Tamanna (name changed), 34 years old, young successful entrepreneur, lives with her family including her husband, daughter, parents-in- law and brother- in- law. Her day begins early with getting her daughter ready for school, preparing her breakfast, delegating chores and leaving instructions for the house staff. She loves her work and is naturally good at it.
Her entire family is extremely supportive of her business venture. She travels for work almost twice in a month and when she is away; her husband takes care of their daughter. Evenings are mostly spent with the family at home or going out over the weekends. Each year, they take around two long family holidays. She has her set of close friends but due to work and family commitments they do not meet as often as they’d like. It is a busy life!
Everyone who knows Tamanna, says she’s lucky to have such a life. A loving husband, supportive family, successful businesswoman yet if you ask her, she only smiles, ruefully. There is something within that doesn’t ‘feel’ right to her. There are times when she is unable to sleep at night. She describes it as a ‘disturbed, restless sleep’. During the same time, there are days when, for no apparent reason, she is irritable, high strung and could cry at the drop of a hat. No, this isn’t the time she is PMSing!
She starts to withdraw from work, family and friends. It is her husband who would then send their daughter to school and help her with the homework as Tamanna has little energy to get out of the bed. She would not go for exercise or play in the park with her daughter (she usually looks forward to it). According to her, these are ‘just phases’. Her husband describes it as occasional stress that is a part of modern life. After some days, Tamanna is back on the usual tracks of life and so is everyone else, around her.
A chance meeting with a psychologist at a party where she decided to take her card, a phone call, the next day and an appointment date fixed in the following week, was what helped Tamanna realize that her ‘occasional stressful phase’ was more than just that.
She was probably dealing with a mood condition that needed clinical attention than simply waiting it out to get better on its own. In her therapy sessions, she revealed that she has been experiencing bouts of low mood for more than three years now and they have been worsening over time. They have become more frequent and severe in its intensity. In fact, there were days when she would want to run away from everything and want to end her life. “Of course, I could never tell this to anyone.”
After a thorough psychological assessment, a treatment plan was started for Tamanna which included a combination of psychotherapy along with a mild dose of an antidepressant. Gradually, her moods became better with improved sleep and an increased ability to function healthily.
Tamanna’s story could be anyone’s story and more often than not, it is not understood correctly. It is because most of us have little understanding of emotional health and well-being. It is our lack of awareness that breeds ill-health and leads to its further deterioration. By the time help is sought, it is late, making treatment far more long drawn and tedious with the possibility of a poor prognosis. All this can change, if we are more aware and sensitive to subtle signs of mood disturbance and how it affects the individual at a broader level. Additionally, learning what would keep us emotionally healthy and happy can be extremely useful in the long run.
A few points to ensure your mental well-being –
Maintaining healthy eating habits – Nutrition is the most important yet the least attended to element in our lives. Aim for a balanced diet that is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. A healthy body is a place for a healthy mind.
Avoid alcohol, drugs and smoking – Refrain from such habit forming substances as they produce a negative effect on mood. Often, people indulge in them as a way of coping with stress but eventually, they become the factors that maintain the illness.
Aim for a restful sleep – 6 to 8 hours of sleep is considered optimum for most adults. Ensure that you are able to clock in the requisite number of hours every day. Create a sleep ritual that prepares the mind to switch off for example, taking a shower, changing into your nightwear, turning off the lights, putting your gadgets away, listening to some soothing music to calm yourself etc.
Regular exercise – Unfortunately this is the most neglected aspect from our daily lives. Physical exercise in any form such as brisk walk, jogging, running, aerobics, dance is known to release chemicals that are responsible for naturally uplifting our mood. Start with a 20 – 30 minutes regime and gradually build it to 60 minutes of daily exercise.
Meditation / deep breathing / yoga – Research has shown that deep abdominal breathing is the key to maintaining a relaxed state of mind. Daily 10 minutes of deep breathing can have a marked effect in soothing the nerves that aid in improved sleep and reducing the level of tension and anxiety, thereby, having a positive effect on one’s mood.
Follow a routine – Having a healthy routine has a huge benefit in instilling a sense of control and stability to one’s life. We often find that those who do not have a routine constantly feel a sense of restlessness or a deep feeling of boredom that leads to self – doubt, worthlessness and hopelessness.
Seek professional help if your personal, social or occupational functioning is getting affected. For instance, any mood shift that continues for a period of two weeks or more causing sleep and / or appetite disturbance, reduced interest in daily activities, energy level, crying spells, social withdrawal, difficulty in concentration and suicidal thoughts should not be ignored or taken lightly. These are possibly signs of a psychological or psychiatric condition for which one must seek a clinician’s opinion. Medication, psychotherapy or newer treatments like Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation are some of the different modalities currently available.
Remember, there is no shame in asking for help.
– Dr Sanjay Chugh is a senior consultant neuro-psychiatrist based in New Delhi.
– Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.