As life begins to resume around the country, the ‘new normal’ might seem to be a frightening, if not a stressful affair to many. Whilst some find it difficult to get back to work after being at home for two months, there are others who do not have a job to return to. In these [...]


Being mindful of our mental health


Chalana pic courtesy Dilanjan Seneviratne

As life begins to resume around the country, the ‘new normal’ might seem to be a frightening, if not a stressful affair to many. Whilst some find it difficult to get back to work after being at home for two months, there are others who do not have a job to return to. In these instances, one’s mental wellbeing plays a key role.

This week we spoke to Chalana Wijesuriya, a Psychologist and Anissa Sameer, the founder of ‘Choose to thrive’, a health and wellness-oriented organization. They gave us an insight on how to stay positive as life post Covid-19 begins.

Chalana works at the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and is also a partner at ‘The Ohana Project’, a community mental health initiative. He like many of us, remembers reading an article about Covid-19. But did not think it would impact the entire world in the way it did.

When it comes to resuming normalcy, Chalana believes the life we should go back to, should not be the same as before. Rather, it should be centred around awareness, an understanding of our surroundings and our impact towards the environment.

One must also be more cautious and understand that COVID-19 is still present, and we move onto a time where we must live with it.

Chalana feels the first few days of resuming work might be challenging, since it may bring new changes. But he believes this will be less challenging than the time we spent in quarantine.

The shutdowns also meant people losing their jobs, which makes it an exceedingly difficult time for them. But we are entering a new age where business environments have also gone through a change. And Chalana verily believes that it would be beneficial to not simply go back to what you used to do.

But, understanding the market and tapping into what the people want might be more lucrative than before.

From a psychological perspective, Chalana believes that staying positive, is not something anyone can tell you to do. Because what one person would find positive, might not be so to someone else.

On the contrary though, it is important to understand what aspects of your life make you happy, the work that you are motivated to do and focus on them.

But you should also be cautious not to resort to unhealthy behaviours in a bid to be happy. Because this may have an impact on your mental and physical health.

“What is important is to understand that it is ok for you to feel negative or positive emotions in times like this,” he says.

How a person can take care of their emotional wellbeing, is by first understanding that this situation is a novel one. And as such it can trigger certain emotions. But, it’s important to realize you’re not alone in worrying about this.

Anissa pic courtesy Shifani Reffa

And as he puts it, focusing on what you have a control of will be more beneficial than something that you have no control of. For example, relying on accurate news sources, practicing the social guidelines, physical distancing and personal hygiene are things that you CAN do.

Next up was Anissa Sameer, who is a writer and a creative consultant. Her organization ‘Choose to Thrive’ aims at hosting several events and webinars to help people better themselves.

Anissa’s personal experience with depression inspired her to want to make a difference and speak out to help dismantle the stigma, particularly in the context of work and relationships.

“We live in world where people prioritize physical wellbeing over mental wellbeing, not realizing that the two need to work together in order for someone to be a healthy functioning individual,” she explains.

Her hope is that by sharing her story, she could help those in her position realise they are not alone.

As we adjust to the new normal, Anissa feels it’s pivotal for employers to be cognizant of their employee’s mental health and wellbeing. Companies need to do their best to help their staff, especially during a time like this because a person could be dealing with a lot.

Anissa herself went into a state of anxiety and fear that the curfew situation could affect her health and also work. The manner in which businesses were to function had changed. “I myself lost work and I wasn’t prepared for that at all,” she recalls. Her existing clients were also in a state of panic with the fear of salary cuts etc.

Her experience made her realise it’s important for people to take care of their mental well-being now more than ever. “We are each fighting our own battles,” she explains, adding that if someone you know is struggling mentally and opens up to you, it’s best to let empathy guide your response to them.

“Depression does not have a face.”

Anissa is also a huge advocate of therapy and believes that if you know someone who is in a perilous state, they should be encouraged to seek professional help. “There’s a trend of people offering unscientific, alternative solutions to serious mental health issues. Since it’s such a misunderstood topic, it’s important we are aware of who to take advice from,” she says.

Personally, Anissa is not someone who believes in forcing people to be positive. She feels it’s important to come to a realisation that whatever negative emotions you are feeling right now are valid.

Stressful situations and events such as the ongoing global pandemic and the ensuing uncertainty have left a lot of us anxious and in fear. But this is a normal response to a stressful situation.

It is however important that we learn to cope with these feelings while not forcing ourselves to be positive if we are genuinely not in that place.

These days Anissa finds herself writing in her journal. She would spend a lot of time with her thoughts- listening to each of them- the good, the bad, the ugly.

“I validate what I am feeling and while I am not in a place at the moment that is all sunshine and rainbows, being real and patient with myself is helping me progress a little more day by day,” she says.

It’s important to realize that at the end of the day, we are all facing this together. And if things do become overwhelming one could also seek help from Organizations such as, Sumithrayo, Shanthi Margam etc.

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