Duologue with Dr. Neeharika

Dr. Neeharika Jaiswal is a Neuropsychiatrist. She has experience in both pharmacotherapy as well as various therapies. She is dedicated to spreading mental health awareness, changing attitudes toward mental health and breaking free from stigma. For this initiative, she runs an Instagram and Facebook page – “Brain & Mind”. She strongly believes that there is no health without mental health.

Hello, doctor. Thank you for taking this interview. Please introduce yourself and your work to our readers.

Hi! I’m Dr. Neeharika Jaiswal, a neuropsychiatrist dedicated to spreading mental health awareness and removing the stigma around mental health issues.  I strongly believe there is no health without mental health. As a doctor, my goal is to educate and empower others through online consultations and my Instagram and Facebook page “Brain & Mind”, a platform for mental health awareness and busting myths. Here, I provide actionable tips and credible information on mental health issues.

This is something which everyone wants to know. What really causes mental health problems?

Ah, this would be a long list! There are a lot of factors that come into play here. To sum it up, there can be biological, psychological and social factors. A biological factor could be someone in the family having a psychiatric disorder. An example of a psychological factor could be past trauma that a person may have faced. And a social factor could be something like unemployment.

Are there any benefits to writing in a diary?

Definitely! There are endless benefits of writing/journaling. When you write something on paper, you’re able to reflect on it better. Writing helps clear your mind and gives you clarity on your thoughts. Materializing your thoughts onto a page can give you a sense of purpose and even encourage you to take action. I would strongly recommend writing anything that comes to your mind. I really feel it can bring a huge change in your life. Bonus – it serves as a record which you can enjoy looking back at later.

These days, a lot of people are night owls. Are there any consequences to the phenomenon?

Sleeping late at night can have far reaching complications. Studies have shown that sleep quality is affected not just by how long you sleep, but also what time. I would suggest sleeping during hours of darkness. Sleeping at night helps to align your body clock with its environment.

Irregular sleep cycles and lack of sleep take a huge toll on your body and mind. And if sleep deprivation continues, it can affect performance, decision-making and memory. Over time, it can negatively impact your physical health too.

Here are five tips to help you break out of your night owl phase:

  1. Prioritize sleep. This is your time to recharge and also where a great tomorrow begins.
  2. Create a sleep schedule that will help you sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. Now the tricky part, sticking to it. It really helps to create a daily night routine/ritual for yourself to help sustain this habit.
  3. Remember, the key to better sleep is small changes everyday. You can’t overhaul your sleep habits overnight. Say you’re sleeping at 2 AM right now. Start going to bed 30 minutes earlier each day. By Day 5, you’d be hitting the sack by 11:30 PM. That’s a difference of 2.5 hours!
  4. If you take naps during the day, keep them short, because these can interfere with your sleep later at night.
  5. That cup of coffee might be an essential part of your day, but it may be ruining your nights. Cut down on caffeine, especially in the evening. 

A lot of people struggle with taking care of someone they care about because of the care they feel towards the person. How can we take care of someone who has been diagnosed with, say, depression.

The most essential thing here would be to support your loved one and be there for them. Do whatever you can to remind them they aren’t alone. Be patient, empathetic, and ready to listen. Check in on them periodically to see how they are feeling. Remind them of their positive qualities as they may be critical of themselves. Offer help with household chores. Help them set up a routine and check in to ensure they’re following it. Meanwhile, you can read about depression and learn more about it. At the same time, remember to take care of your mental health because you’ll only be able to help them if you’re doing okay yourself.

What can we do to help someone who talks about suicide and self-harm?

If someone has confided in you with this information, you must listen without judgement. Ask them what they are thinking and how they are feeling. Acknowledge what they are saying and be respectful. Reassure them by stating that suicidal thoughts are common and that they are treatable. Encourage them to seek professional help. Help them set up an appointment with a mental health professional and accompany them. Ensure that they are safe and do not leave them alone at such times. 

This is something we see getting confused and interchangeably a lot these days. WHat is the difference between being sad and being depressed?

This is a very important question. Here are the top five points differentiating the two:

  1. Sadness is an emotional reaction while depression is a psychiatric disorder.
  2. Sadness might last for a brief amount of time, but depression can persist for weeks/months.
  3. Sadness can usually be linked to some external event. Depression is more commonly internal, it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact reason or origin.
  4. Sadness could go away once the sadness causing situation goes away but depression usually persists.
  5. You may be able to cope with sadness on your own, but that can become quite tricky with depression. It can interfere with your daily functioning, and you would need to seek help.

So, can reading help dealing with mental health issues?

A big yes! Research has depicted that even reading for 5-10 minutes a day has a multitude of benefits. Reading reduces stress and helps you sleep better at night. Those who read regularly have a much lesser chance of developing memory related disorders later on in life.  So, what are you waiting for? Go, grab a book! 

Which books do you recommend as a guide to cure depression/anxiety/stress?

I wouldn’t use the word ‘cure’ here. Books can definitely guide you but they cannot cure you if you have a disorder. Here are my top three book recommendations:

  1. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns
  2. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living by Russ Harris
  3.  Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff

So, how can we keep our mind healthy?

You must have heard the phrase – “A sound mind in a sound body.” The mind and body are closely related. To keep your mind healthy, you need to take care of your body. My top recommendations are:

Eat a healthy balanced diet.

Hydrate! Drink up!

Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night.

Move that body at least for 30 minutes in a day. This can be any activity you enjoy – walking, jogging, dancing, playing a sport etc.

Exercise your brain. Yes, you read that right! Like your body, your brain also needs exercise. There are many ways you can go about this, like solving crossword puzzles, learning a new word per day, doing mental math instead of using a calculator, playing brain stimulation games etc.

Keep a journal. More on that in my next answer.

Make time for your hobbies. Pencil in some time in your day or week just for things you enjoy doing and most importantly that make you happy. Even just 10 minutes of doing an activity you enjoy everyday can do you a world of good.

Spend time with people who make you feel happy and at peace. And that includes spending quality time with yourself too.

Unverbalise is ever the more grateful for this Question and Answer session with Dr. Neeharika Jaiswal to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week on Unverbalise. We hope to continue to bring in more amazing people to our platform to inspire our readers, so don’t forget to subscribe to our site and share the word around.

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