Tackling anxiety and depression

The world is going mad… as in crazy. Red hot rage replaces business disputes. And blows apart international borders. Men will be boys. This is not a return to the innocence of childhood. But the rebirth of wild childishness. The bully boy that deserves to be expelled. The boor who should be shown the door takes over the class, the school. And given time, maybe consumes the world itself.

The fight-or-flight gene stemmed from early man’s existence in natural surroundings. Much after their prehistoric roots to the present day, it still exists. Even though modern man hunts no longer. Nor is he the natural prey of the four-footed predator. Modern civilisation could have removed this response. And contemporary culture erased this barbaric genetic carryover from man’s mental make-up.

Instead, two popular mass adaptations of this genre — sports and movies — have enshrined it. The former is now ‘a war without weapons’. And the latter glorifies and glamourises its clamour. Through violent action-oriented and war-worshipping movies.

Stress is a normal part of our lives. It kicks in as a natural physical and mental response to emergencies. But if it is prolonged or ignored for a long length of time, stress can lead to anxiety or depression — SAD (Stress, Anxiety, Depression).


AD: Anxiety and Depression

To save column space and your time, we have clubbed the duo that could follow untreated stress. Anxiety: Like stress, a little anxiety too is a natural and normal human phenomenon. It is the excesses that should bother you. There is an early warning system that you can employ to detect its presence. Look out for: ongoing prolonged periods of worry, fear and impending doom that sap you at work and zap you at sleep. Failure to keep relationships too can determine one is under its sway. Its physical form could be a pounding/racing heart, excessive sweating, dizziness and vertigo, insomnia or panic attacks. Emotional problems evoked by anxiety include fear of losing control, feelings of dread and concentration problems.

Untreated depression is the single largest factor in suicide. Anxiety and depression are conditions, not weaknesses.

Depression could be a byproduct or extension of prolonged untreated stress. It reveals its bad, sad state by a person totally losing interest or pleasure in activities that he earlier enjoyed. Lethargy, change in sleep patterns, loss of sex drive, alcohol or drug dependence are also areas of depression concern. Untreated depression is the single largest factor in suicide. Hence, it is doubly important to note that anxiety and depression are conditions, not weaknesses. And medical and effective treatments are at hand.


Song sung blue, everybody knows one

The word ‘stress’ is often used to describe both the physical and emotional or mental state. All stress, including anxiety, is not negative. They can invite and induce a better response and better attitude/application from us. ‘Butterflies in the stomach’ start and aid us — from ­examination class, ­scientific experiments and sports, to every field of life.

Quite often, good stress sifts wheat from the chaff, separates the good from the ordinary and elevates the truly great from the rest. Nobel Prize winners, Academy Awards’ winners, gold medal winners in track and field events are a few of its living examples.

Yet, living in the shadow of stress or in denial of the existence of bad stress is dangerous. Then, quite a few of those under the stress siege, for a prolonged period, can crack. Such stress can lead to cardiovascular health issues. An ­Australian study says that on an average, one in eight men encounter depression and one in five experience anxiety at some stage of their lives. India, with its far greater population and far fewer medical-social stress shelters, should be far more vulnerable. Indeed, the odds are high that you or someone close to you could be a victim of stress. For stress over a prolonged period can lead quite a few to anxiety or depression. Consult a psychologist or psychiatrist in either case. Medical intervention in fending off stress has no social stigma.


Action station

Get your family doctor into it. He/she can put a handle on your problem, and tell you whether you are in a stage/state of anxiety or depression. And if need be, refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further treatment. In addition, reassess your lifestyle. Seek supportive people (family and/or friends) that you trust. Keeping it a hidden secret can draw you deeper into the vortex.

Blow away the blues: My close friend Bobby is a good case study. He has been through anxiety hell. And back, thanks to my sister, Deepika, a GP and psychiatrist. She treated him with the relevant medication and put him on the right (sound) track. ­Knowing his passion for singing, she cajoled him to sing. ‘Song sung blue, everybody knows one,’ crooned Bobby with Neil Diamond as back-up. Bobby, the karaoke kid, then sang and recorded 45 songs echoing the Beatles, Elvis and Cliff Richards. We have these on our pen drive and sing along from time to time. Yes, music soothes the ­savaged-ravaged breast. As the Beatles put it, ‘Hey, Jude, don’t make it bad/Take a sad song and make it better.’


Rest assured

Fortunately, this SAD syndrome has as many solutions as it has problems. First of all, consult your doctor. Jointly work out an action plan. Then, more important, walk the talk. You have many options. Pick/develop those that you are passionate about. The highway back to good health is fundamental. Here, first change your ‘mental’ to mentality if required. Now, there are many paths you could pursue to return to normalcy. Here are a few:

Incorporate an exercise routine, eat a nutritious diet. Give good sleep the due it deserves and requires — ­downtime is your ‘up time’.

Walk in nature and Mother Nature walks with you.

Maintain a diary. Writing is a good release and relief point.

Meditate. It grants you a good mental space and a better perspective, perception of things.

Encourage yourself to laugh. Watching TV sitcoms (Friends, The Kapil Sharma Show, How I met your mother…) and listening to stand-up comedians (Jerry Seinfeld et al) set a good mood. Besides, laughter is still the best medicine.

On the other hand, if you know someone going through anxiety or depression, give him your shoulder to lean on. Recommend him to visit a doctor or a healthcare centre. Accompany him on follow-up visits too. Also, encourage mutual friends and families to visit him.

Finally, life has its ups and downs. No one and nothing is foolproof. Work on your resistance and improve your resilience. Remember: The force is not just with you. The force is you.


The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme

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