Stress is like reverse-oxygen — it slowly, silently, kills. Therefore, it must be taken seriously, and to reach out is to self-preserve.
A certain conclave organised by a prominent magazine that concluded this weekend, had a most topical panel on anxiety and stress. The most insidious epidemic of our times that is said to be the cause for all disease today — even the one with the big ‘C’ — or stress, surreptitiously makes its way into our lives, much before we know what’s hit us. Soon, we find we are the victims of panic attacks and low performance at work. More often than not, even kids at school find themselves struck by this new-age epidemic.
The rapid spread of this most common malaise is because of — believe it or not — loneliness. Isn’t that the biggest contradiction, considering this is the most ‘connected’ age ever? Social media even connects people from different countries and geographies, as if they were next door, and yet, feeling isolated is a great anomaly of our times. Did you know that one in four people who die in India lose their lives as a result of suicide caused by anxiety, despair, lack of help, and the inability to reach out? Feeling isolated and the huge pressure of performance and FOMO overwhelm, cause dread of living, apprehension, uncertainty, and fear.
Everyone has good days and bad days — there is no shame in feeling depressed and down. Why is there still a stigma with being unable to cope with pressure? Having a ‘dark patch’ with anxiety and stress is like a fever or a cold! Face up and fess up. I know from working with a lot of anxiety victims that pretending takes its toll. Sharing brings caring — allow the breeze in and open up — don’t feel you have to always look perfect. Pretending is passé — the new age way is to be real, be you, and come clean! Growing up is about acknowledging and sorting. Even if you’re 50 or older, you still have scope to ‘grow up and fess up’. The greatest step is to acknowledge one’s fears and feelings of inadequacy.
Every success story has many failures hidden within. I’ve found from my own journey that these experiences actually form the construct and matrix of success later. The wheel of fortune is not consistent and internalising this is the beginning of coping and instituting change from within. We need to take it all with a pinch of salt and look at the big picture in life. What is most important is that if you cannot counsel yourself and cannot cope — then you must reach out. It could also be just a hormonal change or some chemical imbalance that can be dealt with medically.
Neerja Birla, who is the founder of a mental healthcare facility, Mpower, is a flag bearer of dealing with stress and reaching out for help. Her fight is to create awareness and spread information about mental illness, and she works tirelessly to dispel misconceptions about mental health issues. Just like you can have diabetes or incontinence, you can have anxiety, stress and panic attacks. “We need to immediately red-flag issues and understand that it’s okay not to be okay! I always stress upon parents and friends to listen to their kids and peers in a very non-judgmental way,” she avers and you can see that this is her greatest passion as she shares her thoughts. It was her tryst with anxiety and postnatal depression that led her to explore the avenues and support system available in India. She was taken aback to find very little in terms of support for people suffering from mental health issues and it was when she saw this paucity, she decided to create not only support for mental health care but also the much-needed awareness on these issues.
Feeling left out or ignored is not unusual so don’t blame yourself for extraneous issues. Don’t be hard on yourself. I’d highly recommend reaching out in the flesh to a friend or member of your family than turning to social media as your coping mechanism. The funny thing is we do the opposite when we are feeling low — we withdraw or disconnect and go into a shell when we feel anxious. This is when you have to push yourself to reach out and find purpose. Even attending an event can augment a sense of purpose and give you the crucial dose of wanting to move forward.
Finding support groups, reaching out to trusted friends, communicating, and opening up and getting sound professional help is a great start to bring in the sunshine.
The writer is a columnist, designer and brand consultant. Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org