TOGETHERNESS IN PANDEMIC

It was a 45th marriage anniversary celebration this June in 2020 for my parents as well as for my paternal uncle and aunt, both the couple married just 4 days apart. We had planned a get together last year only and were so looking forward to our gathering until this COVID pandemic ruined our plans.

We wanted to get rid of the growing negativity and monotony, so we sisters, Kuljeet, Prabhjot and I, decided to make a family video to celebrate our love and togetherness. We have a WhatsApp group by the name of ‘Pyara Tabbar’, which means loving family and is quite an active group. So, almost 40 members of our family danced and the final compilation was simply prodigious. Our efforts were highly appreciated and all the members confessed that it was so much fun and they wanted to have a similar kind of celebration frequently. We didn’t let the pandemic and lockdown dampen our spirits.

Whenever we feel low, we make a group video call, sometimes only our generation and sometimes with the elders. Our elders get cheered up just by seeing us all together on one screen. When we cousins make a video call, it’s more of pulling each other’s legs- making fun of someone eating during a call (Prabhjot, I didn’t mention your name), laughing on our pity state of too much work and chores, proudly telling about the new dishes that we tried, etc. One day, my brother, who’s currently in Bangladesh, staying alone, showed us his house, his in-house gym, and his lockdown hobby- painting. Till now he had made more than 10 paintings and has reduced 12 kgs by running on his treadmill every day. Altogether, it’s a wonderful feeling to share our feelings and inspirations. These kinds of video calls happen across the time zones too. last week to celebrate my uncle’s birthday we had a group video call. His son stays in the US and because of the opposite time zones he was half asleep. Poor thing he couldn’t keep his eyes open but we kept teasing him and pulling his leg throughout. Didn’t let him fall asleep 😉

In my friend circle, I have a group of friends who regularly get together to play Ludo online. I never thought playing ludo would be so much fun all over again. It’s like going back to our childhood. Adults fighting like kids in the game. People are also playing Dumb Charades, Antakshri, Lotto online with their extended families and friends. It’s a great way to reach out and come together.

My co-sister joined meditation classes with her sister. Sister stays in New Delhi my co-sister stays in Mumbai and the classes are conducted by a person who stays in another corner of New Delhi. Unheard of around 6 months back. But it works! And gives the sisters a shared experience too.

What if we are all locked up inside our houses. We can still get together and have fun. Connect with your loved ones. Just seeing each other’s faces gives the feeling that we are close by. Like my uncle in Canada said that next time you all join the video chat ensure that your children are also with you. We want to see how big they have grown. Such calls make great memories and give a feeling of being close.

So go ahead and make a dance video with your cousins, or join Zumba with a friend online.. Challenge someone to a cult fitness workout… Or join a prayer meeting with your grandma. All from the confines and safety of your home but together.

COLLABORATIVELY WRITTEN BY KULJEET SAINI AND PREETA BHATNAGAR

MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE

When Shalini reached office that morning, all she wanted was a few moments of quietness to gather herself after all that had happened the previous night. She couldn’t get this privilege, though. To her utter dismay, a pile of files landed on her table with a call from her authority to wrap them up in an hour and report. Jostling with the thoughts within, she managed to work on all the files and get them sent. Within minutes, she was called by her superior and given a mouthful for the shabby work and issued a Notice of Show Cause.

Shalini’s story is the story of many working men and women. Physical well-being impacts mental health and mental well-being impacts physical health, though physical fitness is not always an indicator of mental fitness. So often, we focus on our physical health not realising that mental health is also a part and parcel of ‘health’.

For people who work outside home, the workplace is where they spend a large part of their time. Hence, mental health in the workplace ought to be important.

What are the threats to sound mental health in the workplace?

  • Long work hours without breaks
  • Partial/ unjust favours rendered to others at one’s expense
  • Labelling and gossip
  • Spying on personal life and leaking stories at the workplace
  • Personal ill-health
  • A disturbed family life
  • Insensitive authorities
  • Lack of adequate rest
  • Abysmal work area conditions (poor lighting, stinky surroundings, dirty walls/ rooms, etc.)
  • Sexual harassment
  • Life threats
  • Lack of job security (frequent lay-offs)
  • Underpayment/ Irregular payment
  • Pressure to conform to the work culture at the cost of one’s individuality

What happens when workplace mental health is not emphasized upon?

Efficiency and productivity at work reduces – Work performance dips. Energetic confident performance gives way to sluggish below-the-mark outputs.

Irritable temperament develops – Ever observed a colleague/ subordinate/ superior being up in arms about something or the other all the time? Well, it is not just the behavior that needs to be modified there but the underlying cause needs addressing.

Psychological disorders crop up – Most cases of Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD) in working people develop overtime due to workplace demands.

Psychosomatic symptoms – Body pains with no medical reasons, persistent headaches, and nausea are just a few of the physiological manifestations of psychological causes.

Unwanted relationships – Having to spend a large chunk of time away from loved ones creates space for unwanted relationships to develop which ultimately causes disturbance in one’s personal, familial and work life.

Addictions – People take to alcohol or other addictions to douse certain workplace flares – humiliation from the boss, lack of job security, etc.

So, then how can mental health in the workplace be addressed?

Each one of us has a responsibility to take care of our mental health. We need to take care of our minds like we take care of our children. There are different things that work differently for people but here are some guidelines that can be followed to ensure that we don’t lose it. 

Take time out for your own hobbies – This is really important. For some people reading or writing can be stress-buster for others it could be cooking. Somebody might enjoy meditation while somebody else can enjoy dance. Whatever it is that works for you – invest at least an hour each day on your hobbies.

Give priority to self and learn to say “NO” – Well, this is the toughest thing to do – saying NO to your boss. Take a step back and think that if you work for an organization, where you don’t have an option to say a NO – you deserve a better workplace. 

Relook at the definition of success – For many of us, the definition of success is to reach a certain level of organizational ladder or to have a certain amount of bank balance. Such a definition of success puts us in a rat race that we can never win. Relook at what success means to you. Is it being a CEO or is it being a successful parent? Is it having X amount of money in the account or is it being a happy person? Decide for yourself.

Build a support system – It scares me when I see the number of people (apparently successful) giving up their lives. I wonder why they didn’t have a support system. We can never build our support system when we are stressed. We need to build it when we are happy (normal). Have a set of friends who can be your “Agony aunts”. It is really important to have people who can pull you out of a stressful situation.

Learn to identify when you are stressed – This is very challenging. So, have a checklist of stress. If you mark most of the items in that checklist as YES, then you need to take a break. The checklist might have things listed above as symptoms of bad mental health. 

Of course, each individual is different and these guidelines might not be enough to cover everything. Follow what makes you happy, don’t follow a rat race. Don’t wait for that heart attack to give you an alarm of your situation. Look at it right now and make it better right away.

COLLABORATIVELY WRITTEN BY RAJNANDINI SAHU AND PRABHJOT SAINI

IS BATTLING TRAUMA THE NEW NORMAL?

Traumatic events are common, and most people will experience at least one during their lives.”

I am sure the above statement I quoted from an article has truth in it. Most of us have gone through one or two traumatic experiences in our lives; some are devastating and some we could manage to handle easily. Though one thing I can say, trauma is not something that we should bypass or ignore.

But what is TRAUMA?

The Google dictionary defines it as, “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.”

And what are those distressing or disturbing experiences – rape, domestic violence, natural disasters, severe illness or injury, death of a loved one, witnessing extreme violence…the list is endless. Sadly, the distressing experiences that I enlisted are reported to be in plenty during this pandemic period.

I don’t remember how I celebrated Christmas last year in 2019 and the new year eve to welcome 2020. But what is imprinted and imbibed within me today is the name and fear of Coronavirus. During lockdown in April 2020, I was, in fact, we all were actually not very aware of the post Covid19 situation but when we crossed the month of May, we started to feel the chill of its deadly and long-term effects.

According to an article published in CNBC last March, the researchers have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could inflict long-lasting emotional trauma on an unprecedented global scale. They also warned that it could leave millions fighting with debilitating psychological disorders while facing a devastating economic crisis.

Take for example a househelp who works in Pradita’s building. Lockdown norms aside, she encouraged the househelp to stay at home while she continues to pay her monthly salary. The conundrum that poor househelp is facing is that since even her husband lost his job just before the lockdown, her salary is not enough to pay for her month’s expenses. She faces an eviction from her landlord because she has been unable to pay her rent for the last four months. Worse still, since employability is questionable unless the lockdown lifts, she has no means of finding work anywhere. She is not alone in feeling mentally exhausted from finding ways to sustain her family. There are many cases of companies letting off people, or establishments folding. It hurts not just the pocket, but our heads and hearts too.

Add to that the constant fear that even a simple humane action like a pat on the back can infect you has sent many behind doors because there’s no way of knowing how you could get infected. The trauma is not just confined to the world, it permeates within the family too. Overworked housewives find no recourse when their husbands abuse them. Young children find themselves locked in with perpetrators of unspeakable crimes. Or they feel the wrath of harrowed parents who are trying to eke out a living in meagre means. Outside the house, crime rates may have dropped but they have increased within your four walls. Family fights between dissenting adults, while not a crime, does make us more prone to emotional abuse and worry.

Do you think I am traumatic as well? There’s no doubt about it. Being congenitally a heart patient, I am extremely venerable to this virus and thus I suffer trauma as all others. Last week, I had caught a cold and slept having a cold medicine at night. The next day in the morning around 5:30 AM, I felt a choking sensation in my throat and sat up with a heart rate of over 150 beats per minute. I called up my brother Anupam and talking to him calmed me down. But the fear took some time to subside since even small, strange sensations in my body, though irrelevant, would also make me panic.

If I am in this state of mind, then just imagine about the people who are frontline workers,  those who have lost their loved ones, those who are the actual survivors of COVID-19, those are in isolation or quarantined for days, and those who have lost their jobs, the only means of living!!!

Gripped in fear, I wonder, “Is this the new normal that we all have to adjust with – living in trauma?”

I really don’t have the answer to this question if I think about those who are affected and victims already. But I have a list of DO’s and DON’Ts for all of us who are still unaffected in the real sense.

Following are a few ways we can cope with stress and trauma during this pandemic situation:

By Avoiding News Channels and Stats: While it is good, prudent even, to keep yourself updated about the pandemic and the government rules emerging as nations constantly adapt to this fast-mutating-virus, it isn’t good for your emotional health to obsess over the news. It isn’t uncommon for people to spread rumours in times like these. If you can’t suspend your disbelief, then avoid watching too many news items and statistics about death and sickness. An overload of information can trigger panic attacks and constantly keep us in a state of worrying.  Watching or viewing horrific images over and over again can overwhelm our nervous system, making it harder to keep our mind calm.

By Following Healthy Self-Care Practices: The best cure to avoid this pandemic is avoidance itself. Refrain from public places or meetings as best as you can, keep yourself healthy by practicing good eating habits and regular workouts. Sanitize! As many times as you can. But if you’re one of those who have to stay at home even for work, and work is not enough distraction, try inculcating a passion for a hobby. I keep myself engaged in binge-watching, making new videos, posters, and writing poems when I struggle with a negative atmosphere all around. Reading, singing, thread-work, listening to music, even working-out are some good practices to keep ourselves away from traumatic thoughts. Remember to keep a healthy mind and heart by practicing good habits.

By Building Human Connection: Social distancing is the norm, but luckily for us, we have technology handy to connect us. Use it judiciously to network with those closest to you. It is important to stay connected to our friends and families. Encourage it in children as well because this lockdown has been especially hard on their budding sense of community. There are many children who may come out feeling shy or being awkward after this pandemic is over. Prevent that by inculcating a habit of letting them network through supervised calls or meets. Vent, emote, and provoke others to talk. Human connection and support are crucial during these stressful and traumatic periods.

By Holding back major life decisions: You want to invest in property? Start a new venture? Or even change your child’s school? Hold onto that idea but act later when this pandemic is over. People are losing jobs or facing cutbacks. The government is trying hard to come up with ways to keep the economy afloat. Think twice before you make a major life decision because it could add to your stress levels. If it’s not urgent; if it won’t kill you, it can wait.

By Accepting and Acting upon the situation: When we can’t help ourselves in some matters it is useless to worry about it. In fact, it is better to get involved in the action of doing what is right at a given moment wherever we are. Trying to get back to our normal life in a new way is better than just feeling worried about the whole thing. Worrying, whining, cribbing and crying are unproductive attitudes that only add to your trauma without taking away from the problem.

By Relying on God: In the end, I always believe and trust that our God, the creator is always active and in control in every situation that goes on here on this earth. If God is not there, then trusting in Him won’t be harmful but if He exists then how wonderful is it to put our reliance on Him?

Trauma is as much a mental as it is a physical ailment and, in some cases, it is only about the mental abuse a person goes through. It is lucky that modifying the way we approach a problem is in our hands – we can do something to change our mindset. Without taking away from the grievous losses of those who have lost loved ones during this time, this pandemic is more of a psychological menace than a physical one. We are feeling alienated when we aren’t. Physical separation does not have to mean an emotional separation too. Besides, there are more cases of people recovering than people dying. Take heart in the fact that one can recover from this. Take heart in the fact that we have all learned to be self-sufficient, now taking only as much as we need. We have already started defeating the trauma inflicted by this virus by adapting ourselves. We all are strong survivors anyway as we were created and blessed by God to subdue the earth and have dominion over it wisely. And that is surely something to celebrate.

Collaboratively written by Chiradeep Patra and Pradita Kapahi

THE 10 PM CONSTRAINT

Some of the best days with my cousins Kuljeet and Prabhjot were spent in a beautiful colony of IIP, Dehradun. As their father (my uncle) was working in IIP, one of the CSIR labs, in Dehradun, he stayed with his family in the residential complex, within the campus, which is one of a kind. Spread over hundreds of acres of land, the colony was full of trees and tea gardens. With the flora, the fauna also flourished and animals like monkeys and jackals were easily spottable, and even leopards too (which was rare though), the area being adjacent to forest range. Due to this proximity, the residents avoided stepping outside their homes late in the night. 

I used to visit my cousins often, especially during vacations. Before my elder cousin, Kuljeet got married, I stayed there for a couple of months. Her friends, Dolly and Archana, became my friends too and we used to have lots of fun. Our houses were very close and hence frequent hopping from one house to the other was common. 

Since we used to laugh out loud every now and then, my uncle, who used to get up early in the morning, had put this 10 pm constraint, stating that most of the people in the society sleep by 10 pm and since our voices could travel far away, we were not supposed to talk or laugh out loud. Though we were not restricted to go to each other’s houses, we were careful enough not to make noises of any sort.  We followed a ritual of late-night tea and each one of us was assigned days. So, when it was another friend’s turn, we would cautiously go out, have tea at her house, chit-chat, roam around a bit, and then come back. On days when it was our turn, our friends used to come over our place. Our laughter was out of force of habit, so to avoid our loud volumes, we would bite our fingers and laugh. Crazy we were and crazy were our talks. We could go on laughing endlessly and over any trifling thing.

Another important aspect was the midnight birthday celebrations. Careful planning and execution were done to do the needful. The birthday songs were sung in a hush tune and the birthday bumps were given silently. 

Our late-night conversations and celebrations still make us nostalgic. Though our volumes were restricted, our friendship bloomed and those were the wonderful days of our lives.

FROM BEING RESTRICTED TO RESTRICTING MYSELF…

As every other girl child who grew up in an Indian house hold, I had to adhere to quite a lot of restrictions. Starting from what to wear, to whom to talk, to what to talk, to when not to talk, how many friends I could have so on and so forth. When I was a teenager, all these restrictions definitely made me very uncomfortable. I wondered many times, if these many restrictions are really necessary. Why can’t people just be self disciplined? I understand, it is easier said than done.

After I moved to a new city for job, I had very less time apart from work. One thing, that I was new to software world, and second thing was that if I decide to take up something I tend to give my 100% to make that work. I had very long work hours including weekends. No one has asked me to do so much work or take up challenges. It is just who I am. I hardly used to get time to spend with family or friends and I justified this saying, “I have so much of work”. We actually weave a new story around it leaving aside what the real problem is.

An year or so ago, I asked myself why do I actually work this crazy? The returns are not going to increase financially. If the effort I put into work, I could channelize on to some other interest, it would not only serve as a stress reliever but also results in new learning and maybe new beginnings. I have self imposed a restriction that I won’t give more than 10 hours a day to work. There would definitely be days when I might have to spend more time at work, and that is acceptable as long as it does not interfere with life otherwise. Trust me, doing this was hard. I literally had alarms to getup from my seat to head home. Even mornings, I restricted myself from opening my laptop until a certain time. I slowly started realizing I have more time in fact.

I strictly don’t consume sugary foods, ice-creams or soda any more. There was a time when I used to drink close to 40 ounces of soda a day. Now I restrict myself to only consume water even when I go out for lunch. I have completely cut down on consuming white rice to one small portion a day. All of these small changes made life so much easier.

There are some self imposed restrictions that can work wonders like avoiding procrastination by sticking to a schedule, avoiding carbs and fatty foods if we weigh more than what we should be, taking stairs instead of lift, ensuring 8 -9 hours of sleep etc. It takes dedication and discipline. Somehow it is easier to follow the restrictions/limits we have set for ourselves, than imposed by others. The internal dilemma of why the restriction exists in the first place is no more there. The restriction came into existence for a reason we strongly believe in. Some of these restrictions shape us into better version of ourselves. It could be rewarding to cross the bridge knowing we aren’t on an easy path. So, one should try to impose meaningful and justified restrictions 

The counter side of it are those self imposed limits which restrict us from evolving, to not realize our full potential. We should be careful to not fall into such traps. Only one word of caution, don’t be too hard on yourself. 

“In a world of infinite choices, choosing one thing is the revolutionary act. Imposing that restriction is actually liberating.”
― Priya Parker 

RESTRICT YOUR FANCY UNAFFORDABLE WANTS

*A group of college going girls involved in flesh trade to support / sport a lavish lifestyle.

  • A techie commits suicide as he was unable to cope up with the pressure of credit card bills.

*Gang involved in card frauds, ATM thefts busted, revealed it was an attempt to make a quick buck.

These examples may not be some recent news  but definitely something we come across quite often nowadays. A bitter and harsh reality, strong enough to make us experience Depression and question “WHY?”

Reason is simple :  Our inability to find satiation and curb our “UN”wanted desires. Our incompetence in restricting our fingers from swiping left and right and to be finally get hit at the centre.  We are getting carried away by fancy statements from our films “life is now; eat, drink, spend and enjoy!” – so we take “spend” quite seriously😁. We are unable to restrict our minds from falling to the rosy advertisements promising easy EMIs and hands on easy plastic money.  Compulsive buyers we have become, repulsive to the thoughtfulness and impulsive in making descions.

A small question:  We feel so proud of our generation for we think that “we think and question”. We go deep into any subject matter before accepting it as a gospel truth.  But despite that our so called knowledgeable generation is not happy. What could be the reason?  Our direction less blind run behind maintenance of LIFESTYLE.  We want brands in our kitty which we could flaunt to others. From the slippers we wear to the school our kids shall go; from furniture at our home to accessories we adorn – brands matter!  To what extent? To an extent that we started feeling that if we lag behind someone in brand knowledge or sporting a particular lifestyle we won’t be respected. And to garner that dubious respect we not only spend but spend unmindfully even if it means borrowing/ begging or stealing (it’s a general expression, don’t get me wrong 😊).  A simple scenario we must understand: Would we be respected by the society we live in if they know that all the glitter they saw is actually hollow from inside? Would the people we want to flaunt our lifestyle in front of come to our rescue if the creditors knock at our doors with insults? Then what’s the use of all this frivolous vanity? On contrary our precedors were in quite a happy space, don’t believe me? Look at our parents, grandparents – satiation was the thumb rule.

An algorithm we shall follow to restrict our headless thoughts (read wants) before they turn us either victims or nefarious:

  • Do I need this?
  • Can I postpone this want?
  • Can I afford this?
  • To what extent my savings are getting affected?

This is very much required and very much in conformity to our “logical” thought process (sadly we are refraining from this).  Our generation must remember that

  • Life is more precious than Lifestyle.
  • Price tags won’t determine our value, had it been so even the scamsters would be regarded as greats for the brands they flaunt.ĺ
  • We have to depict a right path for our successors for they are closely watching us. Therefore use brains before using your fingers to swipe 😁.
  • Save a portion of income before spending, this is our responsibility towards our future for its unfathomable.

A contradictory argument:  Many might say if a man doesn’t desire higher than he wouldn’t have witnessed so much progress, he wouldn’t work hard. True indeed! But the problem lies in the direction of the hard work. On one hand we have great businessmen who desired higher and worked hard for not only their emancipation but provided a source of income for many and on the other hand we have scamsters who in order to make quick money are working really hard to invent new ways to cheat people and rob them of their hard earned money. And the world definitely hosts the second category in higher proportion, am I wrong? So restriction and direction both are mandatory.

 

THE LIFE OF ‘NO’

The first word that we teach a child, unintentionally, of course, is NO. 

No baby, don’t cry.

No, don’t put your finger in your mouth.

No, don’t touch that!

So basically, restrictions are born with the birth of a child, even before, as the mommy-to-be follows many restrictions for the safety of the baby and her own good.

As the child grows up, the restrictions also increase and hence the number of Nos.

Can you get me that toy? No

Can I watch TV? No

Can I eat chocolates? No

I guess parents insist more on imposing restrictions on their children, rather than telling the logic behind our ‘NO’s. Obviously, the restrictions are for their safety, but we forgo to explain the reason behind them. It happens with me too. The moment my child demands anything, instead of telling him the reason, I simply say ‘No’. The result is instant- cries and screams are all for your ears! The reason is simple- your logic or reason behind the restriction is not comprehensible for them, so it’s always better to take the short-cut and simply say a No. We don’t even try to explain our point of view to them until they grow up to their rebellion age when they demand an explanation from every answer of yours. And slowly, the restrictions as parents mellow down.

I feel, eventually, restrictions take a U-turn and come back to the parents, which most of us must be experiencing, especially in this pandemic. 

Don’t go out without a mask.

Don’t watch the news on TV, it’s all negative.

Don’t go to buy the groceries, will order instead.

But all we hear is that same old story, “Outdoor walk is essential. You panic so much. We have also seen epidemics. In our times, nothing like of this sort used to happen”, etc, etc.

Restrictions act as prevention, they are difficult, yet they are imposed out of love and care. Few restrictions can be over-ruled, but when it comes to the safety of one’s life, these restrictions act as a boon.

Restrict when required

Restrict yourself from restricting

When you can avoid.