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" A sound mind in a sound body"

November 10, 2016

 

“Mens sana in corpore sano” is a famous Latin quotation, which translates as “A sound mind in a sound body.” Since times immemorial, physicians have laid stress on mental wellbeing for a healthy existence. In more contemporary times, the World Health Organization has come to define health as “a state of physical, mental and spiritual well-being and not merely as an absence of a disease or infirmity”. The link between physical and mental health never was – and never will be a mystery. As we “seethe” with rage, “get consumed” with sorrow or “tremble” with fear, it tells on our bodies. When our mental health is poor, it can affect our entire body and play a role in the development of other physical ailments. Just as we care for our bodies, we should care for our minds so that we can lead healthier, happier and more productive lives. However, the sad paradox of post-modern existence is that with economic development, more and more people are willing to sink thousands of rupees towards medical care, but ignore the disorders of the mind such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse. In society, we discuss our physical ailments such as diabetes or hypertension with great pride – they are seen as the cross we bear for our contribution to the working world. But when it comes to psychiatric illness, our attitude changes. The word “mental” is ingrained in everybody’s mind as something taboo, something that has to be ignored, brushed aside and not spoken about or something that happens to other people.

 

One such silent killer is stress. India’s booming economy and the rapid industrialization and urbanization that have come in its wake have changed the family structure. It has also quietly ushered in an epidemic of stress-related disorders. Every one of us has experienced stress in life sometime or the other. Chronic stress can give us headaches, make us feel tired, angry, affect our eating pattern as well as our sleep pattern. Stress has also been linked with some leading causes of death such as heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents and suicide. Mental health is thus an essential part of each individual’s overall health and wellbeing.

 

According to the world health report (2013), about 168,304 adults worldwide and about 20% of children adolescents worldwide suffer from disabling mental health problems and half of all lifetime causes of mental disorders start by age 14. In India, about 16-20,000 adults suffer from some mental disorder and about 12.8% of children between 1-6 years suffer from some mental health problem. Most prominent problems of mental health are anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and dementia. Though in some cases there may be an organic cause to all these problems, anxiety and depression are as treatable as physical illness. Finding healthy ways to cope with life’s challenges can lower the risks of mental health and other health problems.

Here are some steps to keep your mind healthy.

 

DEVELOP YOUR OWN ASSESSMENT PLAN: 

Managing stress is a dynamic process since the demands and pressures are constantly changing. The most important way of dealing with stress is to be aware of it. Identify your main stressors, depending on the degree at which these stressors affect you. Monitor your signs and symptoms arising from a stressful situation and assess your response to it. Assessing your reactions from time to time is a good way to make you aware of the affectivity of your coping styles.

 

IMPROVE COPING STYLES: 

Once you are aware of your stressors, it is easier for you to cope with them when the need arises. However, since the demands keep changing it is good to have some coping styles handy which could help you to handle general pressures.

 

  1. Reduce and increase demands:

    • Too many changes in a short duration of time can tax our ability to cope resulting in distress. Monitor the events taking place in your life and try to avoid too many changes in a short span of time.

    • Learn to say ‘no’. Whatever the situation may be if you take on more responsibilities than you can handle then you are likely to feel pressured, harassed and rushed and your performance will be affected.

    • Organize your life, prioritize and be realistic about what you can achieve. In this way there are more chances of your fulfilling your expectations and dreams. When expectations are achieved, self-esteem is high which will help you deal with stress more effectively.

    • Sometimes we feel that there is very little stimulation and not enough challenges in life. In such a situation, you could plan your schedule for the day, take up a hobby or pastime, join some evening class, and join a voluntary organization.

Recharge your batteries: Relaxation is a time when the body gets rejuvenated. There are a number of ways to relax your body for example, yoga, meditation and progressive relaxation techniques. Many of these procedures have to be learnt and practiced regularly and although very effective, magical, instant results should not be expected as it takes some time before the benefits of these procedures can be experienced.

 

  1. Reviewing lifestyle: Correct lifestyle helps build resistance to stress. If you are healthy and fit you will feel good about yourself, your self-esteem will be high, and you will be less irritable, angry and hostile. To review your lifestyle, you have to look into your

    • Diet- Eat a well balanced diet.

    • Use of stimulants (caffeine and nicotine) – Reduce caffeine intake, reduce or stop smoking.

    • Alcohol consumption- Keep consumption within recommended limits. Avoid drinking sprees.

    • Weight – Aim to maintain your ideal body weight, try balancing energy consumed and energy spent and exercise everyday.

    • Sleep – Getting enough sleep may be the simplest way to recharge your system. The quality of sleep is more important than the quantity of sleep. Try to get adequate rest and set a sleep routine.

 

Reducing Type A behavior: Type A individuals through their beliefs, attitudes and habits frequently perceive situations as threatening and challenging when no threat exists. Most of us have some degree of Type A behavior which make us vulnerable to stress. Some ways to reduce Type A behavior would be to try to tackle one task at a time and enjoy your work, avoid getting angry at things you have no control over, accept the mistakes of yourself and others, avoid creating unnecessary deadlines, practice being a good listener and last of all play games for fun and not only to win.

 

Improving personal life skills: Research indicates that people who are deprived or get less of love and support succumb to health problems more easily than those with high levels of love and support. Try improving your interpersonal skills, share with family and friends. Enhance your self-esteem by thinking positively about yourself, learn to be assertive. Learn to smile, laugh and try developing a sense of humor.

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© 2016  Dr Neerja Thergaonkar, PhD. All rights reserved.