Saturday, July 9, 2011

Insurance against Mental Disorders

I have this habit of taking a morning walk everyday. I never cease to be surprised at how, physical fitness is drawing more & more people out of their homes nowadays. We are very much aware of the various diseases which could rob us of our strength & vitality. Most of us try to follow some sort of exercise routine to keep those diseases at bay. But sadly we don't think of adopting a lifestyle which would safeguard us from mental illness .We all know that the numbers of mental patients are on the upswing, with no hope of a reversal. The causes are many & varied, but that is a topic for another discussion. Suffice it to say that today  most people are moving on a fast track,with little time, sympathy,or concern for laggards. Conditions are tailor-made for anxiety ,frustration & distress. 

We feel happy & confident while the going is good. It does not strike us that a change in circumstances could push us to the depths of despair, from where we could even slip into the clutches of a mental illness. Nobody can be said to be totally immune from these disorders. Mainly, three factors determine whether we tide over an upheaval or succumb to a psychiatric disease. One is our genetic make-up ,second is our upbringing & environment & third is the support systems that we enjoy & can lean upon.Obviously nothing can be done about our genetic proclivity,but efforts can, & should be made to insure that kids do not grow up in abusive homes,or environments.Here we are concentrating upon the third factor-i.e the efficacy of support systems in promoting mental health & keeping mental disorders at bay.

If a person who is genetically susceptible to mental disorders grows up in a caring family , & has a sound support system to turn to; he can easily overcome the challenges & frustrations of life.The preceding link amply illustrates this point.

Now take the case of someone who has no genetic susceptibility to psychiatric illness,but is reared in a strife-torn home.His growing years have been rough & stressful.He cannot relate positively to any member of his family.When such a person finds himself in the midst of a trauma,he will find it difficult to get out of it unscathed-all by himself.

Sometimes even if heredity & environment are fine;a person might be confronted by a situation where he needs advice, guidance and moral support.If this is not available he could very well cave in to his troubles.

Thus we are all at the risk of suffering from mental illnesses. But how many of us take precautions to insure that this does not happen? We do take various steps to enjoy good physical health; beginning with prophylactic inoculations,a healthy diet & various kinds of fitness regimes. But mind you, physical health becomes meaningless in the absence of mental health. In fact poor mental health itself can be the cause of many physical diseases. Thus it is essential to care for our minds as we care for our bodies. How about taking precautionary steps to boost our mental stamina, so that we do not succumb to the trials & tribulations that we may have to face in future? Here are some factors which we can incorporate in our lives in order to strengthen our shock-bearing abilities. 
There is nothing like close family ties to give us support and hope when we feel weak, when the outlook is bleak. Even if distance separates us from our blood-relations, it is essential to keep in close touch with them. Do not let minor or even major issues create a chasm between you & your family. Give them the benefit of doubt.

Even as I say this I am well aware that the vibes in some families are far from perfect. In fact a psychiatric patient might well have a schizophrenic parent from whom s/he has inherited not only his genes but also his behavior patterns. With one schizophrenic person in the house it is common to see other members becoming disgruntled,apathetic & selfish. The whole family could become dysfunctional.So naturally a member of such a family cannot expect to get the required support from home. The next best thing is to supplant the family with friends.
They say a family is thrust upon us,while friends, we choose. If family support is lacking then it is important to build up a close circle of friends. Devote time & effort to cultivate friends you can count upon. Think--tomorrow if you feel miserable whom can you depend on to cheer you up? Who will listen to your problem & show you a way out? If you don't have any such person in your circle take immediate steps to fill this vacuum. Scan your acquaintances & decide who is most likely to hold your hand when you are feeling down & out? Invite him/her over to spend time with you;share a meal together,take interest in his/her activities & give help when s/he needs it .Be the friend, you want the other person to be for you. It is essential to like your fellow-beings,trust them,& share your thoughts,feelings,time & activities with them if you want to make friends.Distrust,suspicion & a clammed up attitude keep people at bay.
It is a good idea to join a club. You will get to meet so many new individuals over there. This  will add to your sense of belonging & wellness. The activities of your club will widen your horizon & give you something to look forward to.Each new activity or the friend you make,will boost your confidence & lift your spirits.Your club members will extend help & support when you need them.

                                      HOBBY GROUP
A hobby group is one place where you are sure to meet like-minded people. Polishing your inherent talents,learning new skills & doing things in a group are all excellent tonics for mood & mind.

Religion has been a deep source of peace & tranquility to man-kind since time immemorial.Today as tensions & frustrations mount many of us take to religion & meditation to keep us grounded in reality.This endows us with a larger perspective.We become resilient enough to tolerate misfortunes without too much rancor or bitterness.Keeping in mind the law of karma also helps to mitigate stress,we can wait hopefully for better times when this bleak period abates.

Family,friends,clubs,hobby groups & religious groups-all give us external support when needed. But what about our internal resources ?These too should be augmented to prime us for stressful times.Let us take the physical aspect first.

                     EXERCISE  ROUTINE
A healthy mind can flourish best in a healthy body. A daily routine of Yoga,aerobics,gymming or walking will not only keep your body fit but also keep the feel-good chemicals like serotonin,dopamine & endorphins flowing.Yoga & pranayam are very effective in curing anxiety,depression,memory loss & various other ailments.

                  STRESS  BUSTERS
Which is your favorite stress buster ? Ever given a thought to it ? What do you usually do if you want respite from a taxing problem? You should definitely have a couple of past-times lined up to give you relief in times of stress. Reading,writing a journal,music,watching a movie,chatting with friends,going out for dinner,any out-door or indoor sport--it could be anything;but do put it to use when you feel stressed out.

                       TRAINING THE MIND
We all wish that our life should be pleasant ,satisfying & that it should run on predictable lines. Enjoy it while it is so.But the law of predictability dictates that it cannot always be thus.Difficulties will come-sometimes surmountable & sometimes not. After all, no one can expect to remain in a state of permanent bliss all through life.Intellectually all of us will agree to this, but how many of us really train our minds to be ready for such an eventuality?

It pays to remember that you are not the only one to face set-backs or a tragedy.Others have faced similar situations & emerged victorious.You too can.Keep a few things in mind. Guard against self-pity which can bog you down in depression.Train your mind to be equanimous in all situations.Don't go overboard in happy times & be patient in face of adversity.Flexibility,optimism & gratitude will see you through many upheavals if only you let them because--
" Difficulties always come but they do not last forever. You will see that they will pass away like water under a bridge."  Sri Sarada Devi.