A deadly second wave is here. Make sure you take care of your Mental health too.

Picture credits: NDTV.com

On April 18, 2021 India had a record number of cases and deaths: 2.75 lakhs and 1,620 respectively. It’s something very very serious. People are standing in long queues to get themselves tested for the infection. Healthcare system has collapsed completely that not enough beds and oxygen cylinders are available for COVID-19 patients. People are dying. What could be more worse than that?

While the second wave in India is affecting our physiology we should not forget that it’s also taking a huge toll on our mental health as well. Everyone is stressed. Some wise minds have fear too of contracting the virus. People are very much worried. Quite honestly, stress, fear and worry during these unprecedented times is very common. When situations arise unexpectedly and there is uncertainty around us it’s ordinary to lose grip over our mental well-being. What’s important to know is that we should not let ourselves not prioritise our psychological well-being. While the pandemic is not under our control (although we could have been more careful since the beginning) what’s under our control is how we keep ourselves and our families safe. Moreover, taking good care of our mental health is also under our control.

The worst part is that the pandemic may subside (hard to be exact which year) but the way it’s deteriorating people’s mental health is very concerning. “I don’t think this is going to go back to baseline anytime soon,” says clinical psychologist Luana Marques, at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Luana Marques is constantly monitoring the mental-health impacts of the crisis in US populations and elsewhere. According to a survey conducted by US Census Bureau it was found that more than 42% of people reported having symptoms of anxiety or depression in December 2020. The number has increased significantly from 11% between January-June 2019. The times are difficult and alarming. Things aren’t very rosy in India as well. The second wave is so deadly that many people (including me) are facing anxiety on a regular basis.

An important question comes up: how to preserve our mental health?

  1. Make time for the activities you enjoy: Some people like to write while others enjoy cooking, reading, watching movies & tv series, etc. Everyone has different activities they enjoy engaging in. Find out what interests you and make time each day for it. It helps take the mind off the pandemic situation.
  2. Talk to people (virtually): The pandemic has made us all feel isolated and lonely. We are unable to meet our friends and relatives. Thanks to technology we have an alternative (although not a permanent one). Talk to your loved ones- call them, Skype them, whatever’s possible. Talk about what you’re feeling. Listen to what they have to say.
  3. Meditate and exercise: It cannot be stressed enough that meditation improves not just our physical health but mental health as well. People who meditate have stronger neural connections which allows for more synchronised communication. Meditating for 5-10 minutes in a day is enough if you’re a beginner. Exercise also have many benefits and make sure you add it to your daily routine.
  4. Eat healthy food: While it is common to gorge on unhealthy food items during times like these, we should not forget to take a healthy and balanced diet. Reduce carbohydrates and sugar in your diet. Add healthy fats. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. There are evidences from scientific studies that diet does play an important role in regulating our mood.
  5. Prioritise your sleep: We often lose our sleep during crises. Having trouble falling asleep or having nightmares becomes common. Make sure to go to bed at a fixed time. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark with a temperature that is not too hot or too cold. Don’t consume caffeine or alchohol before bedtime.
  6. Don’t forget to take breaks from news stories: Consuming news stories constantly all day can definitely create a lot of stress. That is why it’s crucial to take occasional breaks from news stories (on television, social media, etc). It’s fine to keep yourself updated but that shouldn’t mean you let it affect you psychologically. Set a time and frequency for watching the news updates. By doing that you will protect yourself from the stressors.

Routine is saving me from having a mental health crisis

Picture credits: The Spruce

When we hear the word ‘routine’ we almost always have an immediate response:

“Routine? That sounds so boring.”

A year ago, I would have agreed with those ‘five words’. But today I won’t. Well, I have my reasons and the most important one is that routine saved me from having a mental health crisis. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is something we have never experienced before. Things are definitely going to get better and normal very soon (they already are). We must not forget all the lessons this pandemic has taught/teaching us because it’s something we might face again in the future if we don’t correct our mistakes now. Overall, it can be said that our lives have changed forever. So many people have lost their lives. So many people contracted the virus and suffered (so many still are because remember the pandemic isn’t over yet). So many people are going through mental illnesses including clinical depression, anxiety disorders, etc. In such unprecedented times it is quite okay to feel mentally exhausting. During the pandemic, researchers at the University of Glasgow conducted a study to examine the effects of COVID-19 pandemic in the mental well-being of people living in the UK. The study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. What was found is that the suicidal thoughts increased from 8% to 10% and it was the highest among young adults (18-29 years). Researchers agreed that the percentage increase might look like a small number but it is a concern because it happened during a short period of time. 

During times like these it is more important than ever to have a routine. It’s not a guarantee that everything is going to be perfectly okay but it does help a lot when there is so much uncertainty around us. Routine gives us something to look forward to everyday and it does give a structure to our days. 

YOUR DAYS ARE STRUCTURED:

As mentioned above, routines help give structure to our days. When we know we have to wake up, eat food, do our most important tasks at a particular time in a day we are guiding our days and not the other way around. There is an agenda and we look forward to completing those agendas when we have a routine. There is more focus and our brains don’t wander much because it knows well enough all that it is supposed to concentrate on. Decide what time you will wake up and stick to it. Decide what time you will go to bed and stick to it. Have a set time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Structure your days. Have some daily routines because your brain will thank you for that.

LOWER STRESS AND ANXIETY LEVELS:

When days are not planned it becomes natural to get caught on everything that comes our way. This results in more stress and anxiety levels. However, by having a routine we learn what to focus on and at what time. We start training ourselves to focus on what’s right in front of us and let the insignificant things stay what they are. We feel more in control. We feel less stressed and don’t get anxious so easily. Routines act like an anchor of predictability. Dr Steve Orma, a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Clinical Psychologist works with patients suffering from anxiety, insomnia and stress. He says, “Routine helps with stress. Create a set schedule for doing chores, work tasks, meetings, exercise, paying bills, and all the usual things you need to do. Put these into your schedule. Once this becomes your normal routine, it’s easier to accomplish everything, because it becomes habit.” Remember, what gets scheduled gets done. 

YOU ARE MORE CREATIVE AND PRODUCTIVE:

Every creative genius had a secret: a daily routine. I know this wasn’t a secret you were expecting but it’s the truth. Routines helped these geniuses bring out their creativity and be productive. Below image is the daily routine of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States. 

Picture credits: The Focus Course

It’s quite true that Ben Franklin did not follow his routine 100% every day. It’s not possible. There is so much that comes up unexpectedly because of which sticking to a routine every single day becomes rather impossible. Nevertheless, he was a very productive person because he followed his daily routines as much as he could. Routines help us stay on top of our game just like it helped people like Beethoven and Freud. We are less distracted and start prioritising things in our lives. And people who know what to prioritize can be nothing but creative and productive. 

BETTER MENTAL HEALTH:

Having a good mental health is so important right now. Nothing is of any significance if there is mental turbulence all the time. When the world has become isolated and we have somewhat lost chances to meet our loved ones in person it is natural to feel mentally unstable from time to time. This is where routine comes in to rescue us. If there is anything I am 100% certain of it’s the fact that without having a routine almost every single day I would have lost my demeanour. Routine kept me in check. It made me realise that I could control some of the things in my day. This eventually helped me having a relatively better mental health. 

Don’t be very hard on yourself when it comes to building a routine. It takes time. Forming habits take time. Some days you are going to be very productive while the other days it will hard for you to keep up with your routine. And that’s okay. Life happens. Try again the other day. Just because you have stumbled once doesn’t mean you have to stop trying. Prioritise your mental well-being. There is so much that depends on it. 

Stop Misusing OCD: Myths about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Picture credits: ADDitude

In this modern world, we are suffering from different types of mental health issues that are disrupting our personal, social and work lives. And OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one such mental health issue that affects about 1.2 percent of the Americans (American Psychiatric Association).

But what is OCD and what are the misconceptions that people have about this particular disorder.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a type of an anxiety disorder which is characterized by having unwanted and recurring thoughts, referred to as obsessions, which forces an individual to act on them repetitively, referred to as compulsions. We all suffer from having unwanted thoughts. We all have recurring thoughts too about something or the other and many times such thoughts compel us to act upon them. However, things are a little different for people suffering from OCD. They have these obsessions and want to have a control over them but they can’t. They know well that their thoughts are not making any sense but they can do nothing to stop themselves from having them and acting upon them. Things get out of their hands to such an extent that their obsessions and compulsions start to mess up with their personal, social and work life. Fortunately there are different treatments that one can seek and get better with time.

What’s worrisome is that people have misunderstood this particular mental health issue and let some myths take control over their level of understanding. And it is very important that these myths should be debunked.

3 Common Myths about OCD

MYTH 1: If you are meticulous, you have OCD

Some people are very punctilious. They work with a lot of precision. Even I like precision and want to do every task with perfection (although I know well enough perfection doesn’t exist). But that does not mean such meticulous people have OCD. Being precise with everything is one of their personality traits. It doesn’t mean that they have impulses and compulsions to act upon them. So before you go out and call someone having OCD based on their orderliness, make sure you don’t pick up on myths anymore.

MYTH 2: If you are washing hands many times or like things hygienic, you have OCD

A lot of people believe that OCD is all about washing hands many times and keeping things neat and tidy. While it is true that many people with OCD have one of the obsessions where they believe their hands are dirty and feel compelled to wash them 20 times in an hour; it is not the end of the story. Obsessions can be of different kinds including fear of close ones dying, fear of harming themselves or loved ones, fear of committing a sin or crime, etc. Many people have obsessions where they believe they haven’t locked their almirah locks or haven’t turned off gas stove. As a result, keep checking them compulsively many many times in a day.

MYTH 3: People with OCD should learn to have some control over their thoughts

Stigma is very common among mental disorders or psychopathology. People never miss on any opportunity to teach the sufferers that they need to be bold and take control over things. They must not act weak anymore. Such sentient beings make it all sound so relaxing as if it all so easy. It is not easy to let go off the obsessions. It is not easy to stop acting upon intrusive thoughts altogether. There are a lot of factors playing their part: changes in brain’s chemistry due to imbalances in neurotransmitters, triggers in the environment, cultural background, interpersonal relationships, etc. That is why it is not so easy for people suffering from OCD to simply have control over their thoughts.

Mental Health problems are never easy: both for the person suffering and people who are closed ones. That is why it is of utmost importance that we get to the facts and seek professional help and not get wrapped around misconceptions and myths.