Mental health ‘check in’ on your loved one

We always look out for the people we love—parents, partners, children, friends, and siblings. We take care of them when they fall in and take them to the hospital if they get hurt. So why not look out for their mental health as well? Read the blog ahead to know how to do that. 

Some signs to look out for are your loved one feeling sad or low. They could show confused thinking patterns, less concentration, and extreme mood changes; some could withdraw from social situations. Physical symptoms include low energy or always tiredness, sleeping issues, inability to deal with problems, excess alcohol and drug use, changed eating habits, violent behaviour and suicidal thinking. 

If you consistently see these signs in a loved one, try to talk about them. Ask what has happened and what the issue is. To do a simple checkup, these are a few tips:

  • Look for the signs mentioned above. Observe their behaviour.
  • Ask basic questions like how they are feeling.
  • Listen to them carefully and patiently. Active listening is essential.
  • Do not compare the issue with yourself or others. 
  • Offer encouragement and support.
  • Ask them if you can help in any way.
  • Have an open and honest discussion about your concerns.
  • Don’t judge them.
  • Bring this topic up only when you think it’s a good time to talk and when both of you are a bit relaxed and have time. 
  • If you think they might harm themselves or are exhausting themselves with their thoughts, seek professional help.

If you observe any of the mentioned signs and feel concerned about your loved one’s mental health, then suggest therapy. Motivate that person to speak to a professional and seek help. Take care of your loved one. 

Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is often one of the ways used to deal with feelings. One tends to eat a lot when emotional. Food is found to be comforting in these circumstances. Everyone over eats sometimes, but when this happens a lot without even realising it, it’s called emotional eating. How you feel can also make you lose your appetite. This can occur due to various reasons like work stress, financial worries, health issues, relationship struggles, educational problems, family dynamics, boredom, depression and more. Positive emotions are also associated with emotional eating like, topping the class or winning the competition. But most of the times it is related to negative emotions. Food is believed to be a way to fill that void (emotions) and create a false feeling of “wholeness.”  The food eaten at this time is generally high on calories, sweet and fatty foods. A few examples are having a pint of ice cream when feeling low, ordering pizza when lonely, having fries when stressed, eating donuts when sad, and having lots of cookies before an exam.

Here are a few signs of emotional eating. One craves for certain food items, binge eat, feel guilty about it later on, feel nauseas, gain weight which can lead to weight related health issues. This can all later lead on to obesity, heart diseases, lethargy, etc.

Analyze yourself if you feel you are eating emotionally. Ask questions to yourself like “Have I been eating larger portions than usual? Do I eat at unusual times? Do a feel a loss of control around food? Has there recently been a big jump in my weight?” If your answers are positive for these questions, then here are a few tips to get back on track:

  • Maintain a food diary and write down what and when and how much do you eat.
  • Take a nutritionists help for diet plans.
  • Manage your stress in other ways like exercise, hobbies, meditation, etc. so that it doesn’t lead to emotional eating.
  • Fight boredom by doing something productive or interesting instead eating just to pass time.
  • Check if you are really hungry before eating.
  • Keep healthy snacks in your cabinets instead of junk food.
  • Distract yourself when you feel like eating abruptly. Do something different.
  • Try not to tempt yourself.
  • Write down your emotions and what you feel.
  • Find the root cause of this emotional eating.
  • Get support/help if necessary. Therapists will go down to the main issue and help you with coping strategies as well.

Emotional eating is fine if done rarely, but it’s harmful if done regularly. So if you think you are an emotional eater seek help and get back on track.

Grief and Bereavement: Coping with the loss of a loved one

The global pandemic has had a significant impact on everyone’s life. During this pandemic, many people have lost their loved one. Not connecting with the deceased before and after their death has potentially increased the risk of complicated grief. 

What are Grief and Bereavement? 

Bereavement is the situation of having lost a loved one. Grief is the natural reaction to loss. Grief reactions range from normal to diagnosable psychiatric conditions; people adapt to the loss and accompanying life changes. 

Social distancing has impacted the usual form of religious and cultural aspects of the grieving process. “Physical distancing” has invariably resulted in “social distancing”; the isolation and quarantine result in “touch starvation.” 

Signs & symptoms of grief:

  • Shock, disbelief, or denial
  • Anxiety
  • Distress
  • Anger
  • Periods of sadness
  • Loss of sleep and loss of appetite

Tips for coping with grief and bereavement: 

Communicate: Talk to people, expressing how you feel is a healing activity. Find ways to express your grief through communication. Join an online bereavement support group. Conduct a ritual with your friends and family to share happy memories about the deceased. 

Heal At Your Own Pace: Healing is not linear. Each one heals at their own pace, never compare yourself to another grieving.

Space: A space or specific area for grieving may help in the easier expression of emotions without hesitation and facilitate healthier acceptance of death.

Journalling: Penning your thoughts down can help you understand your feelings better.

Exercise: Physical exercise along with relaxation will improve your sleep and concentration.

Spend time with others: Allow yourself to have moments of happiness or escape, spend time with others. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself.

Stay healthy: Get plenty of rest and eat regular and healthy meals.

Pandemic and Your Changing Relationship with Food

The announcement of lockdown by the government due to the virus in India has bought significant changes in the lifestyle of the people, whether it’s work from home, the limited number of groceries, little or no socializing. The pandemic has affected not only the physical but also the mental health of the people.

Stress: The responsibility of providing food on the table during the pandemic and maintaining or losing jobs, health concerns, and financial problems can cause stress. The effect caused by the stress hormone cortisol, emitted during times of distress, also plays a role in weight gain.

Work from home: Apart from essential workers, most of the work is being done online, which includes work from home. Even the students in metros have online classes. Due to the conferment at home, there is an increased level of stress in the working-age population. To reduce mental stress, most of them are indulging in “stress eating”. There is a decrease in the mental health of people due to the monotonous lifestyle.  

Binge-watching: A person with anxiety or depression may binge-watch more to avoid socialization, leading to ‘binge eating’ to find relief. 

Quality of diet: Due to the limited number of groceries, people are consuming more packed food and show a lack of interest in preparing healthy meals, leading to an increase in unhealthy eating habits. The fear of food stocks running out due to lockdown can decrease the quality of fresh food and affect the diet quality.

Lack of physical health: Restrictions on gym and gardens due to lack of social distancing can lead to more time indoors and laziness. This leads to increased blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and bone problems.

Sleeping patterns: Change in sleeping patterns due to lack of physical exercise, stress, overthinking can lead to sleep disorders like getting nightmares and the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Psychiatric disorders: Psychiatric disorders such as depression, attention deficit disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder can lead to weight gain owing to ‘comfort eating.’

Here are some tips for losing weight:

Reducing stress: Changes in eating patterns can lead to craving and high-calorie food. Intake of high-calorie food can lead to obesity.

Home Workouts: Attending online home workout sessions can make a person feel involved and connected to overcome isolation and depression; it improves physical health.

Diet: Including more fruits and vegetables in the diet daily can decrease the risk of overeating.

Eating plenty of fibre: Increasing the intake of fibre in the diet can help lose weight.

Routine: maintaining a healthy routine can help in avoiding overeating and stress.

Limiting screen timing: Taking a break from the mobiles and laptop can reduce the stress on the eyes and can get some time to focus on health.

How is the pandemic affecting children?

As we are constantly bombarded with news about COVID-19 and its spread, we experience a lot of anxiety and stress. Children face similar anxiety and stress, too.

Detecting physical symptoms of COVID is simpler than knowing about its effect on our mental health. This applies particularly to children, as all their regular physical activities have suddenly come to a stop. Schools and daycares have been closed; children can neither visit the park/play areas nor can they meet their friends in person. This can lead them to experience anxiety and stress.

Detecting physical symptoms of COVID is simpler than knowing about its effect on our mental health. This applies particularly to children, as all their regular physical activities have suddenly come to a stop. Schools and daycares have been closed; children can neither visit the park/play areas nor can they meet their friends in person. This can lead them to experience anxiety and stress.

It is hard for children to understand why their parents are stressed. Also, with easy access to digital gadgets; children can now gain a lot of information online and have a lot of queries about the pandemic.

Parents play a critical role during this phase, as children will be curious and ask more questions. They will also need clarification from their parents on specific issues. Hence, parents need to prepare their child emotionally for social distancing and isolation during the pandemic.

Psycho-education of parents and caregivers is crucial, as, during these difficult times, parents are the child’s biggest support.

There are certain things that parents can do to get the child to understand the situation, like:

  1. Reassuring them that this is a temporary phase.
  2. Give the children much-needed attention, especially when they feel like talking or have some query.
  3. Look out for emotional changes in the child and have regular conversations with them.
  4. Pre-plan the daily activities with the child, keep a fixed routine for schoolwork, playtime and recreational activities.
  5. Keep them in touch with their friends, grandparents and their loved ones through video calls and phone calls.
  6. Keep a check on their screen time on the devices.
  7. Try to keep them engaged in physical activities.
  8. Most importantly, take good care of their health and wellness. Develop a habit of self-hygiene in a fun way.

If the child is already in an abusive environment, the isolation during a pandemic can further deepen their mental health crisis. Childcare helplines have seen a huge spike in the calls regarding the health, nutrition, child abuse reports and medical assistance.

To reach out, you can write to Mind Mosaic at [email protected] and we will connect you with the concerned authorities and helplines.

Stay safe. Maintain social distancing.