The human body gets sick and so can a human mind. For a healthy and fulfilled life, optimal state of mental health is just as important as physical health. Health is not a constant construct and is followed by illness. Among the most pronounced mental disorders are depression and anxiety. These are more prevalent in women than men.
Your sadness is telling you that something needs to be changed. Your anxiety might be alarming you about some catastrophe that happened to you in the past and you have developed a fear of it. You need to ask yourself, “What am I thinking?”
Depression is the most common mental disorder throughout the world. It is one of the most common disorders in Pakistan as well. So, the question here is: What are depression and anxiety and how to deal with these?
Depression is a condition which comes with constant feelings of sadness and hopelessness, irritability and negative thoughts about one’s life, world and future. It can have an impact over your physical health due to its effect on appetite and sleep. People in this state might think their own lives as worthless and can have suicidal thoughts, and sometimes even plans for taking their life that they might act on. Altogether, it has a debilitating impact on the quality of life.
Anxiety, on the other hand is, when a person gets fearful and has excessive apprehensions about future. The constant fear of future or what might happen sucks the energy out of them. Anxiety makes a person think of the worst possible things that could happen within their surroundings. It stops a person from experiencing life, moving forward and doing the things they used to do. It impacts the functionality and relationships of a person.
Anxiety and depression are found to be more prevalent in young housewives of Pakistan of low socio-economic strata, who are unemployed, with young children to take care of and who live in a joint family system. Other reasons could be a lack of financial autonomy and security. These factors might increase the risk of depression in women. Self-care and individual growth might get hampered in this environment.
Other than environmental factors, genetic predisposition to mental illness might also contribute to depression and anxiety along with a poor skillset to cope with daily stressors, major life changes and traumatic experiences.
Every illness has a cure or management mechanisms. Same goes with depression and anxiety. So, let’s focus our attention on ways to identify and cope with it. If you see yourself or someone else facing signs mentioned above, you must pay attention to them. Educate yourself and others about these signs. Help of a mental health professional should be sought. Be a good listener to the person who is going through such condition without invalidating their experiences or telling them that they are being ungrateful or complaining. It might be exhausting at times so a lot of patience is required.
If you are going through such symptoms yourself, work upon effective coping skills. Practice deep breathing and meditation, take a walk, talk to a friend and ask them to check on you every now and then. Start taking baby steps towards the activities that used to make you happy but you no longer engage in. It could be reading books, watching movies, listening to music, connecting with your spirituality, social work or visiting someone you have not seen for some time. You might feel drained and completely unmotivated but you can try to start from the smallest step you can take for your well-being. Talk to people who care about you. Emotional ventilation is necessary for a healthy life, so keep talking to people and stay connected with loved ones.
Thoughts of a person going through anxiety or depression become dysfunctional and negative. You might get thoughts that you or your life, are worthless. However, thoughts are not facts; they are opinions your mind builds based upon the experiences you had. Becoming aware of your emotions and naming them for yourself can help reduce your distress. Stop and ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” You might be having multiple feelings at the same time. Understand that all human emotions are natural messengers that are trying to send you a message. Your sadness is telling you that something needs to be changed. Your anxiety might be alarming you about some catastrophe that happened to you in the past and you have developed a fear of it. You need to ask yourself, “What am I thinking? Do I need to believe this thought or should I question its validity?” Try to counter your negative thoughts with the evidence against them from your real life. Give yourself positive self-affirmations. Self-talk is a strong tool to help you through depression and anxiety. Negative self-talk and mental chatter, when caught through reflection, is substituted by positive alternative, and has the ability to shift the mood and improve well-being in the longer run. For instance, if your mind is telling you, “I am not good enough.” You might stop and say, “What can I say to my friend if she was saying this to herself?” Use the compassion you use for others with yourself. You are just as worthy of your love and care as the people around you. Little moments of reflection, connecting and bonding with people, and telling yourself that you are not alone and help is there, can be helpful. You have the choice to let the past or future drive your life, or make a better choice to seek help to let go and be a free person who lives in the present. However, depression and anxiety of clinical significance need to be treated by mental health professionals. The tips given above are not a substitute for professional help. HH
The writer is a clinical psychologist.
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