The 21-day Mental Health Challenge, Day 2: Is being stressed part of mental health?

Yesterday I woke up at 5.30am ready to tackle the day, my mental health checklist in hand. As per the pre-scheduled arrangement, I did yoga, read the Quran, read and had a cup of tea. All was good and zen until the children opened their eyes at 7am.

After that, everything went zig zag. By 8am, I had already refereed a verbal argument between two little humans and shouted after them to pick up their toys. By 9am, I was deep in an internal argument with myself while washing dishes (what will give me greater peace: a clean cups and plates or a lie down on the sofa?) By 11am, I closed my eyes for a quick second only to wake up half an hour later in a panic over being late to a party that we were due to attend.

My husband-ever the zen-master-looked over at me as I was getting dressed and casually remarked that I looked stressed.

It wasn’t even midday but Day 2 was already a failure, or so I thought.

While talking to a good friend of mine (a medical doctor) about yesterday’s ‘failure’, she reminded me that being aware of  these stressful feelings is half the battle against mental illness. Self-awareness is important because it helps us understand who were are and why we behave the way we do. The more self-aware we are, the better masters of our emotions we become. Instead of feeling helpless in the face of stress, we can take control and respond to it in a healthy and productive way.



The 21 Day Mental Health Challenge, Day 1: Children and Grandmothers


I wanted to start my first challenge day with some research on positive psychology-the field of psychology involved in studying happiness-so I went straight to the experts on this subject: my own children. Below is an excerpt of my interview with them.

What makes you happy?

Sakina: Movie night, ice-cream, crisps, and chocolate.

Muhammad: Chocolate, ice-cream, a rainbow, the Queen, and castles.

What are some of the things that you do that make you happy?

Sakina: Hugging, and kissing you.

Muhammad: Squishing your tummy.

What things make you sad?

Sakina: Time-outs.

Muhammad: Time-outs.

How do you cheer yourself up?

Sakina: I play on your bed.

Muhammad: I give hugs, I wipe my tears.

What can people say to you to make you stop crying?

Muhammad: ‘I love you.’

Earlier today while walking, I listened to a fascinating TED talk on how grandmothers are at the frontlines on the fight against depression in Africa. Dixon Chibanda- a psychiatrist based in Zimbabwe-created a program called the Friendship Bench after finding that a large population of the country did not have access to mental health services. Because there are very few psychiatrists in the country, he decided to train grandmothers as informal mental health workers in their communities. The grandmothers did not provide formal psychiatric diagnosis but rather, they provided emotional support through evidence-based interventions and guidance. They use indigenous terms to identify mental health problems and provide culturally-relevant solutions that focus on eliminating shame and stigma and thus empowering patients with hope.

Have a listen to the full TED talk here: here


I did some exercises while watching two World Cup matches, each lasting about 10 minutes. They weren’t intense but they did raise my heart rate. I also drank my quote of water, wrote my in my gratitude journal and wrote tomorrow’s top 3 goals in my bullet journal. Now I’m off to bed with a book. I’m reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’.

I feel pretty good about today.