Men­tal stress can lit­er­ally shrink your brain. Here’s what you can do to pre­vent it

HT Cafe - - LIFESTYLE - Su­san Jose su­

As­tudy pub­lished re­cently in the jour­nal ti­tled Neu­rol­ogy, stated that stress af­fects hu­mans in a quan­tifi­able man­ner. The brain vol­ume re­duces in those who ex­pe­ri­ence long-term ex­po­sure to stress. The find­ings have es­ca­lated the need to spread aware­ness about men­tal health so that those af­fected can get the re­quired sup­port.

“A few years ago, I bat­tled anx­i­ety and panic at­tacks. When I opened up to peo­ple, some of them be­gan to belit­tle my abil­i­ties, even though I was highly func­tional and suc­cess­ful. This stereo­type gravely both­ered me. I got the help I needed, but many don’t get it. I felt it is my re­spon­si­bil­ity to stand up for them,” says Ananya Birla, who co-founded MPower with her mother.

Call­ing it “the move­ment to af­fect change” Neerja Birla, founder and chair­per­son, MPower, says, “We are proac­tively cham­pi­oning men­tal health causes, cre­at­ing aware­ness and pro­vid­ing holis­tic ser­vices. We gen­uinely wish to make a dif­fer­ence. And so, it is of vi­tal im­por­tance to us that we pro­vide the ex­act same level of men­tal healthcare and ser­vice to peo­ple from all walks of life.”

Each phase of life brings its own set of tri­als and tribu­la­tions. We got city ex­perts to help us with spe­cific guide­lines which will help kids, tweens and teenagers, adults and se­nior cit­i­zens.


Dr Man­jiri Desh­pande, child psy­chi­a­trist, Doc­terz, says that when it comes to kids, it is par­ents who need to make sure of their men­tal well-be­ing. “It is very com­mon among adults to con­sider child­hood to be the most care­free time for kids. How­ever, chil­dren might feel anx­ious, say for a class pre­sen­ta­tion or ex­ams. As a par­ent or a guardian, you can’t guard your kids against ev­ery­thing. But you can as­sist them in de­vel­op­ing healthy ways to man­age and deal with prob­lems,” she says.

She sug­gests the fol­low­ing ideas:

Plan re­lax­ing ac­tiv­i­ties: Chil­dren need time to un­wind. Re­gret­tably, some­times even en­ter­tain­ing ac­tiv­i­ties like sports can be more about com­pe­ti­tion. In­stead, par­ents should en­sure that the child en­gages in play only for fun.

En­cour­age your child to ex­press worry: When your child says that he or she is feel­ing both­ered or is scared, don’t say “No you are not!” or “You are fine.” In­stead, par­ents must have a healthy dis­cus­sion about their child’s emo­tions and wor­ries. Prac­tise breath­ing ex­er­cises: Some­times, re­ally ba­sic re­lax­ation and breath­ing ex­er­cises are ex­tremely vi­tal to en­able your child to con­dense their ten­sion and anx­i­ety lev­els. This in­cludes telling your child to take a few slug­gish, deep breaths, thus help­ing them re­lax his or her tense mus­cles.


Dur­ing teenage and pre­teen years, it is com­mon to be­come ex­tremely self-con­scious. This is the stage when the child phys­i­cally trans­forms, and has sev­eral ques­tions re­gard­ing the same. Also, the hor­monal changes tend to make them rest­less. “As teenagers, the ma­jor em­pha­sis should be on over­all growth and de­vel­op­ment, and should en­com­pass aca­demics, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, re­la­tion­ships, curb­ing the time spent on­line, etc,” says Nam­rata Da­gia, clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, The Il­lu­mi­nat­ing Zone.

She sug­gests these tips:

Pos­i­tive think­ing: It cre­ates pos­i­tive emo­tions. Al­low­ing pos­i­tive thoughts to flow in the mind and hav­ing a pos­i­tive out­look to­wards life in­di­rectly re­duces the chances of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing stress.

Min­imise use of gad­gets: Teens these days spend most of their free time us­ing their gad­gets, be it chat­ting with some­one or play­ing games. So, min­imis­ing the use of gad­gets in daily life will au­to­mat­i­cally en­able them to chan­nel that time into pur­su­ing some­thing pro­duc­tive.

Hob­bies: Swim­ming, danc­ing or paint­ing in spare time, or in­dulging in a cre­ative ac­tiv­ity that one loves is im­por­tant. This leads to cre­ation of pos­i­tive emo­tions, sat­is­fac­tion and re­lax­ation.


For adults, one of the ma­jor rea­sons of stress is try­ing to mul­ti­task. Da­gia sug­gests bal­anc­ing your work with your life, and sleep pat­terns with your diet, to be able to han­dle the ma­jor stressers of adult­hood.

Work-life bal­ance: One should not take their work home. So, if one is at work, the fo­cus should be on work and once when he/she winds up the day, they should wind up com­pletely. And not just phys­i­cally, but men­tally as well. Let your mind be where your body is.

Sleep-diet bal­ance: Mind and body are highly in­ter­con­nected. Hav­ing a proper sleep cy­cle of min­i­mum six to eight hours and eat­ing food on time au­to­mat­i­cally has a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on how grown-ups see and think.


Se­nior cit­i­zens need to cope with fragility of phys­i­cal health. It takes time for them to re­alise that many of the things that were once easy for them to do, are not easy any­more, de­spite do­ing them for years. “Lone­li­ness and wor­ries re­lated to age and health, may lead to stress and de­pres­sion in this age group,” says Neeta V Shetty, psy­chother­a­pist, Bliss­ful Mind Ther­apy Cen­tre.

Her tips for se­niors are:

■ Get in­volved in so­cial and com­mu­nity work

■ Prac­tise yoga, laugh­ter ther­apy, and mindfulness

■ Cul­ti­vate hob­bies like gar­den­ing and singing, or learn­ing new skills such as a lan­guage or any mu­si­cal in­stru­ment

■ Walk or do any kind of mod­er­ate phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity

■ Be spir­i­tual, as it can help you calm down. It also pro­vides in­ner strength and with a sense of be­long­ing.


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