Managing Your Mental Health in These Extraordinary Times: Sonali Gupta

Ahead of 10 October, World Mental Health Day, I was having a conversation with a friend where we discussed how the last few months have been a blur. This pandemic has been exhausting, both physically and emotionally; we are tired out.

Although we are spending more time at home, working and taking care of our families, many of us find ourselves overwhelmed, grappling with feelings of anxiety, hopeless and, on some days, even helplessness.

Sonali Gupta and her book, Anxiety: Overcome It and Live Without Fear, published by HarperCollins India

In my recently published book Anxiety: Overcome It and Live Without Fear, I’ve tackled how you can differentiate between normal anxiety and anxiety that requires attention. Today, however, we find ourselves in a unique situation.

The uncertainty of the pandemic is impacting our emotional wellbeing and, as a result, we all are in this peculiar space where learning to take care of our mental health is no longer a matter of choice. It has become a basic need, a necessity, which in turn will decide how we function over the next few months and in the long run.

These are some tips and strategies that can help you take care of your physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing during these extraordinary times:

1.    Acknowledge the anxiety, grief and the losses. The pandemic has triggered anxieties in everyone, whether it’s in the form of anticipatory grief, financial losses, caregiving for older parents, the loss of a loved one or a general sense of exhaustion. Give yourself the permission to grieve and even possibly say that ‘The last few months have been hard’.

 2.    Find a way to check-in with yourself. Learn to identify and recognize what you are feeling and possibly even the triggers. Is it technology fatigue or helplessness emanating from the cycle of your children’s online schooling – ask yourself what is weighing you down? Labelling the feeling can possibly make it easier to deal with the concerns.

3.    Learn to de-catastrophize. In my book Anxiety I talk about how all of us, at some point, engage in catastrophizing. In my experience, thinking of worst-case scenarios has exponentially increased in the context of the pandemic. Catch yourself when your mind races to the worst-case scenario and you begin to panic. Take time out to consider that between the best and worst-case scenario, there are so many in-between stages. Also, from a mindfulness perspective, it helps to remind yourself that things are going fine as of now. Also, know that if challenging situations come your way, you can trust yourself to deal with them.

4.    Develop closure rituals. We all are leading lives where we are at home and yet working. If you are struggling to set boundaries, it’s understandable. But it’s never too late to start. Ask yourself what possible rituals you can put in place whereby you can demarcate the end and beginning of the workday. It can be a simple ritual such as noting down the tasks lined up for the next day.

5.    Manage your Productivity Guilt. Many people, over the last few months, have struggled with the feeling of ‘not doing enough’. This can be extremely draining and can also deeply impact our self-esteem. Maybe ask yourself if you are being realistic in terms of the expectations that you place on yourself? In my book, I talk about how often our irrational beliefs about wanting to know everything and constantly remain updated leads to a feeling of productivity guilt.

6.    Develop a healthy relationship with technology and social media. Most of our work is happening online today, so it is very important that we learn to balance when and how much we interact with technology. Learning when not to engage with social media or our phones is crucial to our emotional wellbeing. In the book, I make a mention about how we all are susceptible to ‘death by social comparison’ whereby we are comparing our lives constantly to our friends, family members and sometimes even strangers. Becoming aware of the narratives around which social media works is crucial to the process of developing a healthy relationship with it

7.    Get your sleep cycle on track. During the pandemic, so many people are struggling to either fall asleep or even just get sleep. Learn to not wake up to a phone beeping with notifications; avoid scrolling down your social media pages before you drop off. Instead, give yourself a downtime of at least thirty minutes before bed.

8.    Introduce Pause Rituals. Personally, what has really helped me at this time are the pause rituals that I have integrated into my life. Pause Ritual is a term that I came up with when I was struggling with burnout. It basically means learning to consciously pause and take time off to just be and rest. Whether it’s going for a long walk or choosing to meditate, exercise or just relax and observe your breathing, all of it can serve the role of a pause ritual.

9.    Be self-compassionate. This may be the last point, but the most important step when it comes to our emotional wellbeing. Learn to befriend your inner critic and embrace your shortcomings along with your strengths. Whenever you begin, it is progress, so maybe start now.

 Read Anxiety: Overcome It and Live Without Fear to know more about how to cope with your emotions during these difficult times. Buy the book here

HarperCollins India publishes illustrious Indian authors such as Raghuram G. Rajan, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Khushwant Singh, Aravind Adiga, Anuja Chauhan, Ravi Subramanian, and Shubhangi Swarup, amongst many others. Apart from the Indian titles, HarperCollins India also distributes books by international bestselling authors such as Doris Lessing, Paulo Coelho, Agatha Christie, Jack Welch, Jack Higgins, Alistair Maclean, Isaac Asimov, Sidney Sheldon, Amitav Ghosh, Cecelia Ahern, A.J. Finn, and The Dalai Lama, besides the world-renowned Collins Cobuild and Collins Gem Dictionaries.