J – Thank you for your participation in this interview, first of all, tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity and bringing in a topic which is more talked about but less understood when experienced in life. Hello everyone. I am Urvi Shah. I have completed my Master’s in Counseling Psychology. I am an aspiring writer who seeks to understand life, human emotions and feelings. Other than studies, I am also a professionally trained dancer and a sports enthusiast. I have my own Mental Health awareness page (calminthechaos_citc on Instagram/Facebook) and a Sports Blog (beyondthematches on Instagram/Facebook and @beyondmatches on Twitter) where I work along with some amazing people to bring a different perspective to life via different mediums. Along with my love to create things and write my thoughts I am deeply in love with coffee and sunsets. If not any of this, you will find me in the mountains with my headphones on and lost in my little universe. Haha.

J – Tell us why is taking care of mental health important in today’s generation?

It is important to take care of your Mental Health irrespective of which generation you belong to. Most of them say they think Mental Health is an important topic but when it comes to meet in reality, they shove it under the sofa saying: It’s a phase, it’s all in your head and so on. The older generations were not so aware of it, to be honest. The stigma was real. It is getting better now but the stigma is still present. These days empathy, compassion and understanding are somewhat less present on social media where most of us (today’s generation) are engaged on. There is also a lot of competition, stress about education, job, family life etc.

J – Is there any particular cause or a reason that you can think of as to why people struggle with their mental health?

There are multiple reasons that I can think of which are possible causes/reasons that lead to mental health concerns. Before we go to that, it is important to know that everyone’s threshold/ability to tolerate pain or face over challenging situations in life is different. We cannot compare one incident to another. The reasons and emotions behind it would be different and we should be considerate about it. What can be normal for one may look like the end of the world for someone else. It doesn’t mean that the person is weak/strong, its just that they might not have the coping resources for it.

Coming to some reasons/ causes of Mental health concerns:

1. Childhood trauma, abuse or neglect.
2. Isolation from family, society or loneliness.
3. Poverty, lack of accessibility to basic needs of life.
4. Loss of a loved one or something/someone close to you.
5. Unemployment/loss of a job or excessive work stress which seems difficult to manage.
6. Any type of bullying, domestic violence, or abuse in any form (physical/mental/emotional).
7. Drugs/alcohol abuse, family issues, relationship issues, traumatic incidents in life.
8. Any physical injuries to the brain or a neurological concern.

These are just some of the reasons. Lack of awareness, no proper information on how to cope through a situation and stigma related to mental health leads to people not reaching out for help and thinking it is how their life is supposed to be. This makes it difficult to know what is wrong and they struggle with coping through situations that are overwhelming to them.

J – What are the steps that one can inculcate in daily lives to take care of their Mental Health?

Different things work for different people. If there are any concerns that need professional help, one should step ahead and take it. I understand it’s difficult but if that is what is needed, go for it. We are here to help you out.

Coming to how one can take care of their Mental health, self-care routines. Make small self-care routine for yourself. There are so many things people say which comes under it but see what works for you. Try the activities mentioned on the web and see what makes you feel better. Self-care looks different for different people. Find yours. Some sample activities you can try is journaling, meditation, going for a walk/run, exercising, reading a book, listening to music, dancing, singing, etc. Do what makes you feel good.
Make a daily routine for yourself. Having a routine helps someone to space out their work, take the necessary break now and then. I try making schedules. It’s difficult to maintain it honestly, haha, but I am giving it a try where I have mentioned breaks for myself so that I don’t overwork and see what all I can cover in a day. The productivity competition had got to me so it was important to settle down and see what is my definition of productivity and how I can contribute to it. It’s a difficult road to walk on for someone who has a habit of working extra hours, I feel guilty at times but it is important to avoid fatigue and maintain good work and life balance.

Maintain social relations, meet people that help you grow. A lot of us have a habit of projecting our insecurities on others. It is important to work on ourselves and be around people who are supportive of that journey and are growing along with you. Communication helps maintain relations. Move out of toxic behaviour patterns that people subject you to. Know your boundaries and maintain them. Respect someone else’s boundaries and build healthy social relations.

Practice gratitude. The most important thing that helps us stay sane at times. We are wired in a way that we count the number of problems in life way too much and end up being stuck in a negative spiral of thoughts. Gratitude helps us be aware of the things that have worked in our favour, acknowledge the good present around us and not end up in a spiral. It isn’t one of the easiest things to do. It’s not about just saying thank you. You have to mean it too. Especially in these tough times, where life has been difficult in so many ways for all of us, it is the most difficult thing to practice. You can start with writing the moments you are grateful for having experienced and build it as a habit with time.

J – Can you please shed some light on why it is completely okay and acceptable to seek professional help?

Mental Health is as important as physical health. You would know if there are any physical concerns and seek treatment, right? The same way, mental health struggles are a part of life and it’s like a normal experience. We experience different emotions and situations in life. Sometimes we are not equipped enough to cope through it. It’s as okay as seeking medical attention when you are down with fever. With time, you start understanding the cause, how its normal to be under weather for some people, you then have your medical kit to go to when you are having fever the next time and if it worsens you visit the doctor again, right? It is the same here. All of us have some emotions and experiences we don’t know how to deal with probably because we haven’t experienced them before or never knew how to deal with it since childhood so we visit a mental health professional, understand the cause, add the strategies and coping skills to our kit and lead a healthy life. We all deserve to lead a healthy life mentally and physically. If we restrict someone from meeting a MH professional just because we fear people will know they need external help is as absurd as restricting someone from seeing a doctor when they are down with fever for days and you think its stupid to visit one. The way you cannot be a doctor and you need to see one is the same that you cannot be the therapist, you have to visit one. That’s completely normal and acceptable if we drop our restrictions and not think of it as something that makes us incapable as humans. We are all growing in this world, sometimes with the help of others/professionals and sometimes by self. It’s a journey.

J – Does overthinking have any adverse effect on mental health? When does it become a problem?

Yes. It does have an effect on Mental Health. Often when it comes to overthinking people are tied up in a negative spiral of thoughts. I have experienced the same at a point in life. We need to be mindful of what we are thinking. I have always been in a difference of thought on this one. Some people think overall possibilities in a situation and some overthink the possibilities in a situation. Thinking over possibilities is somewhat more in an aware state whereas the latter one is more towards sitting in a pile of negative emotions. I may and may not be wrong. This is my view on it. Overthinking becomes a problem when it starts affecting your performance in different walks of life, develops insecurity or fear. Knowing when you are thinking over and overthinking takes time and understanding. It takes effort and patience. Once you understand that you tend to overthink and when it starts affecting your performance, it is advisable to seek help and know how you can find ways to tell your mind that it isn’t that bad, break the thought chain and pause your thoughts. It’s pretty normal to experience that and equally normal to seek help for it.

J – As we know that so many people and especially the younger generation is facing Mental Health issues, what are the steps they can take to in order to work through it?

Yes, I would agree to that. Due to awareness about the field and availability of help, a lot of youngsters have started opening up and seeking help. I would as always, say that if it is affecting your performance in school/college/office/home or relationships, it’s advisable to seek professional support. Therapy is a process so there is a lot of effort to put in. It won’t be like they show in movies, it will be a different experience for you in finding the right therapist, doing the work, experiencing the change, confronting fears/negative behaviour patterns that you might have and so on. You can along with therapy, start having a self-care routine, establish and maintain boundaries at home, office, school/college/university and raise awareness. It’s completely okay to not be okay. Currently, there are a lot of people who are facing some or the other issue and they are reaching out to professionals, support groups, talking about their emotions and so on. Join a support group if needed. In India, it may be difficult to talk about certain emotions due to the stigma and shame attached to it but find your group of people and share it there. If you don’t know about them, ask your therapist about the group session or if there is any support group for the same. They are always ready to help and guide you. Build healthy relations at work, with friends and in relationships. You may find a lot of fraud and wrongly qualified people around so do the work and find an authentic one. Self-awareness plays a key role too.

J – When a person is going through a phase where his/her mental health is not stable, sometimes it becomes difficult to complete basic things for them like finishing their food, how can they overcome this issue?

Celebrate the tasks you complete. For people going through some mental health concern, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by things around them. Depending on the diagnosis, some of the things you have mentioned may be the symptoms of it too. So, they can reward themselves with something they like if they finish their food, take a bath or any basic necessities. Celebrate the small achievements and it becomes better day by day. Give yourself time. This can be one way to overcome it and works for most of us with/without mental health concern as it works as a motivator. Talk to your therapist and find a way that works for you the best and do the same which is stick to it.

J – They also tend to struggle between what’s real and what’s imaginary as it becomes tough for them to differentiate, your thoughts on how can they tackle this issue?

This really sounds like a mental health disorder to me. If anyone is experiencing this, I would advise going for a psychological assessment. There is a therapeutic and medical intervention for it so I would say seek help at earliest. They would be able to make a judgement on the severity level of it and which therapy would be more effective. Not everything works the same way for everyone.
Also, talking about psychological assessment, do not go for the online tests that randomly pop up on google search. Know the credentials. It’s advised that you go to a clinic or centre that does the psychological assessment. It’s a long process not what they show on the web. There is a different and detailed information taken into consideration along with the professional assessment. There is a criterion for diagnosis and consideration of cultural and environmental differences is also there. So please avoid going through easy way and taking an online test of which there is less reliability and no accurate results. It may seem like an easy way to find what is wrong with you but they can be misleading as they are not professionally screened and you won’t know what to do next.

J – One of the biggest issues when it comes to people struggling with paranoia is, they tend to get paranoid at almost everything that happens in their life. Your thoughts?

Paranoia is a thought process which tends to develop mistrust and irrational suspicion with people suffering with it. So yes, they tend to experience it in all walks of life. Again, seek professional help. Sometimes it may end up fatally if not treated. There are different causal factors for it. It is important to meet a professional who has an experience of dealing with clients with paranoia, understand what is causing it, see if there is any other mental health condition occurring with paranoia like anxiety, depression etc., and follow the treatment plan. It will all depend on the severity and causes of it so I won’t be able to say anything until there is a proper diagnosis and history of the same. Due to stigma attached to mental health, a lot of people experiencing this may not reach out thinking “People say I am mad. I have lost it. I just need to stop thinking like that” and so on. It isn’t that easy, I understand that but if you take the step, we are here to help you out.

J – You were a part of a collaborated video-based song, tell us a bit about that.

I made a small song-based video in collaboration with Bhrigu Parashar who is a singer. You can check it out. It talks about suicide prevention and seeking help.

Thank you so much for reading. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more interviews.

Twitter – @bhavsarJ2_0
Instagram – @bhavsarj2_0


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