Mental Health Reflections

8 months since the world went into an unprecedented lock down on normalcy. Working from home amidst kids and partners and other life priorities has put an additional hurdle for people to overcome. The pandemic fatigue is very real, trying to keep a sense of normalcy, optimism and hope amidst abnormal circumstances. This fatigue is exhausting especially if you are in a period of leadership, in your family, with friends or with co workers. The pressure on managers and leaders during this time is intense, to deal with your own personal difficulties, but to provide hope to others.

This fatigue is exhausting

As someone who has been in this situation, I didn’t truly appreciate this additional burden until I suddenly one day felt physically tired (my body hurt like I had spent the previous day in a marathon) and I felt emotionally and mentally tired (I couldn’t read the words on the screen and my brain felt soft as if I couldn’t take any more in). I was and am experiencing signs of mental burn out. It is not something imagined. It is painful. The emotions are high. That was when I realised, who motivates the motivators? How do we ensure we recharge our bodies and minds? How do we ensure we are not mentally and physically burnt out?

For the latter it is about ensuring eating healthily, exercising and sleeping well. But how do you deal with mental burn out?

Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of

Firstly realise that this is a real issue and not something to be ashamed of. For many of us who come from cultures where health and healthy emotion is a sign of positivity, acknowledging mental health challenges or emotional vulnerabilities is not encouraged. We have to be mindful of this challenge and it is not a sign of shame or weakness to acknowledge this.

Secondly realise that your own personal spirituality is one source of comfort but may not be the panacea. How you choose to reflect and pray and internally introspect will certainly help you in this journey. This can also be complemented with mindfulness, meditation and yoga. However it also helps to engage in conversations with your ‘energy catalysers’. What I mean as ‘energy catalysers’ are those people: friends, loved ones, who you can let some of the steam go, who joke around with you, make you forget your different roles and responsibilities. These are important spiritual boosts as the personal spirituality that you pursue.

it is ok not to feel ok

Thirdly, it’s ok not to feel ok and it is ok to admit that. There might be a pressure to be as productive as possible and to be super disciplined. This is an illusion that being and achieving perfection is the goal. It is not. We all experience fear and anxiety at different amounts in these messy times. These are emotions which need to be honoured and respected during whatever time of the day. So be gentle with yourself. Give yourself what your most self-loving (and wise) you needs.

…take the extra rest if you feel exhausted.

…eat the extra ice cream if you crave it.

…watch the extra movie if it’ll bring you joy.

Practice ‘deliberate kindness’ with your family or friends. There is no greater joy than helping someone else in need. There is no greater need than fulfilling that urge to be significant and make a contribution. Deliberate kindness can be something small or large.

We have to move out of the Normalcy Bias and stand strong to realise that the new normal is as such.

Today is world mental health day . This isn’t a stigma but reveals the frailty of the human mind & condition exacerbated by COVID-19 and having additional pressure mounted by social media at a time when you are seeking validation, confirmation & seeking significance.

At a time when covid 19 has put additional strains on us, we can not allow ourselves to be pressurised to project a public image of strength and prosperity without realising that it is just that: an image stamped in time and place that doesn’t reflect the depth of character and personality. Most of the time our lives are focussed around preserving that image in the window without realising that it is as opaque as what is allowed with light.

It’s important to remember that it takes both sun and rain to grow a flower. Let this be a gentle reminder to everyone who feels stuck in a rainy season.

the darkest of nights brings the sunniest of mornings

Remember that when everything seems dark — it’s important to appreciate the sparkles of light…that the darkest of nights brings the sunniest of mornings…. Where ever you are in your journey, get more rest, drink more water, walk in nature and stay in touch with loved ones.

Remember it is taking a day at a time and being thankful for the day gone. Ultimately this is my take home remedy… take, enjoy and love each day.

There is no health without mental health



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Dr Amjad Mohamed-Saleem

Dr Amjad Mohamed-Saleem

is an analyst writing on decolonisation,peacebuilding,humanitarian,interfaith,Islam, Sri Lanka & other issues of interest. Have a PhD on ethno politics