Mental illness makes up about 15 per cent of the world’s illnesses, with India having the highest prevalence of mental illness in the world (World Health Organisation). According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), around 13.7 per cent of people in the country suffered from a form of mental illness in 2015-16.
Despite the fact that conversations around mental health are more open and less stigmatised today, women suffer from a higher rate of mental health conditions such as depression. A major reason for this is the gender-specific risk that women face. Apart from academic-related stress, women are also more prone to mental health issues arising from social factors such as marriage problems, family concerns, pregnancy, societal expectations or health issues.
The pandemic has also been tougher on women than men, amplifying mental health problems – research published in the Frontiers in Global Women's Health found that sleep problems, anxiety symptoms and depression were more common among women than men, during the lockdown.
Tips to care for your mental health
While life is slowly returning to normalcy this year, the fear of the pandemic, and the changes it has brought into our lives, still live on. So, how do we ensure that we prioritise our mental health this year?
Kamna Chhibber, Head Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare shares her tips on how we can safeguard our mental health:
Be mindful of multiple roles
It is important to be mindful of the impact of multiple roles. Take help and support where needed and do not hesitate to build systems that allow you to prioritise your well-being.
It is also essential to remember to take breaks and focus on what is there in front of you right now, ensuring that you adopt a problem-solving attitude while addressing the emotional aspects that pertain to the situation, as well.
Temper your expectations
Create the right balance in your mind and have a realistic understanding of how much and what you can do in such situations. Make sure that you actively set out to create systems within your space and negotiate with those around you on providing you with the kind of support that you might require. Discuss where you struggle and seek support or inputs from those around you if you cannot find a solution.
Be kind and compassionate to yourself
Seek support in bringing the right balance between work, home and self-care. Being kind and compassionate towards the self, while acknowledging the fatigue and distress that one is likely to experience is crucial. Acknowledge and understand that emotional distress would occur and that if one needs support or help, that in no way reflects a weakness of any kind. And take help if required, whether it is from friends or family members or from experts.
Stay connected with your child
As a parent, it is important to be attuned to what might be happening with your child/adolescent. Stay connected with them, make an active effort despite the pressures of work and home to know how they are, what they are doing and how they are navigating their own experiences, relationships and academics.
Encourage them to share and do not be judgmental when they express distress relating to the self or others. Provide inputs and advice in a language that they can understand and do not become nagging and excessively push them to share what might be going on with them. Maintain an open channel of communication and let them know you are there to listen and support.
Take support if you are a new mother
As a new mother, self-care is a must. It is essential to try and find ways to also maintain a balance between what one needs to do for the self to keep restoring and replenishing one’s own energy reserves. Relying on those around you is helpful.
Do not hesitate to ask questions and share your experience with the doctors you are connected to. Take the support of family members in caring for your child and keep discussing to solve for problems where they might emerge.
Seek professional help
If the levels of distress continue to persist despite all efforts at ameliorating them, taking care of emotions and trying to solve problems, and it is affecting your functioning at home, in doing your chores, taking care of work, family or children and most importantly of your own selves, you may need to seek professional help.
Speaking with an expert is warranted in such situations to be able to develop an understanding of what might be going on and what other intervention strategies can be employed to be able to deal with the existing experience.
Remember to take time out for yourself and to nurture and cherish yourself. Do something you love - whether it is going out for a walk, cuddling up with a cup of coffee and your favourite book/movie, meditating, exercising and doing yoga, taking up a hobby, or just spending time with your girl gang. Something as simple as dancing or listening to music helps release dopamine, the happy hormone, which will go a long way in keeping you mentally healthy and fit.