3 Things – Taking care of your mental health

I wrote in the last post that I handled the information overload I faced by whittling down the sources of information. 3 Things from Indian Express is one of the podcast that I kept. I listened to Episode 851 – Taking care of your mental health. There was a previous episode that also spoke of taking care of your mental health. Both episodes begin by expressing that during a crisis feeling anxious is normal.

These are my notes from the show. I suggest you listen to the show yourself as your takeaways may differ.

The episode features an interview with Aakriti Joanna of Kaha Mind, an online counselling service provider. Neha Mathews is the interviewer.

There are three areas they cover that was of interest to me – myself, relationships and work.

Self

Aakriti says that taking care of yourself first is the most important thing to do right now. We may be anxious about the future but there isn’t much we can do about it. The only thing we have control over is the present. For doing this, she first suggests maintaining healthy habits during the lockdown (waking up on time, exercising, staying hydrated etc.) that you may have had in the time before the lockdown. She suggests tracking where you are, having a basic to-do list and not comparing yourself with others.

There are several challenges on social media and advertisements to make yourself better on social media and other online channels. Aakriti says that we are just doing our best to survive this crisis and not participating in any of these online social media challenges does not make us any worse.

Relationships

Aakriti says that we are currently spending an inordinate amount of time with someone (spouse, relative or friends) whom we may or may not like. This is not something that we are used to. To survive this phase, Aakriti suggests that the only key is open respectful communication. She suggests being open about letting the other people know when you are not feeling well. In case of fights, she suggests that we focus on finding solutions rather than winning the argument.

In case friends are involved, Aakriti suggests checking in with them once in a while. She suggests we remain respectful about communication and don’t over do it.

Different people are coping with the situation in different ways.

Work

Neha shares an important message that is being shared on social media now-a-days among people who are working from home.. “You are not working from home. You are at home during a crisis trying your best to work.”

Aakriti adds that circumstances have changed a lot but expectations at work have not. People are trying to be as productive at work as they were when they travelled and went to a physical office. She suggests that our productivity during a crisis may suffer but the impact may change as per the nature of our work.

Coping Mechanisms

There are two sets of exercises that Aakriti suggests for creating an awareness of the present. She suggests that the present is the only thing we have control over. The exercises she suggests helps us come back to the present.

The first exercise is a practice called Grounding. Aakriti suggests we do this with a practice called boxed breathing. The exercise can be done any time we feel anxious but also good to practice it before we go to sleep or after we wake up. The exercise involves counting to 4 while we breathe in, hold the breath and breathe out.

The second exercise is the five senses exercise. She suggests a simplified form where we limit ourselves to observing using just one sense. For example, the smell of a scented candle or applying body lotion to sense how it feels on our skin. It could be anything related to sight, smell, taste, touch or hearing.

Another practice that Aakriti suggests is gratitude. By this, Aakriti says, she means being grateful for the little things. She suggests that we don’t force ourselves to be grateful but observe the little things that we could be grateful for. She says that this practice leads to a sense of feeling connected to others.

Counselling

Neha ends the show by suggesting that taking counselling or therapy has become easier now-a-days with online counselling becoming available. Many such online platforms also accept pay-as-you-can offerings if you are not able to afford it. Aakriti says therapy can help anyone who is not able to perform their daily functions properly.

Working from Home

For the past three weeks, I have been working from home. We are faced with a global pandemic that, as on today, has affected more than 5,00,000 people all across the globe and more than 800 people in India. My work place allowed us to work from home during the period. The period of work from home was extended after the Prime Minister of India announced a 21-day national lock down.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Before I got to work from home, schools and colleges shut down. Then IT companies in Pune asked its employees to work from home. Our fiber optic cable based internet provider faced issues for a few days but seems to have stabilized two days into the 21 day lock down. Over the last few days, there have been power outages where I had to switch to my Jio hotspot to access the Internet to continue to work.

My nearly 3 year old daughter does not understand why things are shut down. The concept of a lock down is alien to her. Her explanation for why the school is shut is that her teacher is asleep. At the rate at which the lock down is getting extended, I think her class teacher will soon compete with Kumbhakarna.

Despite having heard podcasts about working from home and having read various articles and online websites about working from home, I did not find myself prepared for this transition. Since we live in a 2 bedroom apartment, I was able to assign one bedroom for me. However, it has been getting more and more difficult to demarcate work time and home time. They have been fluid so far.

Internet speed and power outages have affected my productivity besides the usual transition time to getting used to a new setting. Focusing on work when you can hear your family members next door is difficult. I have been getting better at tuning out the noise as time passes.

A few months back, I had started listening to the Distributed podcast started by Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress, that powers this blog) that spoke of how to re-imagine the work place of the future when everyone was at home. His company, Automattic is totally distributed.

Om Malik, founder of GigaOm, wrote a piece a few days back about working from home. The article links to further resources that might help in your quest to work from home. He had started a website called WebWorkerDaily way back in 2006 to think about the distributed future of our work place.