• 28 Feb
    Yakata Sharma

    De-stressing the exam stress!

    exam stress 

     “I don’t want to disappoint my Parents. They are expecting 90% plus from me in 12th boards since I scored 10 CGPA in 10th. Even my classmates call me ‘Pseudo-topper’. I feel helpless at times. I don’t know what to do. I won’t be able to cope up with exam stress.”

    Recently, a student approached me with the issue of Exam Stress. The question of the hour is---Is it the pressure of cut-throat competition in academics or parents’ higher expectations from their kids to excel in studies a leading cause of exam stress among students??

    The reason can be either of the two or both; however the fact is no student is left unperturbed with Exam stress. What exactly is exam stress?? Let’s understand what Stress is, first.

    The feeling of being “under pressure”, tension, anxiety, nervousness … are the words generally used by individuals to express their state of stress. As per Psychology, Stress is an adaptive bodily response of an individual to certain events (Exams), objects or incidences which affect his/her mental equilibrium.

    Stress is of two types: negative stress is called Distress and positive stress is called Eustress, which feels like “butterflies in stomach” one gets while on a roller-coaster ride. Eustress enhances performance of an individual, motivates him/her to do better than the previous time and boosts his/her morale for further challenges of life.

    Why exam stress is a red flag for students??... The students who suffer from exam stress do face various physical, behavioral and mental demands which may include the following:

    • Lack of attention and concentration, thereby affecting the memory.
    • Low self-confidence and negative self-image.
    • Loss of appetite or binge eating.
    • Low or zero communication.
    • Insomnia or drowsiness.
    • Mood swings.
    • Less or negligible social interaction.
    • Upset stomach or diarrhea.
    • Suicidal ideation---- If not treated timely may lead to clinical Depression.

    Under what circumstances does exam stress arise??...  The common exam stressors include:

    • Self-created pressure to score high (Sometimes more than his/her aptitude).
    • Higher expectations of Parents.
    • Spirit of competitiveness.
    • Comparison with others (Siblings, cousins, classmates etc.).
    • Fear of being left out and fear of rejection.
    • Fear of being ridiculed by parents, siblings, friends, teachers, etc.

     

    I don’t feel stressed during exams. In fact I don’t study all the time. I make sure to take out sometime to watch TV and even go out to play for an hour during exams.” -- Another student from same class told me the other day.  

    Not all students experience exam stress. Why is it so? Exam Stress arises when:

    • There is no structured plan for study.
    • There is no structured plan for revision.
    • No proper schedule for sleep and rest.
    • No healthy and nutritious food habits.
    • Pre-occupied with other negative emotions.

    For a few individuals exam stress, if not worked upon, may prove disastrous.

     

    Here are a few tips to curb exam stress:

    • Plan your study: A proper planning can help you win over exam stress with an ease.
    • Keep in mind the date of examination.
    • Prepare a schedule and stick to it.
    • Divide the course.
    • Set short-term target(s).
    • Include recreational and leisure activities too in the scheduled study plan.
    • Schedule the subjects depending on your productive hours i.e. Morning, afternoon, evening, night or late night.
    • As rightly said, “Discipline is the key to success.
    • Act on the study plan.
    • Keep regular follow-ups with the plan.
    • Review the progress.

    It will be a mere waste of time if one doesn’t stick to the study plan or rather remains engrossed in unimportant tasks while studying. 

    • Focus and attention: One of the major issues with students is that they are not able to retain attention and concentrate for extended period of time while studying for longer duration. For them:
    • Sit at the same place at the same time to study, so that your mind is tuned to the same environment.
    • After every 30-35 minutes of session take 5-10 minute break just to relax your brain.
    • While studying put off all the distractions like, mobile phones, TV, Internet, Video games, PSPs, tablets, etc.
    • Tell your family members about your study time so that they don’t disturb/distract once you have sat to study.
    • Postpone any calls from your friends, relatives, neighbors etc.
    • While revising the lessons engage in Fast Reading.
    • Make use of visual maps and Mnemonics to remember formulas, theorems, periodic table etc.

           “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”----- leisure and recreational activities play a crucial role in de-stressing exam stress. Hence it is necessary to UNWIND YOURSELF during exams.

    • Practice deep breathing exercises.
    • Listen to soothing music.
    • Stretching and walking.
    • Engage yourself in Positive Self-talk and affirmative discussions (I CAN-I WILL) with others.
    • Talk as much as you can with your parents, trusted ones or professionals about this state of yours.
    • Visualize your success.
    • Stay away from rebuttal people.
    • Take the right amount of sleep and timely scheduled rest between the study time.
    • Eat healthy and balanced diet.

     Keep all the above mentioned points in mind and tell yourself to keep calm it’s just an exam!

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  • 16 Feb
    Yakata Sharma

    Don’t Suffer Silently, Voice it out!

    assertivenss

     

     “It was a quiet afternoon and I was studying history. History was a sleeping pill to others, but to me it was as fascinating as a mystery. To my surprise, one of my uncles returned home early. He was always interested in my whereabouts, friends, clothes and studies. I admired him as he guided me more than my father.” 

    “Like a good host, I made uncle comfortable at home. While discussing a few things, he asked me to come and sit close to him. I didn’t find it odd and sat near him. While continuing the conversation, all of a sudden he started fondling my private parts. I was taken aback by such an act. It made me uncomfortable and numb. I couldn’t react timely. Fortunately my mother entered the hall. I took advantage of her entry and ran to my room as fast as I could.”

    “It took me some time to register what just happened to me back in the hall. It was an episode which turned my fun-filled life topsy turvy. I asked myself with disgust, ‘why me?’ ” 

    “I couldn’t share the episode with my mother since I felt guilty and hesitant about it. It was a secret I would take to my grave.”

    “And it didn’t stop! Another day he groped me from behind and with a wicked smile asked me how it felt? When I didn’t answer,  he threatened me. I was both terrified and furious at the same time. I wanted to slap him tightly, but couldn’t even move away from him.” 

    “My non-assertiveness reinforced him to continue such activities. Gradually, I avoided the social settings where my uncle's presence was expected. I felt disgusted and tormented whenever I saw him. To my Parents I was merely disrespectful by not being part of the social evening(s).  They asked me the reason for such strange behavior. I was skeptical about their reaction to such a revelation, hence I preferred not to disclose it to them. I felt helpless and suffered silently for years.”

    “For quite a long time, all those episodes were green in my mind like a kaleidoscopic movie. I wanted to talk about this with my mother but couldn’t. Later in life I couldn’t sustain relationships with the opposite gender for long. I felt uncomfortable even when my male friends touched me in a friendly gesture. I couldn’t figure out the reason for my failed relationships. I had low self-esteem and was annoyed with myself.”

    “One day my patience ran out. I couldn’t cope with the emotional turmoil and consulted a psychologist. I was quite apprehensive initially but subsequently I told her everything that happened with me.  Regular sessions with the therapist boosted up my morale. I was no longer afraid of my uncle and later told my mother about the sexual abuse. She got furious and extremely apologetic for not being aware of my plight until now.”

    “It’s been 7 years now. In retrospect, I realize that the reason for my prolonged suffering was lack of assertiveness, the fear of “being judged” by my own parents, hesitation and the guilt attached to its disclosure. Had I been assertive I wouldn’t have suffered for so long.” -----announced Shalini.

     

    Presently, Shalini works for a leading NGO and no longer feels afraid to opine her views or thoughts freely in different social situations. Assertiveness gave her a positive self-image and confidence to live life to its fullest. She no more suffers silently!     

    Assertiveness is a response that seeks to maintain an appropriate balance between passivity and aggression. Being assertive means being able to stand up for own or another person’s rights in a calm and positive way, neither being ‘aggressive’ nor passively accepting ‘wrong.’ It doesn’t come to everyone naturally. It is a social skill which can be learnt at any time in life.

    Assertiveness tends to be self-rewarding i.e. it feels good to have others begin to respond more attentively and to find situations going one’s way more often. It gives an individual confidence and strength to express opinions and feelings openly. It is standing up and not let anyone take advantage of oneself.

    Assertiveness training is a form of behavioral therapy designed to help people stand up for themselves—to empower themselves. The training programme includes:

    • Identification of the situation which demands assertiveness.
    • Consideration of best alternative responses.
    • Rehearsal of the selected response.
    • Shaping of the behavior.

    Assertiveness is all about expression, self-enhancement and achievement of life goals. It’s better to “stand up for yourself” than “being a scapegoat” in life.

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  • 06 Feb
    Yakata Sharma

    Parenting: A stepping stone towards a child’s psychological well-being

    helicopter parent

     

     

    By Yakata Sharma

     

    Shalini yelped, “I am 25 and am tired of being ‘operated’ by my parents.” 

    Shalini, as a kid never had the opportunity to be the ‘happy and carefree’ kid. In kindergarten when she once participated in a Poem recital competition, she got a ‘silver medal’ which to her Parents was not a victory but the LOSS OF A GOLD MEDAL. She was an average scorer, but really worked hard to be the class topper because her Parents WANTED her to be the best in class. Since kindergarten, she had experienced what is now termed as HELICOPTER PARENTING.

    She never had a say in anything, whether it was the choice of clothes or the food she ate, friends- she made, education, career stream that suited her aptitude or interests, or relationships-whom or when she wanted to marry. With such a claustrophobic family environment, Shalini missed out on a healthy and positive development like the kids of her age. As soon as she became a teenager, conditions worsened.

    Whenever she asked her mother to go out with her friends, in reply she got a string of questions to answer which ultimately spoiled her mood and she ended up staying at home. The invites to parties started diminishing until there were none. She was mocked at by her friends. By now it became a common joke that she would have to take permission of her Parents even to use the washrooms. All such comments made her furious but she never reacted to any of them. She, somehow, knew that whatever is being said about her is not wrong but she found herself helpless to even raise her voice against it. There was nobody at home with whom she could discuss all the emotional distress she was going through. As a result, Shalini, preferred to stay aloof from her family and friends.

    With the passage of time the anger and annoyance Shalini felt for her parents grew to another level. Before she could decide which stream to opt for, what she wanted to become in future, she was enrolled in a medical college to pursue medicine. She, undoubtedly, had an aptitude for medical studies but she wanted something else from life. She wanted to be a photographer. However, she never had the courage to tell her Parents about her dream and desires frankly.   Within years, she became a non-assertive soul who was just surviving rather than living.

    During college days, she came across one such ‘photography club’ being introduced in the campus. She was happy to know about the functioning of the club, regular meetings, and intra-club activities.  She did not register herself at once in the club, rather one day initiated a conversation with her Parents regarding the same, with intense courage. Her Parents disapproved of her idea and asked her to focus on real subject-matter. Another setback from parents was not new to her.

    Within 6 months of her job, she was sacked. She couldn’t stick to a job for more than 6-7 months. She tried her best to sustain the job but to no avail. Her parents, whom she looked upon for a shoulder to cry on during this ‘low-phase’ of life, did nothing but criticized her to the core. Shalini started giving up on her patience. She consistently got bouts of hopelessness and sadness and one night decided to end all her troubles. She ran away from her Parents to find solution to all her anxiety, anger, frustration, non-assertiveness and most importantly, her failures in life.

    For the first time she expressed her feelings in a letter she left for her Parents----------

    “I HATE you mom and dad from the core of my Heart”………..

     

             PARENTING, just like any other art form is not everyone’s cup of tea. People, generally, consider that giving birth to a child is all about Parenting. It takes lot of courage, patience and sacrifice to provide healthy and positive Parenting.

    An individual should not become a Parent just:

    • To have someone to care for you when you are old.
    • To give your parents grandchildren.
    • To carry on the family name.
    • To save a shaky marriage (or to get a guy to the altar).
    • Because everybody else is doing it.
    • To be “fulfilled” as a woman or “prove” you are a man.
    • To have someone to “love” ---or possess.
    • “We are trying for a girl (boy) this time.”
    • “Johnnie wants a baby brother (sister).”

    Helicopter Parenting will raise ‘angry kids’ who eventually lose interest in life and respect for their parents. As a result, kids of such demanding and pushy parents develop into suicidal adults, whereas, Positive Parenting allows the Parents to treat every day as an opportunity to help their children see the positive in every experience and truly provide a meaningful existence. It’s the positive Parenting which leads to better social, cognitive and emotional development of a child.

    If only had Shalini been given Positive Parenting, she would have fought bravely with her negative life events….IF ONLY! 

    Image source

  • 27 Jan
    Prerna Sharma

    Not all mood swings are bipolar disorder.

    mood swing

    We often hear people saying “he got mood swings, he must be bipolar”, “her mood fluctuations are too much to handle, she is suffering from bipolar perhaps” lot of celebrities have come out openly to talk about their diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

    Have we ever wondered if bipolar disorder is over diagnosed or misdiagnosed being merely mood swings! Well, mood swings and bipolar disorder are not mutually exclusive, but there is a fairly dramatic difference in mood swings in regular people and those with bipolar disorder.

     

    Lets understand bipolar disorder first.

    Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness and it is a brain disorder caused due to imbalances in neurotransmitters or to say simply, chemicals in the brain that cause unusual shifts in mood, energy levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

    Bipolar disorder is an illness that impacts a person’s thoughts, feelings, perceptions (both mental and physical), as well as behavior. Research findings suggest that people are genetically vulnerable to inheriting the disease if any of their family members have a history of psychiatric illness.

    Typically, a person with manic-depression experiences moods that shift from high to low and back again, with varying degrees of severity.

    The symptoms are severe enough to lead to impairment in work, social, or academic functioning, and may lead to involuntary hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others.

     

    There are various types of bipolar disorder depending upon varied symptomology nevertheless; all of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels.

    These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.

     

    A manic episode is generally characterized by:

    Feeling like you can do anything, even something unsafe or illegal, Extreme displays of emotion, agitation, decreased need for sleep,  inflated self esteem or grandiosity, highly talkative, distractability, dressing flamboyantly, spending money extravagantly, living recklessly having increased sexual desires.

     

    A depressive episode is generally characterized by:

    Mood Changes: A long period of feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, worried, guilty or tearful, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities.

    Behavioral Changes: Fatigability, problem concentrating, remembering, and making decisions irritability changes in eating, sleeping, or other habits, thinking of death or idea of suicide, or attempting suicide.

     

    The symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe, and the criteria for receiving a diagnosis are quite specific. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time, as well as more extreme mood shifts.

     

    Now let’s understand what defines a mood.

    A more general definition of a mood is the current state of the mind, disposition as of the moment. As such, your mood may range from being too happy, to or deep sadness.

    An observer may only see the non-verbal signs of your mood through facial expressions or behavior, but it is the individual himself/herself who can basically indicate what his mood truly is.

    In regular people, the mood swings usually do not interfere with their lives. If a person is a little bit down or a little bit up, he can still go to work, meet his friends, can still make dinner, or can still take care of your children or house.

    On the contrary, when a person has bipolar disorder, the mood swings are such that they disrupt his life.

    He can be so depressed that he cannot get out of bed. He can be so depressed that he doesn’t want to live.

    On the other side of the continuum, he can be so manic that he spends his family's fortune in a moment.

     

    Mood is usually influenced by a lot of factors, both internally and externally.

    For example, a person unable to sleep during the night may be irritable and gloomy in the morning. Individuals may also suffer from mood swings brought about by an external influence, or among females, hormonal changes.

    Our mood can change without warning, usually influenced by such internal or external factors. Mood swings are less intense, can go away in days, and cannot disrupt the life of an individual. Though mood swings can be part of bipolar disorder but the difference in mood swings in regular people and mood swings in bipolar disorder, is the severity and duration.

     

    Coping with bipolar disorder:

    Bipolar disorder needs immediate attention and help by mental health professionals such as psychiatrist for prescribing medications and a clinical psychologist or therapist to engage the person in psychotherapy.

    In severe case the person requires admission in hospital for improving compliance to the treatment. With regard to mood swings in regular people the help can range from simple relaxation exercises, breathing techniques to take better control of the body and then working on cognitions, thinking, feeling aspect of mind.

    With prolonged stress and poor handling our minds become susceptible to perceive everything overwhelming and before we realize we get into a pattern of cyclic emotions which come flooding and we find ourselves hard to take charge.

    Making smaller goals, appreciating positives in us and environment, taking a break from usual routine, and evaluating our emotions for what they actually are can help in controlling swings.

    A good time management, cherishing our relationships and doing mindfulness meditation can help us deal with mood swings a great deal.

    Dr.Prerna Sharma

    M.Phil, Ph.D Clinical Psychology

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  • 24 Jan
    Neelima Krishnakumar

    Difference between therapy and advice

    therapy or advice

    Very often clients meet with a therapist in a confused state of mind. They meet the therapist with an inherent feeling of instability of their own minds.

    But this feeling has to be experienced and sorted out by the same mind which makes up the confused state.

    They feel that their experience of pain and confusion are genuine. They look up to the therapist for comfort and help for which they have visited him/her.

    But giving advice is not part of therapy. Advice is mostly superficial and therapist is to explore it more deeply.

    Therapy is actually a place to explore the feelings of the client about themselves. It is a place of self discovery.

    The therapist can at best help the client to find out how he has become tangled up so that an attempt at untangling can be carried out together.

    The therapy is successful only if the client gets a better understanding of his inner world and his relationship.

    Many a time it takes time and reflection to see the inner pattern because of the client’s reluctance to open up in full.

    Very often the therapist has to acknowledge the pain and confusion of the client and wait patiently till the inner problem is sorted out by the client themselves.

     

    This doesn’t mean that information has to be withheld from the client. Many a time, speaking up directly with the client is the best possible way.

    Sometimes CBT has to be integrated into the therapy when patients need symptomatic relief or when they are trying to break habits.

    The most extreme that can happen is when the person is having suicidal tendencies or aggressive habits. In such cases, a list of people from their family circle or friends circle has to be made, to fetch immediate medical help.

    Mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques like JPMR, guided imagery, etc can be employed in simple cases.

    Communication techniques and relation building exercises can be employed in cases regarding close family relationships.

     

    But a therapist has to be careful not to advice patients with major life decisions.

    The therapist can give hints to help him reach the decisions. A therapist can always point to what is the right decision in a given environment rather than telling what to do.

    Some patients insist to specifically advise them what to do. But this may be because he can distance himself from responsibility if things don’t work as planned.

    Friends and family members can be dependent on giving advice and counselling.

    For e.g. – If a person asks his best friend for an advice regarding his failing relationship with his spouse because of spouses infidelity, the friend might ask him to get a divorce and move on. But a therapist will respond using a solution focused response saying something like “What can you do about your spouse’s infidelity?”  The difference here is that a friend or family member gives advice by answering your question whereas a therapist always helps you to find the answer for your own questions.

    A psycho therapist should always avoid giving advice because then it no longer is part of psycho therapy.

    If the client finds the therapist fill the time with advice, suggestions or anecdotes about their life, it could indicate that he has some difficulty for the therapeutic process to unfold.

    Better search for someone else who creates the space for the process of becoming conscious oneself.

     

    This doesn’t mean that opinions should not be shared. The therapist has to be cautious about giving advice because the client is usually visiting him only to get advice.

    But such advice is not going to help in the long run. Encourage the client to share his experiences; but don’t indulge in giving council.

    If you have a compulsive habit to give advices, the following questionnaire is going to help.

    1. What are my motivations for giving advice? Is it to boost the ego and hence make myself feel important?
    2. How often am I giving advices?
    3. How to ensure that my advice is going to help the client?
    4. Am I crossing the limits? Am I blocking the client from taking decisions by filling him with details?
    5. Would I take my own advice if I were a client?

     

    Remember that when the therapist imposes specific suggestions, he is blocking the client in taking decision. This is counterproductive. But when the therapist teaches their client to solve their problem themselves, they are actually helping the client to develop an insight into the problem all by himself.

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    Responses 2

    • Radhika Goel
      Radhika Goel   Jul 22, 2017 04:46 PM

      When faced with a difficult decision or any other problem that can have profound consequences on a person's life they look to others for help and advice to avoid being responsible for the consequences. People often approach therapists when the burden gets too much and their existing resources are not enough to cope with the stressful situation before them. In such a situation, they are looking for someone to tell them what to do and find a quick fix to the situation. However, contrary to popular belief, therapists should not and do not offer their clients advice, they help them to find their own solutions. The therapist's job is to lend an ear, have positive regard and explain to the client what bothers them so that they are able to navigate through their own problems. 

      Thank you for bringing this forward and I think these five questions that one should address before giving advice can prevent us from making bad decisions.

    • Stephanie Shapiro
      Stephanie Shapiro   Jan 29, 2017 08:40 AM

      The points in this article were wonderful! I will certainly use this in my private practice- thanks for sharing.

       

      Stephanie Shapiro,LCSW, PhD Candidate