Staying With The Feeling

When was the last time you had a bad feeling – something like a lump in your throat, or a headache, or a sinking feeling in your chest? It comes out of the blue and catches us off guard. When something unexpected happens, we get thrown off and get carried away by ‘feeling bad’ as we put it. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to have – so we bottle it up, suppress it, forget all about it and move on until another event triggers all of this back – stronger than ever.

Why does it come back with a vengeance? It’s because, underneath the ‘feeling bad’, there’s actually a horde of emotions, ranging for anger to sadness, fear to anxiety. When something doesn’t go right for a group of us, each person feels bad, but that bad feeling means something different for each person. Unless we process that, it stays unresolved and lurks out of sight (but not out of mind).

When something causes us to feel bad, we need to take a moment right then to identify what that bad feeling is. Stay with the feeling instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist. Since it is hard to think of a specific word that matches our feeling, there’s a trick that we can use. Open your phone and pick specific Whatsapp emojis that best match the emotion you feel. That helps put a label on the feeling, at least temporarily.

Secondly, ask yourself the following:

  1. Is my feeling a reflection of me, or of the situation?
  2. Can I do something about it?

Now, think of an emoji that you would like to be at. Evidently, it is hard to go from 🤬to 😒, but it is easier to go from 🤬to 😠 , and then from  😠 to 😒 . So, choose an emoji state you’d like to be at in the next 10 minutes.

Next, think of an activity that you can do that can get you there. It can be deep breathing, it can be treating yourself at that moment with a chocolate (for those with a sweet tooth) or a coffee (for caffeine lovers), or promising yourself a dinner out after work (for those who get hangry). Sometimes, thinking about delayed gratification is as effective as instant pleasure.

Contrary to popular practice, negative emotions are not taboo. They exist to tip us off that something isn’t quite right – but it is up to us to get to the bottom of that feeling. We are allowed to have and feel them. Rather than clumping them up together, let us divide and conquer!

 

This article has been written by Ms Nandita Seshadri, a therapist, and integral part of Adveka Foundation.

How’s Your Meme-tal Health?

Gone are the days when we used to log in to Facebook at the end of the day to catch up on what has been going on while we were getting through the day. Today, all of us use social media on a regular basis – be it just scrolling through Facebook during a break, or feeling a rebellious streak when stalking someone on Instagram while sitting in a meeting. Sometimes, we even do it without being conscious of doing it – possibly when multitasking with another activity – be it watching TV (which itself has declined) or hanging out with a group of friends. Nevertheless, it is now an inseparable part of our lives.

When on social media, we see loads of memes on mental health. They can be about self-care, breaking down, hiding our problems and so on. These might be harmless ones that we feel we can relate with, at least on the surface.

They are not meant to educate, only to make you feel that you’re not alone, and to possibly find yourself laughing at the absurdity of the situation. The more memes we see and relate to, we also diagnose ourselves as having multiple mental health issues.

Since we are scrolling almost mindlessly, we might not pay attention to what the memes are indicating. Yet, they get registered in our subconscious and shape the way we think and feel about those topics.

So, if someone was to ask you how you’re holding up after a hectic week at work, you’d probably say ‘I’m THIS close to a breakdown’ and laugh it off – without being fully sure as to how much you mean it. Yes, it has been a lot of work, and yes, you need help coping with it. Rather than asking for help, joking about it might seem like a better option, because everyone does that, right?

Here’s a reality check: We are all likely to feel overworked and overwhelmed from time to time. The best thing that we can do for ourselves is to acknowledge it and ask for help from friends, colleagues and speak to a counsellor when we can.

Feeling that ‘But this happens to everyone, I just have to get through it’ is noble, but it doesn’t mean you’ve to get through it alone. Let’s recognise when we need help and not let fear of judgement come in the way of asking for help!

 

This article has been written by Ms Nandita Seshadri, a therapist, and integral part of Adveka Foundation.

Not Spinning Anymore

When we were kids, we would spin around in circles really fast and not stop even if we were dizzy. Why would we do that? Because as long as we were spinning, we were moving with the force. If we stopped, there’d be one moment of blissful stillness, and then a wave of dizziness would hit us and make us sit down until it passed, and we regained our orientation.

Today, we live in very stressful conditions that we have adapted to. At any given time, there is a multitude of worries, responsibilities and preoccupations going on in our minds. Yet, we are so used to having all that churning in our minds that it is background noise. Add one more worry or one more responsibility and it won’t make much of a difference. When do we become aware of the stress? When one thing gets out of hand – even if we have been managing fine with it all this time – THAT is when we make a change.

When people end a relationship that has been suffering for a while – usually because they don’t have time for each other – it isn’t a sudden decision. They’ve been spinning around in that relationship for a long time – letting the dizziness grow. Finally, when they cannot ignore the problem anymore, they decide to stop trying hard at the relationship – to stop spinning any further. When that happens, they experience that moment of bliss: ‘Yes, I stopped that unhealthy pattern in my life!’ What happens next? Loneliness and self-doubt crash into them, and makes them wonder – ‘Should I have ended things? Whom will I turn to now?’ Even if the person hadn’t been there for a long time, they at least knew that they could ask when in a relationship. Whom can they turn to now? Everything else that had been hanging suspended in mid-air comes crashing down – and that is when they seek help.

People usually come for therapy when they’ve hit a crisis – not when they’re fine and can figure out ways to avert a problem or cope with it. Why? Because when the crisis happens, we are given a glimpse of our fallibility. We realize that we have been affected by the relationship, and just ending things will not change how we have been affected by it. We get that one moment of clarity before reality catches up to us, and we have to sit down until we feel better again. When self-doubt hits us, we can feel anxious, depressed or hopeless, and that is when we NEED to seek help.

Some people come to therapy believing that they will find the answers to all their problems. That isn’t true. Sometimes, people need to recognise that they are vulnerable in order to benefit from therapy. When someone has been spinning around in circles for a very long time, dizziness is the only reality that they know. Stopping gives that one moment of clarity before reality catches up, and that’s when they have to sit down (i.e. seek help) until they feel better again. This is why insight cannot be forced, and nothing – not even therapy – can get you there unless you’re ready for it. Therapy is different for everyone – it is a unique journey that is shaped by who you are and what you want. What helps to remember is that we are all a work in progress, and coming to therapy can help us get back on track to where we want to be.

Here’s to working towards the best version of who we want to be!

This article has been written by Ms Nandita Seshadri, a therapist, and integral part of Adveka Foundation.

Battling Dementors – Conquering Self-Doubt

The middle of the week often gets me down in the dumps – where the weekend is too far away, and all I can see is a mountain of work looming in front of me. During such times, I doubt my ability to complete my work or meet deadlines. This is the time of the week when I’m most vulnerable to Dementor attacks.

The arrival of Dementors (dark creatures that feed on your worst fears) is foreshadowed with a chill down your spine. You dread thinking about anything positive, and when the Dementors do reach you, you feel like you will never be happy again.

By midget525 on DeviantArt

This slippery slope that lands us in complete self-doubt renders us hopeless and helpless. We have Dementors in our lives too – they exist in the deepest crevices of our minds and make us doubt our capabilities, our self-worth, maybe even question our right to have the blessings we have. This is what a Dementor does – it sucks out our self-confidence and creates a frame of mind of misery and despair.

What do we do then? In the face of what seems impossible to overcome, how do we battle our personal Dementors? Today, we will learn the Patronus charm.

The Patronus charm is Expecto Patronum, and it requires us to think of a powerful happy memory. We shall come up with more than one memory since sometimes, our chosen memory isn’t powerful enough for the charm to work effectively.

If your personal Dementor is the feeling of worthlessness, then think of your accomplishments (huge ones – like the job you have, or tiny ones, like the child who smiled at you after a long time of building rapport). If the Dementor is the feeling of extreme sadness, then think of your happiest moments (your favourite holiday, time spent with loved ones). Remember, the key to destroying a Dementor is not just the memory of past accomplishments or happy moments, but the conviction that ‘I will be happy/successful again in the future’.

After you have battled the Dementor(s), have some chocolate (Remus Lupin got that right) and congratulate yourself for having faced them. Talk to a friend, and walk around to get a change in scenery. Indulge yourself by getting your favourite food or going to a movie – because you deserve it, regardless of whether you got that job; are in a healthy relationship; scored great marks. Indulge yourself because acceptance of self is unconditional. It doesn’t come with an “if…then”. There are no asterisks and “conditions apply”.

Dementors exist within all of us and rear their ugly heads from time to time. We have the power to keep them at bay. Let’s identify our personal Dementors and build our Patronus kits!

Here’s how you build the kit:

When overcome by despair, summon your happiest memory, remind yourself that you deserve to feel happy, and believe with all your heart that you are going to be extremely happy once you overcome this hurdle.

 

This article has been written by Ms Nandita Seshadri, a therapist, and integral part of Adveka Foundation.

Self-Care for a Caregiver

I recently watched Christopher Robin (as I’m a sucker for animated movies). As others in its genre, its message was about how it’s not our work life that we’ll remember when old, but the moments we had fun. But, it was more than that. People watch the movie, decide in that moment that ‘Okay, I’ll make a change’, do it once or twice, and forget about it. Why though? Self-care is a regular practice, not an item to tick off the bucket list (unlike bungee jumping or parasailing).

As a caregiver, be it a personal role or a professional one, we are impeccable about making sure that our patient or loved one is well-provided for and comfortable. We often put our own needs on hold to care for them. However, unless we take care of our needs, we cannot fulfil the needs of another – just like we can’t pour from an empty pot. Extending the same emotional investment to ourselves will enable us to feel better, function at work better, and give more, right?

Sometimes, we need a reminder to be aware of our emotional needs and being understanding towards them. When we are overwhelmed, we need a moment to step away, process, and get back to work. It can be a day off, or a minute to change the environment we are in. Very often, our productivity improves after we get back from a break.

While watching Christopher Robin, I felt a profound sense of gratitude that as professional caregivers, we are understanding and encouraging about taking time off to focus on our mental health. I have these attachments as my desktop background to remind myself to take a break. The attachments include a wheel of self-care with plenty of options.

 

Let’s chart out our own self-care rituals for some me-time each day. It can be 15 minutes or an hour – with as many variations in activities as we need. Gotta do what makes us feel relaxed and happy when doing the activities of our choice!  Let’s refill our teapots every day, and serve our best tea to all 🙂

 

This article has been written by Ms Nandita Seshadri, a therapist, and integral part of Adveka Foundation.

When Your Gender Silences Your Struggle

 

Since the time we are born, we are assigned certain roles and these roles come with a set of do’s and don’ts. It’s like your life manual and the very first role we are made to play or one that is assigned to us is the ‘gender role’. The manual has gotten everything; even how much of the male or female traits are you supposed to exhibit in any given situation. This manual is nothing but our programming as children. Yes, we bring our own set of traits to this world but the societal roles are more than an integral part of us.

Speaking about gender roles… many of us believe that men are heartless creatures, they don’t even cry at the most emotional movie scene, C’mon! Do they even have a soul? Rather, what to question here is; Is this actually their trait or their societal programming?

Expressing emotions ‘as is’ is something that does not come naturally to men or even if it does, they are pretty good at hiding it. Why? They do feel things, of course, they are humans; for instance, they do feel miserable after a break-up or after a bad day at work; It’s just the fear of being judged or not fulfilling the masculine expectations overpowers these feelings. They can’t turn to fellow male members because all they’re going to get to hear is ‘bro, get over it’ or listen to other superficial sympathy dialogues, and approaching the opposite gender would portray them as ‘not manly enough, not macho enough’. So where do they go to express themselves? Actually, nowhere. It stays within, till it surfaces as a health issue or erupts as an angry volcano.

Honestly, we at Adveka don’t blame them. If we ourselves do not create a safe space for young boys to express themselves from the very beginning, let them cry without being called ‘a weak girl’ let them actually feel each and every emotion as it comes naturally to them, it’s going to lead them to be more stoic as grownups, suffering silently within. They want to be heard without the judgemental eyes putting them down, for going against the role or traits they are ‘expected’ to exhibit. They have observed these traits in the men around them when they were growing up and have maintained these expectations right since then. Not getting too attached, not portraying themselves as too needy, not wanting to seek help in tough times, taking in the responsibility of the entire family, they have been programmed to hold on to these societal beliefs of masculinity and everything against these would be a direct attack at their self-esteem and self-identity. Expression of emotions will be something new to them. But can we as a society change this? Can we teach our young boys to just feel and express as it is? Can we talk to the men in our life without judging or questioning their masculinity?

With the number of mental health illnesses increasing in men and the increasing suicide rates, it’s time to understand the societal programming they are operating from and actively bring a change to that. It’s time to ask men ‘NOT TO MAN UP’ and rather ‘SPEAK UP’. It’s time to break these stereotypes and LET THEM JUST BE. Their silent suffering needs a voice. Many men do not seek mental health support because they’re constantly playing their gender role and fear the consequences of emotional expression, but for how long will they keep it inside? It’s important to acknowledge this today before more men go down the road where emotions are a mystery.

 

This article has been written by Aashni Shah, a budding psychologist, and part of Adveka Foundation.

Adveka & CPAA’s Unique WhatsApp Support Group for Women With Breast Cancer

Cancer Patients’ Aid Association (CPAA) has collaborated with Adveka Foundation under the latter’s Saath program, to provide a unique support group together with an intervention program for women with breast cancer. The program is operated on WhatsApp where multiple groups have been made. Each group includes 7-8 women with breast cancer, a medical doctor, a physiotherapist, a director from CPAA, and two counsellors from Adveka Foundation.

The two purposes of the WhatsApp group are:

  • To provide a safe space where the women can talk about their experiences with cancer and seek emotional support.
  • To provide regular inputs such as techniques, activities, exercises, and information of a psychological or physical nature. These inputs serve as the basis of a physio- psychosocial intervention.

The psychosocial intervention consists of different modules, each with a specific goal. These modules include:

  • Relaxation & Mindfulness Exercises: To help the women reduce any feelings of anxiety, of being overwhelmed.
  • Self-Care Tips: With a thousand other responsibilities on their shoulders, these women often forget that they are important, too. These simple self-care tips help to remind them to take care of themselves.
  • Gratitude: Innumerable researches show the benefits of expressing your gratitude. Various exercises and activities on the group help the women with different ways of expressing their gratitude.
  • Self-Esteem: Building and maintaining positive self-esteem is important when there are things happening that are pulling you down. This module empowers the women to think of all the ways in which they are good.
  • Positive Experiences: A bad event can bring out our best qualities. This module helps the women explore those positive experiences.
  • Psychoeducation: Understanding how our thoughts affect our emotions and behaviour, is the first step to challenging and modifying those unhealthy thoughts.
  • Challenging Unhealthy thoughts: Discussion of various cognitive distortions, and how they negatively affect us.

Together, these modules are aimed at empowering the women to think healthier and lead a fuller life.

Three support groups of women with breast cancer and one of women with metastatic breast cancer have been created with positive feedback from participants. For further information and to join a group contact Rajshree @9820493746 or Shubha @9594609797.

Volunteering with Adveka – How I found my safe space

You deserve a safe space

I always thought that taking some time off post my Master’s would be a good idea; I had no intention of hunting for a job anytime soon. So, when I had a serendipitous meeting with the Founder & CEO of Adveka Foundation at a tobacco de-addiction workshop in August 2016, and she stated that she was looking for volunteers, I had no qualms about signing up for it. Little did I know that my supposed two-month stint as a volunteer would turn into what is probably now a lifelong commitment…and a commitment I’m glad I could make.

Having gone through the Adveka website before, I knew that the cause was a genuinely heartfelt one as was reflected in the authenticity of the content of the website. However, it was only when I actually started working with Adveka along with another close friend of mine, did I realise just how passionate and committed Adveka was about the cause of mental health. The fact that the organisation was named ‘Adveka’ meaning ‘unique’ was like the cherry on the top: I loved how there was an organisation that truly believed that every person, every concern was unique. There were no judgments, no stereotypes, no pre-conceived notions about the people we were going to work with…work for.

I had joined Adveka at a time when I was working hard on improving myself as a person. I wanted to be more accepting of different people; I wanted to be more compassionate; I wanted to be more honest to myself. And this is what Maitreyi, the Founder of Adveka helped me immensely with. When you see a person so dedicated to something that they believe in, it makes you also want to believe in something. When you see someone conversing with another but never judging, you know it’s possible to be non-judgmental.

Our core project was aimed at caregivers, a population that I had seldom thought of. It wasn’t until I had spoken to Maitreyi and revisited the website that I began to understand just why this was such an important part of Adveka’s work. Doing research (something that I had thought I would never do again!), designing curriculum, conducting group sessions and workshops, was all a part of the job. During discussions, nothing is shot down. Nothing is considered “stupid” or “not doable”. Each idea, each person involved in the discussion is respected, acknowledged, and appreciated which encourages and motivates you to work harder.

When Maitreyi, another colleague/friend and I conducted our first group session, I thought I would be nervous. Turns out, I wasn’t in the least bit. When you are standing alongside people whom you share an excellent rapport and comfort level with, every new situation becomes better and easier to triumph over. Apart from conducting the sessions, it was the interactions with the caregivers that I immensely enjoyed and learnt from. I met a lot of people with similar concerns and life situations and yet all of them had a different way of dealing with it. These experiences made me appreciate people more; it showed that people are more than their struggles, they are more than just a parent, a child, a spouse, or a caregiver. I learnt how to speak to different people as well as how to connect to people better. I also learnt Hindi and a bit of Marathi which I believe is the most important thing I will ever learn. Seriously.

One of the most refreshing things at Adveka is that you are valued for who you are. Maitreyi doesn’t even attempt to change you. And when you are allowed to be yourself, magic happens. It’s also a ‘safe space’. I can speak my mind, be it about my worst fears or that I haven’t read a book since ages. I know I won’t be thought of as “arrogant” or a “know-it-all” or even as “difficult”. I may be those things but I will never made to feel that. Never. That’s how comfortable I feel when I’m at Adveka.

Where most organisations and bosses go wrong, Adveka and Maitreyi go right. They believe in congruency, teamwork, and most importantly, the power of compassion. Tell Maitreyi that you won’t be able to work much because you are having an emotionally bad day and she will be ready with genuine words of comfort. Now with such a boss, who wouldn’t like working here?

As I write this, it is almost to the day that I first met Maitreyi and I thank whatever Gods or energies that may exist that my friend forced me to attend that workshop; otherwise, I would probably be stuck in a boring job somewhere, with a boss I secretly hate and work that I did not believe in…

 *Written by Rajshree Faria, Program Manager, Adveka Foundation.

Caregiver stories #2: Not sure if I’m coping well as a caregiver – Part 1

Image Credit:pexels.com

“When my mother started becoming forgetful and absentminded, I initially put it down to her old age,” Devika* remembers. After all, Yamuna* was then over 70 years old. “But some of the incidents that happened as a result of her absentmindedness were quite alarming. Once, she switched on the gas, and forgot to turn it off. Luckily, the live-in help spotted it, and switched it off, saving them both from a potentially fatal accident.” (more…)