It’s okay to not be okay: Managing your mental health in a new reality
UPES offers a tele-counselling service staffed by experts, called #UPESCares
As lockdown comes to an end, and the world prepares to go out, restart factories, and resume commitments again, it helps to take stock of how we’re doing from a mental health perspective. Stress, fear and uncertainty are completely normal emotions at a time like this, which even the WHO have taken cognizance of. The added pressure of keeping our dreams afloat and having to continue to focus on our education and careers can cause a lot of anxiety.
If you’re facing anxiety and fear over the current situation, here are some ways to stay positive:
- Express yourself: A lot of us are conditioned to handle mental distressed by denying them and not addressing them. Challenging that is a critical step in mental health-care. Be okay with saying ‘I am not okay’. We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis in public health that has thrown our everyday lives in turmoil. It is okay to not be feel whatever you’re feeling. Once we admit that there is a problem, we can take steps to remedy that. Reach out to friends and family, faculty, or university resources that make you feel safe about talking about your issues.
- Lean into your community: Your peer, family or faculty community is your best resource. Reach out to friends and family if you’re not doing well, and accommodate your friends when they share their stories. When a friend opens up to you, don’t offer advice or invalidate their feeling. Focus on listening and empathising.
- Stay informed: Reject misinformation, conjecture, or rumour-mongering. One of the biggest hindrances during the Covid-19 has been the onslaught on misreporting or deliberate misinformation through fake news. Not only do they impede public health officials from doing their job, they also trigger panic reactions in you and jeopardise your sense of peace. Make sure you maintain a healthy disbelief of news you come across on social media, and get your information from reputed websites like the WHO and the Centre for Disease Control.
- Have anchoring techniques in place: When you’re stressed or anxious, it helps to practice ‘centering techniques’ or ‘anchor techniques’ that can help you refocus your attention towards healing. You can deal with an anxiety attack by closing your eyes, focussing and counting your breaths, while telling yourself that this feeling will pass. Another effective technique called ‘marking’. When you have negative thoughts or anxieties, just close your eyes, and label emotions as ‘thought’ or ‘feeling’. Don’t try to block them, don’t jostle with them. Let the unconscious thoughts come and go, and all you have to do with your conscious mind is to label them as either ‘thought’ or ‘feeling’. When you practice these techniques you will see that soon enough you can breathe again and the feeling has passed.
- Dealing with isolation: Human beings are social animals. The need to be around people we like is hard-coded in our DNA. Don’t blame yourself if social distancing causes anguish. While it is a medical necessity in these times, it is also okay to feel fear or uncertainty because of it. If you’re quarantined alone, you can handle that by –
- Staying busy – learn a new skill, pick up a new hobby, upskill yourself on Coursera, or research on a project.
- Having a routine – A strict routine that you follow everyday can provide a feeling of comfortable insulation from the uncertainty.
If you’re feeling distressed, it helps to reach out to professionals who are trained in this. To facilitate this for our student network, UPES offers a tele-counselling service staffed by experts, called #UPESCares. It is available to take calls 24×7 from our students & their families, and alumni. If you’re a UPES student reading this and need someone to talk to, give us a call at 1800 270 7121, and let us take care of you. Remember that the most important word in the phrase ‘We will survive’ is not survive, it is WE. As conversations about mental health become more important in the times to come, let’s take the leap in educating ourselves about it first, and taking care of each other.