of these is not better than the other, they’re all fine. However, maintaining yours for yourself is essential. Getting the right amount of sleep, eating the right amount of food, eating nourishment-rich food, getting time for relaxation, getting time with loved ones etc. are all essential. It is also important to highlight that there are numerous people in the world who are unable to even meet these basic needs. If we are able to make ourselves more physically and mentally resilient we will be able to be more empathetic to the needs of those who are unable to get the basics of survival and also be of some help.