MENTAL HEALTH FOR ALL

American gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the Tokyo Olympic floor final earlier this year to focus on her mental health. She has not minced words in documenting her struggles with mental health in posts on her social media accounts. Mind you, she has been a reigning champion – a superstar!

Of late, mental health has been drawing the much needed attention from several quarters. Celebrities coming out to share their mental health struggles has immensely furthered the cause, which is otherwise considered to be a stigma in most parts of the world.

If you are a person who still thinks that there is a lot of unwanted fuss being made about ‘mental health’ and that there are other issues that deserve more attention, then you really need to rethink. Just as one would nurse a bruised limb in case of an injury, a wounded mind also needs to be nursed.

Be it about the physical, social, spiritual or psychological issues, we humans focus more on the seen than on the unseen. And this shapes our behaviour most of the times. However, what is unseen is more crucial than what is seen!

Have you ever attended a Puppet Show? Not only children, but adults too are attracted towards the colourful talking, singing, jumping puppets. But, what attention would puppets draw without puppeteers or marionettists doing their jobs well, behind the screen? The voices of the puppets and their movements are all regulated by the puppeteers. Puppets look attractive, but without voices and movements, they won’t be any different than dolls or other toys that kids play with and no one would accord them much attention. What is unseen is significant to the visible performance of a Puppet Show and that by large determines the success of the show!

We humans focus so much on what we consciously perceive, that we ignore the major preconscious and unconscious zones of our minds. What is concealed comprises of more than what is revealed. And, this concealed zone influences the revealed zone greatly.

This article is not about training the preconscious and unconscious minds. Rather, the intent of this article is to drive home the point that since a person is more than what you and I see him or her as, and since a person’s behaviour is regulated by factors more than what is seen in the external environment, we need to be sensitive to each other’s mental health.

Who are the target groups?

Everyone.

Starting from foetal stage till grey hairs right  upto the grave – each one needs mental health care.

Mental health deterioration in a person (if it happens) starts from the time s/he is conceived owing to environmental stressors and genetic predispositions. When we ensure sound mental health of an expectant mother, we ensure sound mental health of the baby that is born. If the foetus growing within the mother is indirectly exposed to environmental stressors be they in the form of physical/ psychological/sexual/substance abuse, domestic violence, workplace harassment, maternal distress and sicknesses, poor nutrition – the baby that is born either develops a hardy personality (i.e., extreme resilience to stressors and a remarkable ability to cope with them) or develops a vulnerable personality (i.e., extremely sensitive to stressors and ill-equipped to cope with them). Besides purely medical conditions, the genesis of mental ill-health begins from this stage. Hence, foetal mental health is of utmost importance.

Children’s mental health needs a lot of attention too. The way children are shaped and cared for reflects in their adult lives. While the mental health of all children is crucial, those who suffer from disabilities and consequently from low self-esteem, those from single parent or parent absent families, those from war torn parts of the world, those subjected to abuse, those exposed to trauma and other disturbing life events – need specific mental health care.

Adolescent mental health care is crucial as the youngsters leap from childhood into adulthood and dabble with identity, acceptance and self-esteem issues. As they experiment with looks, relationships, careers and largely detest the tons of parental advice that are heaped on them, as they taste success or meet failures – there mental health needs attention. If the adolescent suffers from physical or psychological disorders/ disabilities, targetted mental health care is essential. This is precisely the stage when adolescents need to understand and accept that it is absolutely vital to seek good counsel.

Healthy adults shape up a healthy world. Numerous factors can mar an adult’s mental health. Starting from a lack of social acceptance, repressed childhood memories, to job hazards (harassment, exploitation, deprivation of rights and entitlements, unhygienic environment, layoffs), personal or familial ill-health, financial crises, family disputes, domestic violence, substance abuse and many more such additions to the list – an adult’s mental health requires a lot of care.

During the sunset years of life when one lies in a phase of apparent relaxation, mental health needs to be cared for. This is the time when most aged people are left uncared for, given menials and in many cases given the least attention. This is the time when they feel unwanted, when their desires are left unmet and their thoughts wander without expression. This is the time when most of the aged suffer from various illnesses. While a seed that promises to bear fruits needs care and nurturance, a tree that has borne fruits and flowers throughout life needs to be proffered due dignity.

So you see, all stages of life require mental health care just as they require physical health care.

With this I come to another important aspect which I would urge everyone to ponder upon.

Is mental health consideration meant for the educated and the affluent alone? What about that tramp on the street, the maid in the house, that ragpicker, the child labourer, the trafficked girl in the brothel and all those who find themselves at the receiving end of educational, social, economical deprivation? Those whose primary concerns are two square meals a day, a few old clothes on the body and perhaps someone’s doorstep for shelter? Who cares for their mental health, if at all?

With an unprecedented pandemic hitting the world which was at the helm of economic, technological, social progress like never before – mental health has suffered severe battering. In the last one and half years, there have been reports of increase in crime and domestic violence of humungous proportions – a majority of which have been under reported or have gone unreported. Millions of people have been rendered jobless. Thousands have lost their loved ones. Children have been orphaned.

While mental health professionals are doing their bit to help a wounded world, what can you and I do?

  1. Recognize the need for sound mental of those around you – your spouse, parents, children, siblings, neighbours, colleagues, superiors, subordinates, domestic helps, caregivers, service providers and anyone who you come in contact with.
  2. Cater to their mental health to the extent you can – Understanding words, appreciation, encouragement, connecting to legal/ medical/ mental health professionals as the requirement may be.
  3. Be sensitive – Do not share sensitive details of one person with others without their permission.
  4. Take care of your own mental health – In order to cater to and be sensitive to others’ mental health, one’s own mind needs to be in good health. Take a break when required. Do things that relax you. Arrange for like-minded caregivers to fill in for you in your daily chores as you care for your mind.
  5. Pray – Health is a blessing from God. He alone can grant the serenity and well-being of the mind when the tides rise against us. Whether you are in bliss or in the tumultuous tempests, pray that God keeps your mind tranquil and supple.

God’s plan for mankind was never chaos and destruction. But since we have driven ourselves into it, our mental health has suffered a severe beating. Seeking His strength, we can collectively work together for our own and others’ psychological well-being. May the theme of Mental Health Day 2021 be our focus for life: Mental Health in an Unequal World.

DAILY MOTIVATIONS!

Finally the tiredness seeps in, the body gives away and the mind stops its race. Sleeps takes over and into the world of dreams we enter. Forgetting the worries we had, all the hectic schedules, the numerous work and the never ending demands. Losing the track of time and regaining the energy and peace of mind. The ring of the alarm, wakes up the brain, to schedule the rest of the day. Thoughts of laziness, “Why should I wake up, this early?” and the small little sleeping baby’s smell. The love, the snuggle and the pain of waking up your household, just to start their day off. The push of the heart and mind, forcibly making the body awake, “Up, Up now mommy, the kid needs you for the rest of the day.”

This is how, my night ends and my day begins. It finishes off and begins, with the same motivation, that keeps me on my feet the whole day. The love for my kid and attending to the needs of my family. May be this is how every normal home maker would feel. Maybe it is the same motivation, which makes a home maker be the first to wake up and the last one to go to bed. Maybe this is the same love and worry of a home maker for her household and its members, that makes her do her job, wearing a smile on her face throughout the day. No matter how tired she is, how irritated she feels, how sick she is, or what she wants to do, she always keeps her family first. She finishes her chores and meets the need of her family, daily, without fail, and then if there is some time left to spend on her own, she does what she loves the most.

I, am a very lazy, easy going and not-too-excited-to-do-much-work type of a person. I love to finish my tasks early, so as to do things I like. I sometimes feel, its totally unnecessary to go into household work for a long time. Days as such, I get thinking about how events in life, has led me into such situations. But, at the same time, smile and the satisfied look, on my husband’s and my daughter’s face gives me all the strength that I need to do the days work. This is just an example of one kind of motivation in my life.

There are many a times when my heart hurts and pains by the words spoken to me. Feelings of me letting down the hopes of others, tears me down and with a heavy heart, I call my mother. I tell her how I feel or I think that I have let down someone very close to me. How rude I was, or how my words pained them. I pour out my heart in front of her. She tries to motivate, inspire me and she points out my mistakes and tells me how to rectify it. She gives instances and examples from our time together, to explain me things. She brings me out of my misery. Not only she, but my father also tries to light the fire of humility and meekness in me, by lovingly pointing out how one should surrender to strong feelings and ultimately do what is right. They have helped me, be the person I am today.

The biggest and the most important motivation that I get in life is from my Lord, my Saviour. Every day in the morning, getting up and surrendering the entire day to Him by studying the Bible, I feel His peace and satisfaction in my heart. Whenever I feel troubled, I simply pray to Him, asking Him to pave my path, to show me ways, to handle everything that comes my way as His word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

He has not only made all things wonderful in my life, but also have given me the perfect amount of motivation, to do many things in life. Willingly or unwillingly, even keeping my own respect at stake, later saving it. He has held me through troubled waters and quick sands, saved me from dangerous situations and people, has lifted me from a level zero, to where I am now. He has always been there for me, whenever I am at my low or I am in an excited state. He has always given me reasons, good enough to do things that matter, that are necessary to me or are important for my family. There were times when I was in desperate need of motivation, guidance and advice and there! He was right there. Holding all the necessary information, relevant conversations, very apt reasons, modified statements and even moral policies, in case I drift to the other end. He has always answered my, “why’s” and “What for’s”. He has pulled me out of pain, reasoning with the situation, in turn motivating me further. He takes the side of the other person always and has always pushed me to become myself after a very bad, or painful situation. He is the main source of my motivation and an unending and unfailing one.

These are my daily potions of motivations…

WHAT I DO TO PICK MYSELF UP

Last year I had a brief spell in my life when everything turned upside down. Despite all the light around me everything seemed dark. A small term paper submission triggered an avalanche of self-doubt in me and for a week I was mentally paralyzed. I began to wonder what the hell I am doing with my life.

I had left my job for pursuing my masters in English literature as I wanted to rebuild my career, start from scratch ,and do something I actually like and care for. The term paper submission got me all tensed and worked up and I started to rethink about the decision I had taken. I even tried to find a way if I could get back my old job. I had almost made up my mind do drop out from the course and look for another job if I could not get back my old job.

I was living alone and did not have anybody to share this with. My parents would get too worried for me and my situation was such that only a few could understand my agony. A friend who had made a similar decision helped me out and calmed me down. His conversations helped me a lot. Another thing which kept me strong during this phase was taking long walks. I would wake up and go for long aimless walks till my legs hurt. And I did that even in the evenings. I would have walked 5 kms on certain days. And those were the only times I did not think of my decision.

Apart from definite health benefits walks can be very helpful to our emotional and mental well being I believe.  Whenever I am at home in Siliguri I take long walks to the nearby “fafri” forests. The sight of the tall Sal trees, the sound of the morning birds, the sight of the mischief-making monkeys, and the company of strangers clears my head and prepares me to face another day. When I was in Tezpur, a quaint town on the banks of Brahmaputra in the state of Assam, I would always take a walk during the evenings to Ganesh-Ghat and sit beside the quiet waters of Brahmaputra and contemplate. It was soothing and relaxing at the end of a taxing day.

Another activity which pumps me up is listening to music. This is especially on holidays when I’m feeling very lazy and also at times when I feel low. I never keep a readymade playlist at hand and usually listen to varying genres across different languages. One common thing across them is that I look for uplifting and relatable lyrics along with good music. The well-written songs carry stories and episodes which can really lift up your mood and elevate your mind.

Deep conversation with select-few friends, either in person or over phone, is a blessing which I relish whenever I get a chance. A very personal thing I try to do, whenever I have to cope up with a situation beyond me, is to pray. At times in my room or go to the church, sit by myself, close my eyes, and just soak in the quietness, the solemn atmosphere, and let myself feel all that comes my way without inhibition and leave it at the hands of the almighty who is my sign of hope, love and life. I just feel light within, as if a burden has been lifted off me, and it gives me the courage and strength to continue to fight my battles.

An extra tip: Indulging in your favorite food can also work a charm when you are down in the dumps. A margarita pizza or an amazing misti-doi (you can google it) with semi-mashed himsagar mangoes does it for me.

THERE IS SOMEONE OUT THERE TO MOTIVATE

There are pills and balms to apply on the pain in our body but what about the pain of our heart?

How many times have you cried bitterly and literally, there is no one out there to wipe your tears or to ask you “what happened?”

Whether you are on a crowded street or in a crowded bus but there is no one out there to ask you “why there is no smile on your face today?”

Almost after a fatigued long day, you reached home, unlocked your flat and in the darkness of the room with head to toe full of pain you sat for hours together, desperately wishing there would be someone to offer you a glass of water but alas even after an hour you had to limp to the kitchen just to have a glass of water.

It might look filmy to few but trust me this is few people’s daily life!

When this is the everyday story it becomes harder and harder to trust people and God! The only question that rises in their minds – Who is there for me?”

We, as humans, are created by God, so mystically that we cannot live without another human being. Hence the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 

Undoubtedly, we all have such persons in our lives and it is his/her pat on our shoulders, a smiley tag on WhatsApp, words of appreciation over phone motivate us to move on…

Though I am a people-centered person, yet in my low hours I always try to stay aloof from people and confined my circle only to my family and to my two beloved friends and at times my cousin sister.

A couple of months back I was emotionally broken and almost for a week I literally stayed aloof, I only responded to my parents’ phone calls each night, just not to make them worried! Alongside just not to pretend I responded to my most beloved friend’s WhatsApp messages in 1/5 ratio. But as always my friend caught me rightly and phoned me. As she kept bouncing on my head I had to literally share what all I am going through. She did what we both always follow to motivate each other. And that’s a Biblical principle – “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.  

In our motivation, we always encourage, refuel and rejuvenate each other but we always strictly abide by another biblical principle – “Elevating God for all of our achievements in our life”.

Mr. Nick Vujicic, the Australian man with no arms and no legs says,

Know that there is always someone out there who believes in you and who loves you just the way you are.

Life is a mixed bag! Journey with joy and sorrow, smile and tear, pleasure and pain, failure and achievement is quite obvious. But with this mixed bag on our shoulders, we all need that hand of motivation and the mind that connects us with the godly love shown in the human to human relationship.

Let us never quench from the fellowship with God and worthwhile people our life. Because ultimately motivation comes from them and they never shift like shadows!

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

My neighbour’s garden is so beautiful decked with flowers, grass so levelled, every pebble just in right place that I really feel like singing:

Marie, Marie quite contrary,

How does your garden grow

Make sure you read it in rhythm and let me confirm her name is not Marie 😁.  She is an eighty year old woman with love for gardening.  I have seen the passion with which she caresses each and every plant, waters them, nurtures them. I can not imagine myself in her shoes at her age at this moment.

It’s not just her, I have seen and met women who irrespective of what age they are, are living  and leading lives with full zest spreading positivity and giving hope to follow. Be it grooming oneself, following passion, acquiring new skills – for few age is never a hindrance.

Some celebrity examples (examples covered by media):  This creates better impact you see😁:

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

J K Rowling: a story that could have turned into a tragedy as attempt to suicide was inked on those pages is now an example of stupendous success.  Her life prior to success of Harry Potter was never a fairy tale and success didn’t came early as the first copy was rejected by 12 publishers. What if she haven’t had pushed her way through the big road blocks of “NO” thinking I am over 30 now, what can I do, It’s too late.  Just imagine.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

Smt. Nannamal, 96 years old yoga teacher, Padmashree awardee, is the oldest yoga teacher in India. Just watch her once and you would say “not even Beckham can bend like her”  😁.  She is giving a strong message on how to lead life, a healthier way – body and soul. Age is just a number.

Carmen Dell’Orefice (Featured Pic): Aged 87, gracing the cover page of the world’s most sought after and read fashion magazine “Vogue”. After experiencing an exploited childhood, three broken relationships, marriages to be precise does world still seem to be a better place to live? Give it a thought.

These wonderful women (only handful have been mentioned) truly motivate me one or the other way. Like my neighbour who is more than double my age inspires me to take care of “My” garden which at this moment looks like hair strands left on a bald head 😂.  When I feel de-motivated looking at my current work status, rejections I have received so far, and obviously seeing all my contemporaries working (I am not jealous, hope it’s clear) such success stories rekindle, re-ignite the passion to go for it (Facebook has proven to be useful to me this way). They say  to me “It’s never too late”, Give one more try before you give up” .

I  remember having met one my friends on my way back to home. I was clearly upset mentioning the gap of 9 years on my CV. She said “kids should be our first priority when they are young and dependent and who said you cannot work later.  Gap of nine years or your age is just a number, so trivial to be de-motivated and stop trying.  You are never too old to live your dreams” . That really boosted my confidence. I am really fortunate to have met her (hope she reads this 😊).

Living life is more important than counting days.  And these women motivate me to do the same.

Disclaimer: I am not a feminist as I have mentioned only about women 😁.

UPLIFTING EFFECTS OF ‘TED TALKS’

What really motivates me? That question seems so easy yet I sit here dumbfounded. Funny thing, how your mind just goes blank sometimes. I have heard this often that motivation comes from within, but is it wholly true? One cannot expect a pessimistic person, like me, to be self motivated all the time. We all tend to have some rough times in our life when we feel like giving up on everything even though the thing bothering us might be as small as a fly and won’t even matter in a few months’ time. Whenever I am low, I tend to shut down; I stop talking to people or access any social media but I do use youtube. TED Talks is something which always uplifts me. It’s kind of weird as they might not talk anything even near to what I am feeling but somehow boosts me up.

Data and analysis is one thing but experience is another thing. Every speaker has their own way of building a connection with the audience. They don’t lecture, they do the art of storytelling. Stories have a tendency to inspire and move people to action whereas facts usually becomes boring to even listen to, let alone have an effect on people.

TED was born in 1984 out of Richard Saul Wurman’s observation of a powerful convergence among three fields: technology, entertainment and design. The first TED, which he co-founded with Harry marks, included a demo of the compact disc, the e-book and cutting-edge 3D graphics from Lucasfilm, while mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrated how to map coastlines using his developing theory of fractal geometry.

By now you must have lost interest in reading all the above information, haven’t you? Even I got bored while writing it. That’s what plain information does, but these speakers have the ability to make plain information deliver in the most unique way which won’t waver your attention.

If you still don’t believe me, I suggest you to spend a few hours on the following few must-watch TED Talks.

  • Do schools kill creativity- Ken Robinson
    Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.
  • Underwater astonishments- David Gallo
    David Gallo shows jaw-dropping footage of amazing sea creatures, including a color-shifting cuttlefish, a perfectly camouflaged octopus, and a Times Square’s worth of neon light displays from fish who live in the blackest depths of the ocean.
  • If I should have a daughter- Sarah Kay
    “If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she’s gonna call me Point B … ” began spoken word poet Sarah Kay, in a talk that inspired two standing ovations at TED2011. She tells the story of her metamorphosis — from a wide-eyed teenager soaking in verse at New York’s Bowery Poetry Club to a teacher connecting kids with the power of self-expression through Project V.O.I.C.E. — and gives two breathtaking performances of “B” and “Hiroshima.”
  • The best stats you’ve ever seen- Hans Rosling
    You’ve never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called “developing world.”
  • The danger of a single story- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

And the list goes on… but I suppose these will be enough to make one realise how amazing TED Talks are.

Stay happy and motivated 🙂

A HAND TO LEAD ACROSS LIFE’S VALLEYS

‘Life is a journey that must be travelled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.’ – Oliver Goldsmith

You sure need a pat on the back, a warm hug, a word of affirmation or a token of appreciation to keep yourself moving ahead along life’s path. The times when you need these most are the times when you are alone, feeling low, depressed, rejected, dejected, frustrated and are afraid of taking the next step forward.

So yes, we all need certain ‘push-me-forwards’ in life. They may be people, places or things that we love to do. These push-me-forwards are our motivators. They are different for different people and they are different for the same person in different situations.

An adventurous person whom sickness has confined to the bed, is likely to feel the zest for life when he hears or sees accounts of adventures with a booster line – ‘You’ll soon do it too!’

Sometime back I was watching the video of Arunima Sinha – a lady volleyball player whom robbers had pushed from a running train after robbing her of her valuables in 2011. Another train on a parallel track crushed her legs below the knee. Several hours later, she was rushed to the hospital with serious leg and pelvic injuries. One of her legs had to be amputed to save her life, while a rod was inserted in the other in an attempt to restore it. She was 23 years, then.

arunimaUjjain-a

(Picture source: Google)

An ambitious volleyball player lying on the bed with a dark future! To top it all, the newspapers carried the news that she had attempted suicide from a running train. And, the typical societal taunts of being a girl minus a leg! As she was hearing all these multiple voices, a determined voice from within emerged – she was going to scale Mount Everest to show the world what she was capable of and how baseless were the stories that were doing the rounds.

As of today, she has not only scaled Mount Everest (Asia) – the first female amputee to do so, but also Kilimanjaro (Africa), Elbrus (Europe), Kosciuszko (Australia), Aconcagua (Argentina) and Carstensz Pyramid (Indonesia)!

(Picture source: Google)

How was this possible for her? Many people with healthy limbs like me cannot think of attempting such feats, that too amidst such dejection.

Adversity is often a remarkable motivator.

I have seen people with very modest upbringing reach the higher echelons of prosperity and success. They never had that pat on the back or a warm hug or even a gesture of love. But, that was what motivated them to make it big in life – not having much!

Food doesn’t entice one whose stomach is full. Sleep doesn’t allure one who has just woken up from a sound slumber. However when the stomach is growling with starvation, any morsel of food seems to be God-sent. When the eyes are weary from days of sleep deprivation, an empty floor seems more inviting than a bed with a soft mattress.

In essence, the motivation to move forward comes into the picture when one is stuck at the same position or is rapidly receding backwards. And we all find ourselves in such positions of stagnation or backward slipping, at some point of time or the other. Those are the times that we feel the need to be motivated.

A student needs motivation to work hard at studies. A homemaker needs a lot of motivation to keep on doing the monotonous household chores daily. A caretaker needs motivation to take care of an ailing patient for days together. An employee needs motivation to go to work each day. Some need the motivation to remain alive for the day to see the next. And the list goes on . . .

Joni Eareckson Tada, who became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from shoulders down at the age of 17 when she dived into a swimming pool says – ‘Subdue your heart to match your circumstances.’ She further says, ‘the weaker I am, the harder I must lean on God’s grace; the harder I lean on him, the stronger I discover him to be, and the bolder my testimony to his grace.’

(Picture source: Google)

Joni is an excellent painter (holding the brush between her teeth) and a wonderful motivational speaker, today.

(Picture source: Google)

What are the things that pull you down today?

Remember that you are not meant to be in that low position for long. As you subdue your heart to match the circumstances, lean on God’s grace. No matter how petty or how massive your valley is, you will emerge out of it!