India has been hesitant about conversations on mental health. Although seeking professional help for mental health issues is still stigmatised among a larger majority of our population, the situation has improved over the past few years.
With the Coronavirus pandemic taking over our lives and the nation-wide lockdown restricting mobility and changing our lifestyles, these conversations are all the more important. A looming economy crisis, job lay-offs and salary cuts, future of employment opportunities, and our general financial security has turned the Indian workforce into an anxious one.
To help our audience deal with their mental health issues and improve emotional well-being, MAKERS India conducted its first-ever webinar on April 17, Friday.
The webinar hosted three speakers – Priyanka Joshi Nair, mental health enthusiast who run the blog Sanity Daily; Aakanksha Kapoor, founder, Minds At Play (MAP); and Ananya Saikia, psychologist at AWARE Mental Health (Bengaluru); along with more than 200 participants.
The following are five key takeaways from the webinar, to keep in mind to get through these difficult times:
Practise the three ‘M’s
According to Priyanka Nair, practising three ‘M’s will help keep you mentally healthy: Meditation, Mindfulness, and Minimising the content (related to Coronavirus) on social media, Whatsapp, and mainstream news media platforms. She believes that consumption of negative news leads to panic, and recommends staying away from sources spreading fake news. For those who are new to meditation, Aakanksha of MAP has an advice: If you get distracted easily, don’t be upset; just bring yourself back.
Acceptance of the situation
Ananya of AWARE Mental Health suggests accepting that this crisis is stressful for everyone, as the way forward. She urges taking time to accept that this will be our reality for a while rather than trying to run away from it. “Try and learn new skills or build a new hobby so that your general mood will rise too,” she adds. Priyanka also said that while you may be upset that your plans for the year have collapsed, this is also the time to make new goals and work on yourselves.
How to stop overthinking?
Many of our webinar attendees were keen to know how they can stop overthinking – after all, the current environment encourages negative thinking. Aakanksha responded, “We are tempted to overthink during such times; but the healthier way to cope is to engage in other, pleasurable activities.” Ananya added that ‘grounding’ is one of the mindfulness hacks that can be useful when the anxiety is overwhelming – just press your feet to the ground and anchor yourself to the present. Priyanka also advised identifying the stressors at work and deal with it individually so as to remain productive.
How to support dear ones from far?
Many of us are staying with our families or at least roommates; but those who are living alone are going through a harder time. In fact, we are all worried about our family members living alone, away from us. Aakanksha opines that keeping in touch with your dear ones regularly and doing activities together while connected online – like cooking or playing a game online – will help in this regard. Ananya even recommends Netflix parties and sharing light-hearted, fun videos on Whatsapp of the family members singing or playing an instrument.
Be kind to yourself
While women are praised for multi-tasking, they are also perfectionists who tend to micromanage, which is particularly hard while working from home. “It is okay to ask for help, especially women working from home now – with the added burden of household chores and familial responsibilities. Even small chores like handing the laundered clothes together with your spouse can be healing,” Aakanksha says, adding that sometimes women do not have the space to voice themselves; but this is the time for families to support each other.
(Edited by Varnika Gupta, Videos by Urmi Chatterjee)