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