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The Republic Day special, Let’s Focus on 5 ways to good mental health & wellbeing

This year India will celebrate its 70th Republic Day. It is on this day the Constitution of India came into effect. The Indian Constitution includes steps that the nation needs to take to make India a better place. So, as the nation takes step towards making the country better for all of us, let us bring a positive change within ourselves by knowing following ways to achieve good mental health and wellbeing.

Get adequate sleep.

psychiatrist in puneIndia being a rapidly growing economy, we are largely a sleep-deprived nation. Although some of us may consider lack of sleep a badge of honor, but poor sleep is an important contributing factor for mental illness like depression and anxiety disorders. Sleep is first thing to get disturbed in any mental illness. The best ways is to follow consistent bed time and awake time, restrict daytime sleep hours, stay way from screens, social media, etc especially in the late night hours, and regular moderate physical exercise. These are some simple steps to ensure sleep hygiene.

Exercise more.

psychologist in puneThe benefits of moderate exercise in depression is found to be as effective as antidepressant medications. Individual suffering from mental health problem may find it difficult to exercise. It may not be always a joining gym or training weights – but just do walk! Exercising not only improves your sleep but also helps you in staying more relaxed. It can boost your self esteem and body language.

Invest in a Hobby.

Reward yourself by doing activities which you enjoy. Hobbies not only promotes a sense of pleasure but also helps you to build mastery in something. It gives you a sense of achievement and feeling of self worth. Take up a hobby that helps you feel good about yourself. As you get better at it, your self esteem will also get a boost.

Keep away from your smartphone.

Social media feeds not only makes you feel anxious but also make you feel more depressed. You invariably tend to compare your life to those who are having wonderful times. Their life always looks better when you compare yours with them, and it makes you feel depressed. Take a social media holiday. Even it is for small times, take breaks from your smartphones. Decide to check feeds once every three to four hours instead, and stop altogether after 6 pm. Most importantly, stop constantly comparing yourself to others.

Start to plan your day.

Getting overwhelmed by work, can make you feel anxious and burnout. Plan your day or week by writing it down on paper the to do tasks. Make a log and track the time it takes. Having a plan will prevent you from constantly thinking about your day. With a planner, you are on track and have a sense of accomplishment.

Finally, help others. It is a great way to connect with other people and cultivate relationships. Be grateful. Practice gratitude by reflecting on the good things in your life. Give yourself a break, and be nicer to yourself.

Is New Year’s Eve the “most depressing day of the year”?

New Year’s Eve comes with a mixed feelings of relief and despair. People may find difficult to shake themselves of lingering sadness as they say goodbye to the passing year to remember its last moments.

Festivals and holidays are known to be mentally taxing. According to recent research the New Year’s Eve can even be considered as the “most depressing day of the year.”

Let us have a look about the possible factors that could make New Year’s Eve so hard on mental health.

Its emphasis on reflection is what sets New Year’s Eve/ Day apart from other holidays, and this can make it particularly upsetting. At the new year, it is difficult not to reassess and become self critical at least a bit.

Anytime when you reflect on past, can potentially make you feel more depressed. Especially if you feel like you don’t measure up in comparison to others. It is often the time when we are more likely to think or reflect upon our achievements or lack of it. Failure to reach certain goals, health issues, major professional set backs, etc particularly can feel very heavy at the end of year.

For those who have already been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, the winter of December end can worsen unpleasant feelings and depression. There is a pressure to socialise, party, go out that can act as a stressor as those who are depressed find leaving the house difficult. Letting social convention dictate what you do rather than doing what feels best for you can risk you for anxiety and depression.

It is the day when one focusses more on future and hopes of new year to come. With low mood and morale, those who are suffering from depression may, unfortunately, be feeling more dread than hope as they look forward to the new year.

It is important to know that It’s okay to feel depressed or anxious. Sadness and anxiety are normal human emotions, but they can become dangerous if they become extremely intense and prolonged. In such a case, it is advisable simply vocalise your feelings to close ones, or seek professional help.

Understanding the Stigma in Mental Health

Stigma in mental health has been prevalent for centuries. Most of us within society still view the symptoms of mental health problem as unpredictable and dangerous. For decades, individuals suffering with psychiatric problems, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are considered insane or “mad”. They often have to face exclusion either within society, workplace, and at times even within ones own family.

Anxiety, Depression, Substance use are still considered as signs of weakness and not as biological disorders of brain. These are treatable health problems like any other medical conditions to which people refuse to seek professional help due fear of exposure and stigma.

There is no denying that the society is becoming more aware than before, especially with many high profile celebrities such as Deepika Padukone or Catherine Zeta-Jones discussing openly about their illnesses in media. Yet, there are some firmly held beliefs and stigmatising attitudes that continues to prevail in our society.

The stigma can be of two types: A social stigma, which is a discriminating attitudes against those suffering from mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric diagnosis/label they have been given. The second is a perceived stigma, which is their perceptions of discrimination, internalised by mental health sufferers. It can significantly lower their self esteem, instil a feeling of shame, and most importantly leads to poor treatment outcome.

Following are some commonly held misconceptions and beliefs-

1) The common being that people suffering from mental health problems are dangerous and violent, especially those with schizophrenia or bipolar.
2) Some believe that problems of depression and anxiety are part of normal living and can be dealt with by just “being positive”and “being more social”.
3) There is a general belief that eating disorders and substance abuse are self inflicted.
4) Still many consider that people suffering from mental health problems such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar are unemployable.
5) Getting “dependent” or “addicted” to psychiatric medicine is another common misconception that is widespread, even amongst the educated.

Research suggests that significant number adolescents with mental health problems face stigma and discrimination within their own family, peers, teachers and school staffs. Surprisingly, there is a widespread stigma amongst the medical professionals as mental health is given low priority by hospitals, physicians and doctors of other specialties.

What has caused stigma?

Historically, the cause of mental health problems were believed to be due to demonic or spirit possession, such explanations would almost certainly give rise to reactions of fear and discrimination. Media too had played an important role in perpetuating stigmatising stereotypes of people with psychiatric problems. The cinematic depictions of ECT (electro convulsive therapy) or so called “Shock treatment”, or schizophrenia are often stereotypic and characterised by misinformation about mental health symptoms and its treatment. There is strong negative portrayal of schizophrenia in movies, showing the schizophrenia characters as being violent, homicidal and aggressive.

Stigma not only leads to social exclusion, low esteem, poor quality of life, but also poorer treatment outcomes and recovery from mental problems. It has been seen that people tend to hold to these stigma regardless of their age, background or education. Stigma is evident in the way laws, social services, and the justice system are structured as well as ways in which resources are allocated. The solution may not be so simple but needs to be multifaceted. Simply raising voices and providing information will not help, but their is a need to challenge the existing negative stereotypes especially as they are portrayed in general media as well.