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Age of Anxiety By Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber

Conversation about Mental Health with Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber - Authors of Age of Anxiety

We are living in a tough times. We struggle with emotions we have never felt before. Is it anxiety? What is this feeling? The fact that we are unaware of how we feel ends up making us feel more anxious. We are all in this together.

Age of Anxiety by Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber published by Simon & Schuster India, includes inputs from mental health experts, helpline numbers, myths, facts and key insights on looking at the issue in India.

Given how the second wave of Covid-19 has left us broken, Age of Anxiety is here lending a helping hand to understand and cope towards wellbeing.

Age of Anxiety By Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber

This conversation includes:
1. The scope of the problem when it comes to understanding our state of mind.
2. What should one do when they are having a panic attack?
3. What is the root cause of such a nervous breakdown?
4. How can people take care of their mental health during pandemic-related stressors?
5. The problem of social anxiety and how to overcome it.
6. How can we help kids deal with everything happening around them?
7. How do one find the courage of asking for help?
8. Additional Resources.
9. New books and project.
10. Important message to all the readers.
11. About the book: Age of Anxiety by Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber

1. Your book serves as a complete guide to understand the depth of the emotional struggle. In today’s pandemic world, what is the scope of the problem we are facing when it comes to understanding our state of mind?

Kamna Chhibber: In the context of the pandemic it is important to understand that given the scope of the problem and the nature of the situation we find ourselves in, with no prior knowledge of how to manage such a crisis and maintain our health and well-being, it is natural for individuals to experience emotional distress in the form of low moods, anxiousness, worry, irritability, anger, guilt, to name a few.

Mental health related illnesses have affected a large percentage of the population and a predominant percentage of these individuals are not able to receive much needed treatment. Given this context it is important that during such times individuals make extra efforts to take care of their mental health and well-being, stay connected to loved ones, proactively share their experiences and seek support when they struggle to cope.

Amrita Tripathi: I don’t think anyone has yet been able to quantify the scope of the problem we are facing -- and indeed, different people are facing very different challenges and crises at the moment. So many people have lost loved ones and have to deal with the shock, trauma and rushed bereavement, sometimes unable to have that final glimpse or to do the last rites, or even mourn. Others are racing around trying to arrange resources for themselves or families or friends -- it’s survival mode, really isn’t it. Others are trying to cope and support from afar - stuck in different cities or time zones.

Those living with mental illnesses aren’t all able to get their medication on time or meet their therapists and psychiatrists. Those who are working have to figure out how to balance their ‘deliverables’ and OKR’s along with the huge demands this extraordinary crisis has placed on us. Through it all there is this haze of anxiety and distress, we’re collectively living through.

We haven’t started to fully comprehend the entire toll that this will have taken and what systems we need in place for support.

2. In chapter four, the one where we read about anxiety, depression, and panic attacks; what should one do when they are having a panic attack?

Kamna Chhibber: If someone is having panic attacks it is important to reach an expert as treating them and intervening at an early stage is important. It is crucial to follow the treatment as advised by the expert. Simultaneously, it is important to try and understand the biological underpinnings of the condition which lead to the physical distress that occurs in a panic attack.

Avoiding situations where a panic attack has been previously experienced or is anticipated to occur is not helpful as that further reinforces the anxiety. Additionally it is important to develop ways of coping with the physical symptoms that manifest in a panic attack by practicing relaxation techniques.

Working on the thoughts that are created during a panic attack is important by learning to restructure and reframe them and reminding yourself that the symptoms you are experiencing are occurring on account of the panic attack.

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Age of Anxiety By Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber

3. The following chapters offer guidance and help on how to deal with anxiety. But what according to you is the cause of such a nervous breakdown?

Kamna Chhibber: Anxiety disorders occur on account of biopsychosocial factors. There is a biological underpinning to the condition and individuals who are vulnerable to the same, when face with significant or continual stressors/triggers can develop an anxiety disorder which involves a neurotransmitter imbalance that is causing the appearance of the symptoms characteristic of the illness. Additionally, the psychological makeup of the individual and the social factors can play a contributory role towards the exacerbation of the experience of the trigger which ultimately results in the precipitation of the disorder.

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4. How can people take care of their mental health during pandemic-related stressors?

Kamna Chhibber: It is essential to try and create routines and schedules to maintain a sense of normalcy. Channelizing and focusing your thoughts on what you can control is important as is the need to ground yourself in the here-and-now.

When you find your thoughts drifting to the past or the present keep redirecting your attention towards where you are and what you are doing. Ensure you focus on maintaining your sleep patterns, diet and exercise.

Engage in the activities that you like to do, even if it is for short durations of time. Make sure you are mindful of not overloading yourself with information which may cause you to experience distress. Try to focus on the small joys and accomplishments of the day to maintain hope and optimism.

Finally it is important to stay connected with your social network, including your neighbours, friends, family and coworkers/colleagues.

Age of Anxiety By Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber

5. Maybe after years when things might come back to normal - a virus-free world - how deep would the problem of social anxiety be?

Kamna Chhibber: It is not possible to comment on how things will unfold in the coming months or years. We do know that currently a number of people are going through distressing experiences and this is impacting the ways in which they are being able to cope and manage their emotional and psychological well-being. Right now is the time for individuals to be there for each other and support each other through these difficult times.

For anyone who is experiencing anxiety relating to social or any other factors currently it is important to understand that this experience is related to the situations we are in.

We do not need to be in a rush to label these experiences as disorders or illnesses and we must try to work through them by acknowledging and accepting them and finding ways of coping with them through strategies like hierarchically working towards the problems that are being perceived, practicing methods of relaxation, attempting to take a problem solving approach, seeking the support of others, to name a few.

Amrita Tripathi: I feel like this links back to the first question and the short answer seems to be we don’t know. Initial surveys and data seem to show a massive amount of anxiety. The Singapore-based Quilt.AI analysed search patterns and trends and found 303,420 searches online around Anxiety between January and March this year alone. But we need more data and studies to understand the scale and scope of the problem.

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6. Children's lives have changed dramatically over the past year. You distinctly mentioned that depression is not just limited to adults but children too. How can we help kids deal with everything happening around them?

Amrita Tripathi: We have a book called Young Mental Health, co-authored with Meera Haran Alva which has a lot of great information and insight (and expert interviews) when it comes to mental health in children and adolescents. From what I gather, during this crisis, the expert advice seems to be be that you do need to shield your younger kids from a lot of the doom-scrolling and apocalyptic news around the clock. Keep that safe space for communication open.

For your older kids, who are already facing the uncertainty of exam schedules, or college opportunities and options, do have as open and frank a conversation as you can, instead of trying to gloss over the concerns.

This is a young generation coming of age in an unprecedented era, and I think it’s fair to say we don’t have all the answers, but that you are there for them and will help figure things out together. Again, a safe space for communication where they can share their stress, anxiety and concerns would be helpful.

Age of Anxiety By Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber

7. In your opinion, when should one seek professional help? How do one find the courage of asking for help?

Kamna Chhibber: The continuing presence of distress which is not getting mediated by measures to cope and seek support can warrant reaching out to a professional for help. It is important to look at factors like the moods one is experiencing, the challenge in doing activities and chores, the impact on productivity, the effect on relationships as well as experiences of feeling emotionally disconnected and there persistence as well as worsening over time to gauge whether an expert’s intervention is warranted in the situation. Reaching out for help can be difficult in the best of times. But the difficult circumstances we find ourselves navigating necessitate that we reach out to friends and family and if required helplines or individual experts to find the right ways to support ourselves.

The courage lies in recognising that to keep maintaining your resilience and provide support to others around you, your well-being is crucial. There is no shame in reaching out for help. It is important to unmuteyourself and break free from the stigma that has long surrounded mental health related illnesses and problems.

So even if you feel hesitant, try to speak to someone you know would be supportive and understanding to develop some comfort and you can expand on that circle over time or reach out over helplines where you can maintain your anonymity but also get the much needed support that you might require.

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8. Your book offers a great deal of clarity on how to deal with anxiety disorder. Can you recommend us few articles or videos which can be of additional help?

Amrita: More than happy to recommend that you can check out articles on Anxiety on our site, The Health Collective, including tips to deal with it. We also have several videos, explainers and interviews up on our Youtube channel (including two of the interviews from the book here and here).

9. Are you working on any new projects?

Amrita Tripathi: With this book, we have finished the 3-book Mindscape series, aiming to help start conversations around Mental Health, whether on Depression, Anxiety or Young Mental Health. The Health Collective itself is an ongoing project, where we are aiming to help make these conversations as inclusive, informative as we all work together to battle stigma.

And there is another book in the works, looking at the importance of Suicide Prevention.

Books by Amrita Tripathi on Mental Health

10. What message would you like to give to your readers?

Kamna Chhibber: Mental health related problems and illnesses have been seen with stigma and trepidation. It is important that we understand the biological and psychosocial underpinnings of the conditions and also focus on encouraging people to seek help when it is necessitated. There is no shame and it is important to break the stigma that surrounds mental health illnesses. Unmuteyourself so you can share your experiences with others.

If you are someone who has a mental health illness or know someone who does, then reach out and seek help. And in these difficult times Be There for each other as in the situations we find ourselves in vis a vis the pandemic it will be our collective ability to support each other and find the altruism within us that will help us navigate the mental health outcomes.

Amrita Tripathi: Exactly what Kamna said! And also for you all to know that however tough it seems, please know that you are not alone in what you are going through. Please reach out to find others who are willing to speak about and share their experiences, without judgement.

Age of Anxiety By Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber

About the book:

Book: Age of Anxiety by Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber

‘What does it mean when someone says they have Anxiety?’

‘I’m stressed and nervous all the time, do I have Anxiety?’

‘Will I ever get better?’

These are some of the questions we want to answer in this book. Is this the Age of Anxiety? Well, how could it not be – when so many millions of us feel that persistent combination of heart palpitations, impending doom, dread, even lack of control, as one of our contributors describes it. 

The question is, what can we do about it?

Through this book we will learn how to distinguish between anxiety as 'an attack of the nerves' or something that will come and go, and Anxiety as a disorder, which will need treatment, including possibly therapy or medication. The conversations are even more pertinent given the global Covid-19 pandemic, prolonged periods of social isolation and an increased focus on mental health and wellness

We learn from coping with Anxiety Disorders, sharing their journey to healing, explaining exactly what would have helped them along the way, as they seek to bust common myths and misconceptions.

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About the authors:

Amrita Tripathi is the founder-editor of The Health Collective, an online portal dedicated to stories of Mental Health and Mental Illness in India. She has been a journalist for a decade and a half and is presently working in the field of social media and co-authoring a 3 book series for Simon & Schuster India on mental health.

Kamna Chhibber, a TedX speaker, heads Mental Health for the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare. She is a trained therapist working with children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about working in the space of child-adolescent mental health, relationships, trauma and abuse.

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Age of Anxiety By Amrita Tripathi and Kamna Chhibber

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Nainsi Shah - May 23, 2021

Helpful 🙌🏼

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