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In Toughest Times, It’s Even More Important To Take Care of Your Mental Health & Wellbeing

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Dr. Sugandha Gupta
Dr. Sugandha Guptahttp://www.DelhiMindClinic.com
Dr. Sugandha Gupta is the founder- Director and Consulting Psychiatrist at Delhi Mind Clinic, Karol Bagh, New Delhi. With over 15 years of clinical experience, Dr. Gupta is currently invested in creating awareness and acceptance in the society for mental health issues by means of participating in panel discussions on various news channels and conducting seminars and workshops on mental health. You can reach out to her with your queries at -- drsugandha@delhimindclinic.com.

The entire tourism and hospitality sector has seen some nerve-racking days in the recent past. With no government support to the sector, business owners, employees, suppliers and all those directly or indirectly earning their livelihood from tourism and hospitality related services are experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety

On one hand, where livelihood is at risk already, and on the other hand Stress and anxiety is putting one’s health at risk too.

To make wise business decisions it’s imperative to take care of one’s mental health and wellbeing. In part 1 of this article, I left you with a questionnaire to help you identify warning signals of excessive stress. This time we will talk about the skills that one can learn to take better care of oneself in these turbulent times,

To start with, let’s recall the first three alphabets we learned as children – A. B, and C. These form the core of our stress management skills as explained below:

Awareness – is the first step. Many live-in denial and symptoms of stress become their new normal. So be aware of your own body’s responses – headaches, impaired sleep, irritability, altered bowel habits, etc.

Balance – striking a balance between resources and demands. Learning skills to defuse pressure and enhance resources.

Coping – learning coping skills at physical and psychological level.

Let us discuss these coping skills in a little more detail.

MANAGEMENT AT PHYSICAL LEVEL – HEALTHY LIFESTYLE.

1. Regular Physical Activity – offers multiple benefits

  • Increased production of stress-busting hormones and neurochemicals
  • Proper channelizing of pent up physical energy
  • Improves overall metabolism, energy, efficiency, strength.
  • Helps in stabilizing mood & Anxiety.
  • Balances the circadian rhythm and keeps the sleep-wake cycle regularized.
  • A simple 30 minutes walk in your compound or a few sets of Surya namaskar within the home will mostly suffice.

2. Healthy Diet –

  • Healthy eating
  • Well balanced, nutritious diet
  • Eating at regular times.
  • Avoiding excessive tea, coffee, soft drinks, liquor, , smoking, fried, spicy, junk
  • Definitely avoiding binge eating as a means of stress-busting.

3.Adequate sleep and good sleeping habits:

  • Brain needs Rest to rejuvenate, rewire & restart
  • Arousal due to irregular sleeping schedule increases cortisol production further increasing the stress levels.
  • Good sleep promotes concentration, efficiency and helps maintains energy levels.

4. Meditation :

Simple pranayama or deep breathing relaxation exercise can go a long way in managing stress levels. When one is stressed, the  sympathetic nervous system goes into a hyperdrive causing physiological and psychological arousal, in such states of heightened stress, meditation excites the parasympathetic nervous system to bring calmness and peace as shown below:

MANAGEMENT AT Psychological LEVEL – HEALTHY LIFESTYLE.

The psychological cycle of stress:

A situation which is troublesome might be interpreted as an extreme, unsolvable when one is experiencing excessive stress. This further leads to the aggravation of negative thought patterns, the sadness of mood, and maladaptive consequences as shown in the figure above. This cycle continues undisturbed until challenged. At the core of this cycle, are certain unhelpful or maladaptive thinking patterns. Hence it is important to talk about identifying and countering our negative thought patterns. A simple way to start is to note down our thoughts when we are extremely distressed and to see how they impact our behavior and mood. But then,” the eyes cannot see what the mind does not know” So let us first identify some of the common cognitive biases

The names of these maladaptive thinking patterns are self-explanatory. Since a detailed discussion is outside the scope of this write-up, so we shall talk briefly about how to modify one negative thinking pattern. Let us take up the first one –

All or none thinking: It is a form of thinking wherein the situation appears to be either perfect or a complete disaster. There is no in-between. This leads to impractical assumptions and expectations from self and external world.

-ex: “I am a failure”.

Such all or none thinking Could be replaced by – ” I am not doing that well right now”.

Whereas the former statement makes the situation final and fixed, the latter enables one to assess that the situation is temporary and also modifiable. This reduces despondency, gives rise to hope, and strengthens one’s will to make that change happen.

In similar manners, other maladaptive thought patterns can be modified as well with some training. And an overall change will certainly help us cope better with stressful situations.

Avoiding certain activities like spending excessive time following news channels shall also help in preventing “catastrophization” thinking.

Discussing one’s worries with others can also help challenge thinking biases like “personalization” and “filtering out the positive” by helping us see another person’s point of view for the same situation. A neutral observer can provide us with new insights.

Trying not to compare oneself with colleagues and counterparts can help to avoid excessive self-responsibility and too many “should” and “must” statements.

Following a daily structured routine and bathing and dressing/grooming like a normal day can also help boost one’s self-confidence.

Besides these, staying connected socially with our colleagues and friends, pursuing a hobby, and learning a new skill, all help stimulate the pleasure centers of our brain helping fight our stress not just psychologically but biologically too.

When to seek professional help

Despite the above measures, there might be times when one might need to seek professional help. Some pointers to help identify those states would be:

  1. When the above-mentioned skills do not help tackle the stress.
  2. Significant impairment in carrying out daily activities – ex: severe lethargy, poor concentration, and memory impacting work, etc.
  3. Persistent and pervasive mood changes: crying spells, emotional outbursts, panic attacks, etc.
  4. Distress to others: family and close friends point out your emotional and behavioral changes as affecting them emotionally too.
  5. Need to self medicate with alcohol, smoking, or caffeine for anxiety or mood changes.
  6. Suicidal ideas or self-harm thoughts.

All said and done, as this write up is being published, many countries are preparing to open up their national and international borders. This provides hope and promise for a better conclusion to this pandemic.

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