THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED…EMOTIONAL & MENTAL SUPPORT DURING COVID-19

“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude under any given set of circumstances.” Viktor Frankl

I am reminded of this quote every time I hear a TV anchor announce one more person tested COVID 19 positive. There is an increasing feeling of dread and disaster when someone is infected. What I hear is anger about the person infected.

I would like to state upfront that I am not condoning the actions of people who have not followed precautions or directives by the government or healthcare professionals. They deserve to be treated accordingly. However, there are many who had no idea they were infected and discovered they were carrying the virus only when they tested. We have all read numerous accounts on social media about how people have contracted the virus. It was not a deliberate attempt for them. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time – just sheer bad luck.

Having said that, how do we treat people who have tested positive in our own family, friends circle or neighbourhood? Yes, physical isolation is a must, to keep everyone else safe. Is emotional isolation warranted? Do we have the right to treat affected person/family like pariahs at an emotional level?

No. We do not have the right. Remember, it could have happened to any of us.

A National Crisis

COVID 19 is a national crisis, a global crisis. It is a war that humanity is waging against a virus. I am not getting into where it came from, which country is responsible for spreading it, how & why. I am looking at our collective ability to help people deal with this trauma when they discover they are infected.

A crisis can occur on a physical or psychological level. The physical aspects of a crisis tend to be obvious, particularly if they involve human injury or death. The psychological aspects of a crisis tend to be significant and more widespread. However, the psychological aspects of a crisis are hard to identify and often overlooked.

A crisis is defined by three factors: negative events, feelings of hopelessness, and events beyond normal control. Crises are perceived as being negative events that generate physical emotion and/or pain. People who experience a crisis, experience feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and entrapment. Those who have lived through a crisis also feel as if they have lost control over their lives. Crisis events tend to occur suddenly and without warning. The lack of time to adjust or adapt to crisis generated problems is what makes the event so traumatic.

COVID 19 presented us with such a crisis. The containment process itself is stringent and a strict one with two important factors:

  • Social distancing
  • Lockdown

Human beings are not used to both factors. It has been tough to understand and accept for so many people. Especially in a society like ours, where we tend to feel, “This won’t happen to me.” It can, it may – happen to me, happen to you. If it does, I know what I want from people around me.

 Emotional Support

 The corona crisis has slowed us down enough to make us think about what we want Rythmfrom ourselves, how much are we willing to give and our own expectations.

There are provisions being made for physical & medical support for a COVID 19 patient. I can get admitted to a hospital and treated. However, the single most important expectation, besides good medical care, is emotional & mental care. I would want emotional support from my family and friends. I would want help to deal with the trauma of going through an illness like this. I would not want to be ostracized emotionally or mentally.

Sadly, in India, we do not have the framework or infrastructure to deliver that emotional support. From what I hear, the doctors and nurses are doing a fabulous job of counselling their patients. I know professional counsellors are willing to help. My counsellor friends have told me to refer anyone seeking help in these times and they will gladly handhold. The keyword, however, is to seek. Believe you me, these are times when we need that help. We need that ‘someone’ who will counsel and guide us to get out of trying situations. There is no shame or stigma attached to it.

A crisis like this affects us at different levels – medical, physical, economic & social. Underlying all these is the psychological impact. The impact can be felt in any of the following:

  • A positively diagnosed person.
  • A person undergoing financial problems due to the lockdown
  • People working from home (a lot of people have broken homes and may not know how to deal with the situation)
  • The so-called stigma of being a corona patient or a member of the patient’s family

These are but a few circumstances.

How Can We Help?

  • We can start by not being judgmental about people we know who are tested positive. I am sure they did not go around wanting to be infected.
  • Let us show them kindness & empathy, besides giving them the physical help of providing food, shopping for them or getting their medicines.
  • Please do not isolate them emotionally. A quick telephonic chat, a message or a video call will assure them that you are around.
  • Positive reinforcement goes a long way and helps people become optimistic.
  • Patients & their family members can be sensitive to and less capable of coping with the irrelevant humour floating around as forwards. We can be empathetic to that. Do not brush it off as ‘soft’ behaviour.
  • Those of you who can collaborate through your organisations to help small business owners generate revenue for themselves, please explore such opportunities.

In times such as these, vulnerability is not a weakness. When we encounter an unexpected challenge of threat, the only way to save ourselves is to hold on tight to people around us and not let go. Life does not make sense without interdependence. We need each other and the sooner we realise that the better for us all.

After all, Paul Romer said, “A crisis should not go waste.” Let us use this to become more compassionate, helpful & non-judgmental human beings.

A Friend For Life – Bonding With the Son In Law

Dear Akash & Vasu,

I wondered what to write as my first blog for 2020. Thank you both for being my inspiration!

In the stereotypical world that we live in, many articles & write-ups can be found about the mother in law/daughter-in-law relationship. The son in law somehow never gets written about.

You both became part of the family even before your respective weddings took place. I do not mean this superficially. Your attitude and the way you simply blended in with all of us endeared you right away. From attending golden jubilee anniversaries to birthdays to poojas at home, you both went with the flow. Not just that, you rolled up your sleeves and worked side by side with all of us. This is in stark contrast to how some other sons in law behave – remain aloof towards their in-laws’ side of the family.

As a spouse, your ability to accept our girls as they are and encourage them to pursue their dreams is phenomenal. I have observed intelligent conversations between you all and it gladdens my heart, not just as a mother, also as a woman. In observing you, I have found you to be of complete integrity, true character, loyal & honest. I have seen you rationalize situations even when your wives were being a little stubborn about the same. Today, I would like to salute that and praise you unabashedly.

All marriages have to be worked on. It is not easy. It is everyday work. A lot of times, women believe they are the only ones who invest in a relationship and work at it. I am proud to say that you both have done the same in so many different ways. I understand the pressures you may go through, the uncertainty & insecurities that crop up once in a while. You have handled a lot of that with aplomb and I feel happy that we have established a relationship where we can talk about it comfortably.

We have raised daughters who love you wholeheartedly and who understand marriage is total commitment and a covenant that goes beyond broken promises and hearts. It is not be taken lightly and I know, they will stand by you. Yet, some aberrations will happen, mistakes will be made, by both of you. You know the best part, I trust you all to deal with them and handle it to the best of your ability.

You may have understood by now that we women think a little differently. For a wife, if the husband makes an effort to build a relationship with her parents, then she feels cared for and secure. Our girls are no different and you have made them feel secure & cared for. Thank you for doing that.

There is a saying – a man who treats his woman like a princess is proof that he has been born and raised in arms of a queen. I have often told both your mothers, that we are blessed to have you both as sons in law and a part of our family. As a mother, I would like to thank Archana & Rama for the value system they have given you. And today I can happily say…

son-in-law-quotes

Thank you dear Akash & Vasu for being who you are and how you are. Stay happy & stay blessed!

Love & hugs

Uma

A Promise To Stand By…

I ended my 2018 by watching Nathicharami on 31st December. It was one of the best things I did on new year’s eve. 

I must admit, the desire to see the movie was because I heard the music before and Nathicharamiloved  every bit of it. Then I saw the official trailer and my curiosity was piqued. I do not know of other Kannada directors having explored the subject of what two young Indian women go through in a particular phase in their lives. I saw the movie & spoke to some friends who had seen it. Most of them emphasised on the theme as “awakened sexuality of the young widow”. I beg to differ here. 

To me, the entire experience was going through Gowri’s journey after she becomes a widow. It is about how she battles loneliness, sleepless nights, parents who pressurise her to get married again (perhaps for the wrong reasons), a predatory boss and her own desires that make her feel guilty. Salvation comes in the form of two office colleagues & friends who help her with a dating app and connect her to Dr Carvalho, the psychiatrist. He helps her peel the layers of her emotions, and, deal with the mental conflicts. Loved his metaphors and one liners!

A parallel story unfolds with Suma, an educated woman from a village, yearning for her husband, Suresh’s love & affection. I appreciated the unfurling of this marital relationship, where Suresh is always condescending in his behaviour towards Suma and criticises her supposed “village mentality”.  The director, beautifully leads you to question Suresh’s frustration at one level & audacity at another level, because he also displays “village mentality” in the movie.

Yes, sexual desires or sexuality has been used as a subject to bring out deeper issues like guilt, societal reaction & gender sensitivity. Nathicharami is metaphorical, refreshing & relevant. Metaphorical, because it shows Gowri anchored to a time & relationship in the past. Refreshing, because it talks about consent for sex in a marital relationship & sensitively explores predefined notions of morality & desires. Relevant, simply because it opens up a sea of questions that ordinary women today face in the many facets of relationships. 

The movie by award winning director, Mansore, has good cinematography and amazing music by Bindhu Malini. Her unique voice is what you hear in the songs and her ease of combining various musical instruments to create hauntingly beautiful music is testimony to her musical expertise. The use of the trombone, drums & guitar is melodious and it is the kind of music I would love to play while I sit in my balcony or on my terrace, sipping a glass of wine and watch the sun go down & the moon come up with the stars shining. 

I wish more and more directors, producers and actors give us such wonderfully crafted & engaging movies like Nathicharami. We will promise to stand by them. 

 

Seven Types Of Humor Anyone Can Use :)

A new convict is sitting in his cell. Suddenly someone yells out, “419.” The whole block laughs loudly. Someone yells, “78.” More laughter. “641.” Hysteria! And this goes on every afternoon. A new prisoner can’t figure out what this is all about. He asks his cell mate. “There’s only one book in the prison library and it’s a joke book. All of us have read it so many times we memorized the jokes. Now, all we have to hear are the numbers!”

So, the new guy goes to the library, reads the whole book & memorizes the jokes. One afternoon the jokes session starts. Someone yells, “316.” Everyone is howling. “56.” Gales of laughter. The new guy yells “237.” Absolute silence! He’s wondering what happened, when he hears a voice, “Some people can’t tell a joke.”

It’s true…a lot of people can’t use humor effectively. I have been asked frequently how I manage it. A lot of it I owe to an author called Malcolm Kushner, whose books have inspired & taught me how to use humor effectively.

There are seven simple types of humor anyone can use. They can be easily delivered even if you don’t have any comic ability. They are: Quotes, Cartoons, Letters, Lists, Analogies, Definitions and Observations.

Quotes

Quotes not only add spice to any conversation, but also provide one of the simplest ways to introduce humor. They are easy to find & use. Quotes should be analogized to the situation. Here’s an example of what I mean. My favorite quote for opening a statistical presentation comes from Yogi Berra. It is about Yogi walking into a pizza parlor and ordering a pizza. The waitress asked him if he wanted 4 or 8 slices in the pizza. To which Yogi replied, “Make it 4. I don’t think I can eat 8.” We have all heard variations of the same quote.

What we have done here is to buy a small amount of audience attention with a humorous quote. Remember statistics is considered boring world over :). When I teach MBA students, all my quotes are attributed to either Aristotle or Socrates and I begin by saying, “I believe it was Aristotle/Socrates who said…”

Cartoons

Like the quote, cartoon has in built insurance policy. It is not yours, somebody else has created it, you only selected it! Cartoons make ideal speech material because of their wide variety of style & topics. You can always find one that related to your message. No matter what kind of a day we have had, cartoons always bring in respite. Even if you can tell a joke, it never hurts to share a few cartoons. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a cartoon is worth two thousand!

Letters

This is one of the most overlooked form of humor. It is a simple device that can become the highlight of any communication. There are a wealth of funny letters out there…you only need to google for the one to suit your presentation. One of my favorite ones is the one that appeared Huffpost Comedy.

                                  

 

 

Lists

Let’s focus on the geometry of humor. Two points make a line. Three or four make a trend. It allows you to build informational points right into a quip or anecdote. Here’s a simple example to illustrate:

“There are three ways to get things done. (1) do it yourself. (2) ask someone else to do it. (3) ask your kids not to do it.”

The first two points are serious & mundane. They set up expectations that the third will be the same. The third however, violated that expectation & catches us off guard. The technique isn’t limited to three items…it is just the starting point.  Another of my favorites is from a graduation address at the business school I taught.

“Mr Dean, members of the faculty & board, distinguished guests, honored graduates, friends and finally dear parents whose tuition payments have ended!”

Analogies

Analogy is a concise statemet that highlights the similarity between two objects. A simple analogy that is funny is also a rae jewel. I have listed some of the globally popular ones here:

  1. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
  2. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  3. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
  4. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

Definitions

Definitions provide a simple way of breaking up long chunks of dry material. Here’s how Bank of America President A.W Claussen defined inflation to liven up a discussion:

“Inflation is the process that enables you to live in a more expensive neighborhood without going to the the trouble of moving”

Definitions can also be combined with some of the other techniques that I have mentioned above. They can serve as raw material for analogies. This Ronald Reagan example is a classic:

“Government is like that old definition of a baby. It’s an alimentary canal with an appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

Observations

Observations are short, clever lines that can be inserted anywhere in a presentation or communication. “Pearls of wisdom” is how I would describe them. The observation is phrased like the fortune in a Chinese fortune cookie & attributed to an ancient philosopher. Observations are basically colorful comments pertaining to an individual or situation. For example, “He carries around a hose pipe so he can always walk on water”. 

Then there are observations of the absurd, silly and no comic ability is required. Anyone can produce humorous observations based on data, phone numbers, typos, politicians, paperwork etc. Just stop for a moment, lift your head above the fray and the view will be enlightening.

After all, that’s what we advocate in everyday life too…stop and smell the flowers! Have a humorous day :):):)