Techie Duran-Dy has been busy with Zoom seminars promoting mental health during this pandemic. She is known to many as a businesswoman, wife, mother and civic leader. Her latest accolade — that of being a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at the University of the Philippines — is the hat she is wearing in this interview, which happened after her talk to the JCI Senate Philippines.
The Philippine STAR: We have heard good reviews about your online talks on “Journeying in Times of Uncertainty.” Why is mental health more important nowadays?
Techie Duran-Dy: The pandemic has changed daily lives in unprecedented ways. We are in a situation that is beyond the control of any one person. The threat is real and the duration is uncertain. Endless cycles of thought keep on looping in our heads. Fear is natural at this time. A certain level of anxiety is good as it makes us adapt or change, but too much anxiety is bad for you. There is no health without mental health. This is not just the absence of a mental disorder. It’s the way we think, we feel and we behave. Your mental health can affect your daily life, relationships, professional life and even physical health.
What can we do to improve our mental health and those of our loved ones?
First, is mindfulness. This is bringing your consciousness and attention to the present moment with acceptance and without judgment. A simple exercise is just to close your eyes, relax your body and focus on your breathing. Inhale and exhale deeply. Practice this daily initially for three minutes then build it up to seven or 10 minutes. Being present helps calm the mind. Personally, I do these breathing exercises before reading the Bible. Second, do not engage with worry. There is a big difference between worrying versus problem solving; just stay afloat and survive until the pandemic ends. Set aside a time limit and the most uncomfortable place or corner of your house to attend to bills or whatever causes your stress. Make this “worry period” brief, like no more than 30 minutes a day. Focus instead on what you can control — don’t allow the mind to wander to what you cannot control. Practice media distancing since negative news makes us feel overwhelmed. Third, engage in stress-reducing and pleasurable activities, whether it's gardening, reading a book, Netflix or singing. Focus on being productive. Learn new things. If you enjoyed hanging out with friends, then have virtual parties to see and catch up with each other. I also have a regular virtual group and one of our friends is a frontliner in New York. Since she was asking for prayers we agreed to pray the rosary together daily in, Zoom at 10 p.m. Fr. Alarcon joins us for prayers and says a few words after. It’s like having a daily mini retreat. Fourth, seek good nutrition. Make sure to have a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables (This means eating different-colored fruits and vegetables — red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet). Fifth, make sure to get enough quality sleep. Have a consistent sleep routine. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Try meditation. Put down your gadgets or blue light. And move your body during the day. Getting enough sleep helps improve the mood and can reduce anxiety. Sixth, get some physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day. This need not be difficult and too structured. It could even be just dancing to music or brisk walking.
What are the signs of mental health problems?
Some of the signs are sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, withdrawal, restlessness, irritability, excessive and persistentworry. Some show a lack of energy, loss of interest, insomnia or excessive sleeping, significant weight loss/gain, inability to concentrate, feelings of excessive guilt or worthlessness, lack of hope for the future, recurrent thoughts of suicide or even self-harm.
What should a person with a loved one showing these symptoms do?
Please don’t invalidate the feelings. Fear is normal. Be sensitive to each other’s emotions and mental states. Be kind to yourself and others. Seek professional help. Counseling is still possible virtually. People need to know they are listened to; that they are not alone since isolation is overwhelming.
Any additional tips to surviving this pandemic?
Your new job is to weather the storm. Having faith or imagining the worst scenario is a choice. Make God a partner in coping with stress. Dy ended her presentation with several of her favorite Bible verses such as “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will give you strength and bring you help” (Isaiah 41:10).
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