Deepika Padukone opened up about her struggles with depression and anxiety for the first time in an HT exclusive in 2015. She’s a former supermodel, an A-list actor and the first woman to rank among the top five highest earning celebrities of India. But after opening up about her battle with depression and anxiety, we saw Deepika Padukone in a new light. By sharing in details how she decided to put her health above everything else and got treatment, Deepika demonstrated how mental health crises don’t discriminate against anyone. Along with the help of her family and psychologist, Anna Chandy, Deepika not only fought depression, but also chose to be open about her struggles. She showed how depression and anxiety are just like any other illness. They’re nothing to hide away. In 2015, Deepika Padukone started The Live Love Laugh Foundation, an initiative to end the stigma against mental health and spread awareness.
You may be wondering why someone like Deepika Padukone would struggle with mental health, then you would not be alone. Do the words “mental health” make you uncomfortable? For those suffering from depression and anxiety, it can often feel like nobody will ever understand and nothing will ever get better. Despite how common depression and anxiety are, they can easily be ignored or misdiagnosed, which is harmful because when left unchecked, these disorders can be debilitating. “Despite being a common mental illness, depression still remains stigmatised in our country, disallowing people to address the warning signs associated with it and come out to talk openly about what is ailing them. There is a need to create awareness that depression can affect anyone irrespective of their age, socioeconomic status or gender, and that the symptoms vary from person to person,” Anna Chandy, chairperson of The Live Love Laugh Foundation’s Board of Trustees, and author of Battles in the Mind, says.
Your mental health challenges might be more serious than you think
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you might find your mental health affecting different areas of your life when left unchecked. According to the WHO, depression is defined as a common mental disorder characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable — and the inability to carry out essential daily activities. Anna Chandy says if these signs are ignored or neglected for a long period of time, it can lead to suicidal thoughts. Depression also hinders mental processes like concentration, memory, and decision-making, she adds. For many of us, mental and emotional stress is just a byproduct of our everyday lives that we’ve learned to cope with. But according to Anna Chandy, there are some physical signs that your mental and emotional health may be buckling under depression. “Loss of appetite, irregular sleeping patterns, headaches, cramps, and other digestive problems are other physiological symptoms of depression. People who undergo these symptoms for longer than usual should seek professional help in a timely manner. It is also imperative that family and friends observe any unusual behaviour and support the individual to express what he/she is going through,” Anna Chandy says.
Depression manifests itself in many different ways that are subjective to each sufferer, and while you may know the physical symptoms, there are a few common psychological signs you should never ignore. Anna Chandy says a pessimistic outlook about oneself and everything around oneself is one of the signs to look out for. According to her, another sign could be, “When an individual starts feeling anxious, empty, helpless, worthless, irritable, hopeless, or even guilty, and these feelings persist for 2-3 weeks, it could be an indication of depression.”
Brutal truths everyone should know about depression
The signs and struggles of depression are often harder to notice than those of physical conditions, but like any mental health disorder, it’s just as debilitating without proper treatment and support. While it can be impossible to understand what someone with depression is experiencing, according to Anna Chandy, there are some important things to know about depression:
“Before addressing the treatment options, we must address the stigma associated with depression. It must be acknowledged that depression is similar to any other illness and can happen to anyone. Understanding this is immensely important when it comes to helping an individual going through any related symptoms so they may share them with their family and friends and seek professional help. Depression is a highly sensitive illness where the support and care from those around is critical for recovery. The medical treatment options depend on the type and severity of depression. For some people, the ideal option could be psychotherapy, while others may require antidepressants, exercise, or a combination of these. If these fail to work, then brain stimulation techniques like electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation are also advised. it is important that we acknowledge that all our bodies are different and therefore an individual must find a combination that is suited to their needs. Hence, finding a combination that is appropriate for your needs may take some time.”
How to manage your mental health every day
A few daily habits can help you manage your mental health every day. Anna Chandy says, “People with anxiety constantly undergo feelings of restlessness and agitation while thinking about future events. A person may face abdominal pain, increased heart rate, sweaty palms, insomnia, headaches, or irrational fear. However, certain simple habits can help manage these negative feelings.” The key to starting and ending every day on the right foot means relying on a few daily rituals. Anna Chandy lists some of them:
Adequate sleep: It is vital to avoid sleep deprivation, or even excess sleep. Forcing ourselves to sleep is also inadvisable. We must instead prepare ourselves for sleep by relaxing our mind and body and initiating a state of calm. Sleeping must become a habit, one which is planned and scheduled.
Exercise: Physical activity is a great way to improve circulation and regulate oxygen levels in the body. The increase in the levels of oxygen will improve brain functioning, clams the nervous system, cleanses the lungs and facilitates better sleep. Regular exercise helps balance the level of serotonin in the body which is the hormone associated with regulating mood, appetite and sleep cycles.
Balanced diet: A balanced diet including nutritious fruits, vegetables, and meat can help the body combat anxiety. On the other hand, we must avoid the consumption of fast, junk, and processed food which can have an ill effect on our bodies resulting in lethargy and anxiety.
Meditation: acts as a breathing exercise that stabilizes your heart rate which alleviates symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Socialisation: When a person has one or more close and healthy relationships, they are more likely to become resilient. Resilience is the ability to cope with stress and adversity, some common characteristics are positive attitude, optimism and ability to regulate emotions. Resilience helps an individual cope with stress, major life events and psychiatric symptoms. We must seize each possible moment with our friends and family, which can significantly help cope with our feelings. Voicing and sharing our emotions with them can lift the heavy burden of negativity off our chests, making us feel light and free.