With the pandemic and various life stressors continuing to invoke varied emotions, experts have underlined the need to declutter the minds. One dominant suggestion is to follow a simple routine to keep yourself active throughout the day. It is important to clip off some of the bitter thoughts seeping the minds.
Louisa May Alcott once said “Intoeach life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and sad and dreary.”
Filipina expat Mj Maria Uy Lami-in, who worked as a socio-civic HR consultant among other things, in the UAE for the past 15 years, underlined that stress is any outside force that we let in to effect and get to us-that is, if we let it in, and to what degree.
When asked how she usually de-stresses, she said that she keeps herself occupied of 'affecting' her.
"I keep my mind and body occupied with something more important than my current problems," she said.
Some may call it avoidance, but it's actually a temporary rerouting and regrouping of her mental and physical resources until she regains the stamina and mental capacity to face and cope with her actual stressor. Some professionals may not find it practical, but it works for me, she added.
"Look nice, feel good is still valid. It's not deception. It's a step in the right direction. Why wallow in your misery on the exterior when you're already miserable inside?" the expat added.
A shift in societal consciousness
One benefit of our contemporary era is that we are talking about mental health issues more frequently — and more openly. The issue of mental health and 'being' in that place, according to Mj Maria, has always been evident.
"What has changed in our societal thinking is the shift in what is now openly acceptable. It is now more acceptable and even expected to talk about mental
health and one's own mental wellbeing, much like many of the other's socially relevant topics' of the last decade or so," she pointed out.
On being asked about how she manages regrets and expectations, she says, "Hope for the best, expect the worst."
According to her, in today's circumstances, people's priorities and perspectives have evolved.
"And it has in my case. I've reached the age and maturity where I'm more appreciative and grateful for what I've been given in life and how I've survived and manifested favours every day. Yes, it's wonderful to hope for and dream of big things, but we also need a practical and realistic balance of life realities to avoid being disappointed by false expectations," she added.
When questioned how an individual is expected to deal with these challenges on their own, Mj Maria pointed out that there is no right or wrong answer.
"Some would push more for what they believe in. Depending on who is vocal, more visible and gets it out there. There was a time in my life I was easily rattled; on career, relationships, finances and people’s opinions. I felt so alone and very scared. But I kept it all inside because of generational social expectations and pressure. I guess I might be of one of the last generation wherein we were conditioned to keep ‘our mess, our perceived weaknesses in’. To keep a brave and strong face for everyone else except ourselves because that is how it was done. I was even afraid to ask for help or open up. We were conditioned to be that way," she added.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio, one of Hollywood's biggest success stories, revealed that his anxiety stems from the minor things, the "truly foolish stuff, things that shouldn't make you uncomfortable at all."
"It's amazing how your mind can turn into a database to make you worry about arbitrary things. My life is well-organized, and I've given much care to the things I do, and then, you know, my stomach will be. I'll simply be sitting there, completely worried about something absurd. 'It's just not worth it,' you have to tell yourself during the day."
A stress-relieving kit
London-based Priya Chandan has evolved her own method of dealing with gloomy thoughts and seeking a bright, secure spot in the sun in London. She was born and raised in Mumbai, India, but now considers London her home, where she has resided for 16 years
with her husband, three children, and their pet dog.
Priya resolved to do something once her third child was born that would give her a sense of purpose in life.
"I found a foundation course in counseling and four years later, I'm working on my Level 4 diploma in integrative counselling," she said.
She describes herself as a proponent of self-love and self-care, and she firmly thinks that "you can't pour from an empty cup."
"My family is my top concern in life, and if I struggle and burn out, I won't be able to offer them the love and attention that I so much want to shower them with," she added.
Mental health has recently become a popular topic, perhaps as a result of the realisation that mental health encompasses not only mental well-being but also physical, emotional, and social well-being — in other words, your whole well-being.
For Priya, everyone has been forced to slow down the pace of their lives, to reflect and take that long overdue reality check. She believes that the pandemic has resulted in the loss of more than just loved ones.
"People were compelled to reconsider their lives prior to the pandemic," Priya added.
"I believe it dawned on individuals at some point that it was essentially a burnout from the rush and bustle of life."
For a lot of people, the pandemic offered a new perspective on how to 'live' rather than just 'exist' with the gift of life. For Priya, the pandemic has given people a new lease on life by allowing them to make conscious decisions. Choices that bring worth to this new life and it's critical to nourish and replenish one's own cup of self-care for this reason.
Priya has created her own personalised, go-to self care tool pack to help her walk the talk whenever she gets overwhelmed.
"I understand that one size does not fit everyone. When you're frustrated or burned out, you can construct your own kit out of anything you actually enjoy doing," she added.
From long walks to help control emotions and spending time with nature to driving and listening to music and podcasts, she had a lot of tools in her kit to help people overcome stressful environment.
"I find that talking to relatives and friends helps me to relax. Journaling is one of the most useful items in my survival kit: writing down my thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper has shown to be really beneficial. If you're concerned that someone might read them, put your thoughts on paper, shred it, or even burn it. Whatever is bothering you, get it out of your system, onto paper, and let it go. Crying is one of the most effective self-soothing methods for improving my mood. Crying does not indicate that you are overly sensitive or vulnerable. Crying helps restore emotional balance and soothes the psyche by releasing toxins and stress hormones," she recommends.
Priya also suggests devoting one hour a day (or even just 20 minutes) to yourself, to sit with your feelings, and to reacquaint yourself with the new you.
Positivity's Potential Unleashed
Ahmed Mohammed Younis, a quality engineer in the United Arab Emirates, has developed his own method of dealing with stress.
"Stress can wreak havoc on the mind in a variety of ways. When it comes to me, I try my hardest to confront and overcome this by pinpointing exactly what is stressing me out and determining why this is impacting me. This aids me in determining what I should do next to de-stress. Furthermore, I engage in activities that benefit me, such as spending time with my friends and discussing positive topics that can stimulate me, going to the gym and working out," Ahmed said.
According to him, stress cannot be totally avoided. So, there is a need for seeking out coping techniques and develop effective strategies for dealing with it in a healthy and productive manner.
"We need to be kinder to ourselves as well." Fortunately, there are now many professionals who can assist us in making great life changes using methods that are tailored to our needs. We are sometimes our own harshest critics.
He sums up his life lessons by saying, "We have to learn to be gentler to ourselves and accept adversities in life as a learning process."
Stress is here to stay, and as we handle our careers and relationships — with all of their good, terrible, and ugly sides — we must understand that stress and demons do exist in our minds. But it's more necessary to talk about them and, on occasion, seek assistance in order to clear our brains and hearts of negativity.