New Delhi: Mental health is a crossroad between emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have resulted in disconnection from family and friends, isolation, and quarantine. The increased physical distance between people and the outbreak of the disease has led to more and more people than ever experiencing feelings of helplessness, isolation, grief, anxiety and depression. In such trying times, it becomes important more than ever to ensure good emotional and mental well-being. But how to stay calm when there is so much misery and despair? Banega Swasth India team spoke to Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani to understand the importance of emotional health and how to take care of it especially during crisis situation such as the ongoing pandemic. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
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Question: We talk about physical health but in these unprecedented times what can we do for our emotional health?
Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani: We need to understand what emotional health is. By emotional health we mean our coping skills with situations. If we look at our emotional health before COVID; if we believed that stress, anxiety, anger, worry, fear was natural, then we were not in best emotional health even before COVID. And then came a situation where we allowed our mind to say that fear and anxiety is normal. We can’t label uncomfortable emotions as normal. It’s like calling an illness normal. Stress, anger or anxiety is not normal. It’s even visible on the body. When we create any of these emotions, even the body starts showing signs like the pulse, hands sweating, you are having nausea. Which means these emotions are not normal. So, most important thing is to identify emotional health issues. Even if I don’t have mental health issues, I need to take care of emotional health so that I never tip off to a mental health issue. Emotional health means shifting from blaming people and situations for how we are feeling because it’s not the truth and taking responsibility of every thought, word, behaviour because we are the creators of our thoughts and emotions. We can’t say that just because the situation is difficult so those thoughts are normal. So, taking responsibility and few simple steps by which we can nourish our emotional health.
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Question: There are reports of increase in anxiety across age group ever since the pandemic began. It is often difficult to keep calm. How to deal with mental stress?
Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani: There is a simple formula – stress is equal to pressure divided by resilience. So we need to get the equation right. Pressure is the situation so pressure could be an exam for child, or a traffic jam, COVID, it could be that I am going through the disease, pressure could be that I have lost someone. Pressure means what is happening to me in my life but stress is not equal to pressure. Stress is pressure divided by resilience. Resilience means inner power so that denominator is different for everybody. So, we need to start building up that denominator. We can’t just keep blaming the numerator. Build up the denominator because that’s where the power lies. So, if we take up simple steps like, don’t begin the day with learning and hearing about the world. Early in the morning, nourish the mind with pure and positive content; studying spirituality; anything positive that we like. Then few minutes of meditation or self-reflection so at least 30-40 minutes for taking care of the mind on a daily basis and at least 15-20 minutes before going to sleep, same thing. Because these are the two times which have a deep impact on emotional health. Start practising that people and situations don’t create my emotions; I am the creator. If we take a simple thing like anger, that’s nothing to do with COVID. So, am I getting angry because people are not behaving my way or work is not getting done? Just start taking care that I am not going to react to those situations. I am going to handle it with ease and dignity. Just if we do that much, we are conserving emotional health and mind’s energy. If we start conserving this energy, this emotional health will start getting better, fear and anxiety will start reducing.
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Question: When someone in the family tests positive for COVID-19, it becomes a challenging and stressful situation. How can one stay easy and calm in mind even when the family member has recovered from COVID?
Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani: Firstly, we need to change the vocabulary. Challenge and stress have no connection. People can get stressed even if there is no crisis in their life; so, don’t equate the two things. Yes, last few weeks have been challenging because a family member tested positive and one would have managed everything on their own. Now, the challenge is over because the person has recovered. Now I need to understand that because my mind which was not being nurtured and energised on a daily basis was facing a challenge every single day. It’s like you are working hard without eating well. So, how long will the body handle? It will collapse one day. Same is happening with the mind. We thought we don’t have to do anything to take care of the mind; the mind is supposed to react and respond on its own. It’s like running a marathon without training on a daily basis. It will start giving signs so take care. Introduce this simple practice in your family – 30 minutes in the morning – start with meditation, together study spirituality, and practise yoga and similarly keep 15-20 minutes at night where you don’t use phone and TV. It’s not for consuming the world on to the mind; it’s for consuming healthy content in the morning and at night.
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Question: Because of COVID-19, children are at home; they neither have a school routine nor are able to meet their friends. There is anxiety and depression in them. How to help children to deal with the situation?
Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani: These are times which are actually making children emotionally stronger because these are life skills in practical and not life skills in theory or as a subject. It’s actually going to build up the inner resilience of the child because imagine not going out, not meeting friends, taking care of everything at home, helping parents in the garden and kitchen. They have never done this before and maybe if the situation would have not come, they wouldn’t have done this also. The only thing that we need to take care of is that parents are not creating anxiety. What impacts children is also the anxiety of the parent. If the parent is calm and stable, the child is taken care of. And when you practise these emotional health skills in the morning and night, involve the child in it – may be for five to 10 minutes in the morning and five minutes at night. Then practise simple things like mindful eating. Don’t have meals with phone and TV. Distracted eating is neither good for the body nor for the mind either. Before eating, take a five second pause, connect to god, say thank you and energise the food with some very powerful thoughts like I am powerful, I am calm and stable, I am perfect and healthy. We call these positive affirmations. Remember, we are what we eat. Also, the food needs to be cooked in a very high energy vibration which means the kitchen at home should have high energy words like prayers and hymns playing throughout the day especially during cooking.
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Question: We are surrounded by uncertainty in every aspect. Lately, even watching the news or social media causes anxiety and stress. Amid this, how can one keep calm and believe brighter future is possible?
Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani: We are what we watch, read, and listen. If the content I consume has ego, lust, jealousy, violence, greed, and corruption and if I keep absorbing that, I will start becoming that. We need to remember an equation: content is equal to personality is equal to destiny. Content is your emotional diet; now choose your content. If I absorb pure content, I will start creating a powerful personality. We can’t just keep scrolling and say, ‘oh, this was just time pass’. It was not time pass. It’s toxic. Take care of content consumption and most of your emotions will get sorted.
Question: You have said that thinking less is the key. Is it even more important now?
Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani: Absolutely, always. Quality and quantity are connected. If I am thinking too much, my quality is not right which means I am worrying. Start talking ill about somebody or start finding somebody’s faults. You will be thinking and speaking a lot. Start saying something good about somebody, automatically your quantity will reduce. So, just focus on quality and quantity is taken care of.
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Question: Doctors today are facing a lot of stress (a lot more than usual) and have long working hours in difficult circumstances. Any advice for them?
Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani: It is very important for doctors to nourish their minds on a daily basis. Choose what you are going to consume tonight and tomorrow morning definite. Secondly, before sleeping they need to release what has happened during the day. Doctors are used to facing crisis and death but, it’s like once in a while. Here they are seeing so much of it happening in a single day so, they are consuming a lot and it is getting recorded on the mind. Just before going to sleep, we need to release all that which means just reflect, meditate, maybe write it out and just surrender to the higher power. Doctors can treat, they can heal but they cannot write the destiny of people so they should not have baggage. Their conscious has to be cleared that we have done the right thing. When something goes well and a patient recovers and they give you so much appreciation and love, surrender it. Thank you so much, it was their destiny, I was only an instrument, and they are cured. When something doesn’t go right, we have to surrender that also that we did our best.
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Questions: How to improve sleeping habits otherwise and after COVID?
Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani: Two hours before sleeping, we need to disconnect from work communication. The mind is in beta or beta plus stage during the day which means thinking a lot and when we sleep, we go from beta to alpha to theta and delta and delta is deep sleep. But if we are thinking a lot before sleeping, many of us are not able to go to the alpha stage or the delta stage and that’s why we say, ‘we are unable to sleep’. Two hours before sleeping, we need to disconnect from work communication as if we don’t have phones and laptop. One hour before we sleep, we disconnect from all other media which means don’t consume anything, any media which is stimulating the mind. Especially for those who have just come out of COVID and are having issues, you start dimming the lights of your room an hour and a half before sleeping. So your body starts creating melatonin which is needed for the brain. Also, have very soft, specifically meditation music created for sleeping. It has a deep effect on both left and right brain and slowing down of the thoughts. If you are talking to family, don’t talk anything which is a problem discussion, don’t argue so again don’t take your mind into the beta stage and we can create a few affirmations. The mind has to slow down. It’s not about the brain and the body not being able to sleep.
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Question: Loneliness has a huge connection with depression. Right now, because of COVID, people are living isolation and quarantine. Is there a connection here?
Brahma Kumari Sister Shivani: Loneliness and being alone are two different things so when I am in a quarantine, I am alone but I need not be lonely. If I have decided my routine properly; how my morning is going to begin, how I am going to engage myself during the day like I’ll do videos calls with people so I remain connected. If I am feeling better, I can do online programmes. I can do everything. I am alone for 14 days or 20 days but I am not lonely. And sometimes I am amidst people, but I am very lonely. Lonely is about how I am feeling inside. It’s not about how many people are around me, that’s alone. If that’s how we are feeling, then we need to work on why am I feeling like this, why do I not feel connected to people? You just have to energise the mind and the weakness of the mind will go away. Restrict the other content and consciously make it a part to connect with people. Make it a point to call up people and one thing that makes a difference is a video call.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.