Are you really fine?
We are so used to saying ‘I am fine’ when anyone asks ‘How are you?’, but the reality is that no one is fine right now.
In the last couple of years, especially after the pandemic, there has been a sharp rise in mental and emotional health issues, many of which are undiagnosed or unrecognized even.
When should you see a doctor?
The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease. While physical well- being (or lack of it) is easier to recognize, mental well- being is easier to hide or deny or ignore till it gets really bad. Sleep problems, depression and anxiety are more common in women than men and if you are in your 50s, there is the entire menopause to deal with, as well as the stress around children’s education and then the ‘empty nest syndrome’.
Here are some signs that you should see a doctor or a mental health specialist:
- If you are feeling sad and hopeless nearly every day, for most of the day.
- If you have experienced a loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy (hobbies,
sex/masturbation, going out with friends, watching TV).
- If you have experienced changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little, early
morning awakening, or difficulty falling asleep).
- If you have experienced unintended weight loss or weight gain, appetite loss, or constant
overeating for comfort.
- If you are feeling tired nearly every day, for most of the day, and lack energy for daily
- If you are having difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions.
- If you are having persistent aches, pains, headaches, or digestive problems that do not get
better with treatment.
- If you are feeling guilty, helpless, or worthless.
- If you have thoughts about death, self-harm, suicide, or have attempted suicide.
Remember that being in a sad or unhappy mood for a couple of hours is very different from clinical depression. Changing moods are fine but ongoing depression is not something a person will just “snap out of.” It needs medical attention and care and therapy. Please find a psychiatrist or a counsellor to talk to. There is help and healing available that can support you through these difficult times.
What can I do if I am just feeling unhappy and frustrated?
There are many some small things we can all do to keep the stresses from affecting us too much. Get to know the Big Four hormones that affect our mood and what you can do to manage that.
This is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness and the most effective and natural way to pump it up is by exercising. Go out on the terrace, across the street or in a garden. This has the double benefit of being outdoors and also some physical exercise.
If you can’t go outside, jog in place, listen to a Bollywood song and dance, and run up and down the stairs. Anything that makes you out of breath a little and makes you sweat a little is good.
Other things that also boost serotonin are bright lights and looking at happy images. This could be cat videos, pandas playing, dance videos, or old Black & White era songs.
Eat a banana daily, if you like it. It has lots of micronutrients that help boost all these hormones!
Get a soothing oil massage if you can. Make sure you take all your vitamins regularly—B-
complex, Vit. D 3.
It promotes positive feelings like pleasure, happiness, and even love. If you are praised at work for doing a good job, you’ll get a good dopamine hit, resulting in feelings of well-being.
If you don’t have anyone around you who offers you daily encouragement and appreciation, remember there is always the woman in the mirror! Smile at her every day, as often as you can, and give her a high five and say Good job! Well done!
Boost your dopamine by setting small realistic goals and achieving them—such as tidying your desk or sticking to your workout schedule or clearing out one drawer/ cupboard every weekend.
Buy a sheet of small golden stickers and give yourself a sticker every day when you accomplish something. Our kindergarten teachers knew what they were doing!
You can also boost dopamine with regular exercise, listening to cheerful music, and connecting with people whose company you enjoy.
It is often called “the love hormone.” Spending time with loved ones and being kind to others stimulates oxytocin. Watch a movie together, plan a party, research for gift ideas for someone you love.
Eating in a group causes higher levels of oxytocin release than if you eat alone. If you have a pet who you can cuddle or a child that hugs you often then those are the best sources of love hormone spikes!
Virginia Satir, a world-renowned family therapist, is famous for saying “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
If you don’t have a kid or a pet, cuddle a pillow!
This is an easy one to create –watch a comedy, eat dark chocolate, and get a massage!
Happiness is not the Goal. Happiness is the Path!
There are so many ways to build small moments of happiness and joy in your day even in the midst of this divorce trauma and chaos. Being sad and dejected is not going to make it better nor is being able to smile in the midst of this chaos somehow going to bring bad luck to the way things are progressing.
Be conscious of the day unfolding and find ways to stay connected to your core and the power of your own life. Be grateful for the grace of a blessing from someone elderly who is supporting you with the situation. Accept the generosity of a hurried but heartfelt call from a friend who wants you to know she is there for you no matter what.
Plant some seeds, or get some potted plants, water them, nurture them, and watch them grow, slowly and steadily, taking energy from the Sun and the soil and creating themselves daily.
Appreciate that you are doing the same for yourself.