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A healthy mind for a healthy body5 min read

October 12, 2020 4 min read

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A healthy mind for a healthy body5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

On October 10, we celebrated World Mental Health Day. But have you ever wondered what ‘mental health’ really means? Well, it’s simple.

When our stomach hurts or we have a fever, we visit a doctor who helps us get better. But what about when our mind isn’t well? We all have some days when we are sad or other days when we are so afraid that nothing seems to make it better. But what happens when that feeling doesn’t go away and we need help? That’s what we call ‘mental health’, and every October 10, we celebrate World Mental Health Day to remind us to take care of our bodies but also our minds!

To understand mental health better, let’s call on four friends – Sadness, Fear, Anger and Stress.

Sadness fights the blues

Sadness didn’t seem to enjoy the things she used to before, such as riding her cycle and painting. She couldn’t explain why she was so sad and why this feeling was not going away! She felt tired and low on energy. Sometimes, she blamed herself for things that weren’t her fault at all, and thought she was a terrible person.

When she spoke to her older brother, she was told about a common condition called ‘depression’ – a type of ‘mood disorder’ that creates changes in our brains! But Sadness also learnt something great – that depression is something that can go away. With the right help from doctors and adults, it can be managed and overcome, and she can go back to doing the things she loves.

Fear drove her worries away

Every day before school, Fear would feel like there were butterflies in her stomach, her knees would shake and her palms would get sweaty. Sometimes, her stomach would hurt too. She was so scared of going to school, meeting her friends and sitting in classes where she had a tough time understanding subjects. She was constantly worried that she would fail. She had trouble sleeping at night too.

When Fear realised that her worries were not going away, she went to a doctor who treats the mind, who told her that she may have a condition called ‘anxiety’. She learnt that it was anxiety that was making her feel scared when there was no reason to be, and that she can easily control this with a little help. Fear knows now that talking about things that scare her is most important.

Anger learnt control is everything

Anger was in such a bad mood one day, that he ended up shouting at his best friend. He was so mad that he said things to his friend he did not mean, and this was not the first time. For quite some time, Anger felt like he was not able to control his rage. While he knew that feeling upset over some things is normal, like seeing someone hurt an animal or not being allowed to play till homework was completed, he also realised that this feeling was overstaying its welcome.

He saw that in that moment, his breathing was faster, muscles were tighter, and he felt like crying and screaming. This is because our brain thinks it needs to protect us, and releases certain chemicals to help us fight in a difficult situation. Some ways to control this, says Anger, are talking to someone trustworthy, counting till 10, doing something relaxing like painting, playing a sport or even gardening.

Stress couldn’t catch a break

Stress had too much on his plate. He had homework, tuition, football practise and an important piano recital coming up. He felt he did not have time or energy to do all these things, and was seeing some changes in his physical and emotional reactions to this situation. His breathing was faster, he was sweating more, he had trouble sleeping and would find his hands and legs shaking at times. While some times, this feeling helped Stress perform better, other times, it only made him feel worse. The trick, he learnt, was to manage this feeling better. He learnt that it is important to not take on too many things at once, always get a good night’s sleep, eat well, learn to relax by doing something calming, and
speaking to someone who understands him.

The most important things to understand about mental health are that it’s okay to feel all those things you’re feeling, you are NOT alone, and help is always available. It’s important to talk to your parents or adults you trust, be it a counsellor, a sibling, or a teacher, or even reach out to helplines such as 1800-121-2830, which was launched by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.