“What Will People Say”: Let’s Neglect our Health under that Premise
This is not what I wanted to write about next, but given the recent developments in my life, felt compelled to.
Covid has been a huge challenge to the patients’ physical health, but have you as a patient or a caregiver felt mentally weak or sometimes even exhausted? I do understand that some things are not in our control, but let’s control what we can so that the pandemic doesn’t cause us more damage than it already is causing.
So many people have reached out to me during this time to guide them towards mental health professionals and resources. And I am so thankful for that. That you are aware enough to understand what you need, and that you reached out to someone for it.
See, mental health is still a taboo in this country and maybe worldwide. But whoever ignores their mental health because “log kya kahengae”, I just give them the following analogy — when you have chest pain, do you sit at home doing nothing, or do you actually go consult a doctor? And what if that doctor’s treatment isn’t working? Do you still feel reluctant because “what will people say”, or do you change doctors/treatments till you find the proper treatment? And why do you seek the right treatment and relief so rigorously when it comes to physical health? I know the answer. It’s because:
- You’re scared you may die if you don’t seek proper timely treatment (as chest pain could mean heart problems)
- You’re not scared of being judged by people/society if you seek treatment (what’s the issue, if one is unwell, one seeks treatment. Who will judge that?)
Just imagine that if you are facing mental health issues, and due to your neglect, they worsen and become so bad that they impact your ability to lead a normal life, hold a job, spend meaningful time with your loved ones, celebrate, travel etc. And don’t think that worsened mental health won’t result in death, do you know the suicide stats of our country? As per this article, there were 381 suicides daily in India in 2019. And I really don’t understand why one should be judged for seeking treatment if one is unwell, it beats me how this culture ever got reinforced.
Now coming to the pandemic situation, if you are feeling bored, lonely, alone, exhausted, that you can’t seem to say No/take a break, you are definitely not alone.
1. What the lockdown is causing is for us to just work and sleep with work in our heads. All our sources of recreation — movies, restaurants, pubs, gyms, dance clubs, art clubs, yoga centres, shopping malls — everything that can help us relax, are closed. And hence, we are literally just only working. Please join online recreations, it’s not the same as being in a room full of people who share the same interest, to be able to speak with them, share that energy, but something’s better than nothing. Please don’t have work as the first and the last thing you do in your day. Also, physical exercise and meditation helps. I preach but don’t practise many a times, but do try to a little bit. Exercise helps release endorphins — the happy hormones, meditation and other recreational activities help you focus on one thing only, hence helping you relax. Breathing exercises help reduce your stress response through activating your PNS.
2. What lockdown is also causing is loneliness. As an introvert and as a result of years of conditioning as a female in the Indian society, I would always think many many times before ‘disturbing’ anyone. Believe you me, so many, and I mean it, so many of us feel lonely without even realising it. Just pick up that phone and text or call anyone.
3. And also as a result of the pandemic, so many of us are seeing our loved ones suffer, and feeling helpless. Uncertainty is a prime stressor, as is helplessness. While the world is worrying about those who have covid, what about those people who are taking care of these people? Take care of them, but also take care of yourself. Again remember that some things may be under your control, some not; you need to put in only as much effort as you feel you can, don’t unnecessarily push yourself. Don’t feel 100% responsible for anyone, and don’t feel guilty. I just lost a classmate to this. He was a lovely guy, and I can’t believe that this pandemic should shorten his time on earth like this. Again, it will not be right to say that he didn’t succumb to ill health, he did, and we must acknowledge that. I want to apologise if my writing about him is inappropriate in any manner, I felt very moved by this, and just wanted to ensure to contribute, through my writing, to helping save another life, if not his. In some way, he is helping us all even in his absence.
4. And lastly, what about work? For organisations which are treating this as ‘work-as-usual’ or worse, ‘work-more-than-usual’, I can only urge you to again remember that changing the organisation’s policy may not be under your control, but it’s not that you have no control in this situation. You draw your own boundaries, know when to respectfully say no, when to take your time and space. In you were to succumb to ill health, your organisation will take 15–45 days to fill the position you leave vacant, your family will never be able to fill it. Even if career is your first priority and family or other things are secondary, I don’t judge; but remember that a healthy body (including mind) is the basic necessity for a fantastic career.
On 15 April this year, I lost my Grandfather, my nanu. I received a call from my sister around 2:30pm regarding the same. Around the same time, I was trying to find a hospital bed for an employee & his mother (I’m in HR, for those who don’t know). That was our first employee hospitalisation case. I knew I had lost my nanu, I also knew that by the time I reach the hospital, in at least 2–2.5hrs, his last rites would have been performed and I will anyway not get to see him (he succumbed to covid). I took a call, to save the life I could. I stayed at work, kept searching for beds and coordinating with various stakeholders involved in this process. And we were finally able to get him & his mother hospitalised, so that they received proper care, and are doing much better now. I left from work that evening and went home and subsequently each day went home (I stay in a State adjacent to my home, so can travel to work daily if need be, though it’s slightly exhausting). My mother was grieving for a long time, there wasn’t much I could do, but give her the comfort of having her daughter close by. Anyway, weeks later when I was trying to sleep one night, it hit me, that I don’t have any grandparent anymore. He was keeping a whole generation in existence in our family. I chose work then, but I have chosen to take leaves to take care of my loved ones and myself whenever need be.
Remember to always draw your own boundaries whether at work or in a relationship, know what you can and can’t control, and indulge in self-care and recreation. And if you feel that you may be facing the onset of some mental health problem, feel free to reach out to me for resources.