Meet Sanam Devidasani, a counseling psychologist and creator telling Mental Health Challenges for Women in Pandemic
“Sadly, that is something that is rewarded in our culture. It did, however, motivate me to get into this field. I initially just wanted to understand the behaviour of the people around me and of myself. So I started reading a lot about human behaviour and discovered this super fascinating world of psychology! I knew when I was only 13 that I wanted to be a psychologist.”
We had a little chat with Sanam Devidasani regarding her journey of becoming a mental health creator and we also discussed with her, the mental health challenges for women in pandemic especially. Here’s a gist of our conversation.
Sanam Devidasani’s Journey as a Mental Health Professional, creator
My journey was pretty daunting due to a few reasons. One, being that mental health itself is so stigmatized that it was difficult to understand if it was the right choice to make in terms of scope, job availability, pay, etc. Also, of course, convincing my parents that I was sure about what I wanted to study was another issue on my mind. But luckily, one lecture from my school principal worked like a charm! Secondly, there was no clarity about the education path either. There are so many kinds of mental health professionals out there and the path and qualifications needed for each are very unclear in our country. I actually went into the field not knowing so much about it. I just trusted my gut and dove right into it.
I think at every point during my Masters, I questioned whether I made the right choice as did a lot of my classmates but then I got my Masters. Only to be extremely de-motivated and feel like the most unprepared professional out there. What you study during your course and actually sitting with a client are so different. I quickly realised that I had a lot more training to undergo before I can actually see clients. I took a year to strengthen my practical skills until I got into the therapy room. As I saw more and more clients, it got better.
I started my private practice right before the lockdown. So my entire practice has pretty much been online but I can’t complain. It has been wonderful. Due to the lockdown, It was hard to network and spread the word about my practice. I felt like I needed to put myself out there for people to discover my work. I’ve also always loved to write and Mental Health is my favourite topic to write about. Hence, I started an Instagram page called @therapynoteswithsanam to put out free mental health content and resources for everyone.
It is such a fun process to create every video and every post. I create and design all my content myself which is such a good break from the usual job. Overall, the beginning of this career was scary because there isn’t much information out there and I didn’t really have someone to guide me through the process. But as I found my way through this career and built my practice, I know it was the best decision I could have taken.
Mental health challenges for women in pandemic
I don’t know where to start. Gender is a big factor when it comes to mental health in general.
Women who grow up in highly patriarchal families are taught to adopt gender-based roles like that of a nurturer and caretaker. They are taught to be respectful to the men in the family and keep their heads down. Their entire identity is something that is decided for them and they end up leading their lives without any sense of self.
With the onset of the pandemic, everyone’s mental health has taken a toll. I think it has been incredibly stressful for women, especially mothers. Mental health challenges for women in a pandemic are just so many.
Being perceived as the more ‘nurturing’ sex, the responsibility of household chores, caring for the family plus caring for children and sick relatives fall onto them. Now that everything is online, mothers have an added responsibility to homeschool their children along with focusing on their careers. It seems nearly impossible to do all of this and also take care of themselves. It’s no surprise that the mental health of women has been affected.
For the women who are pregnant or are new mothers – that’s a whole other level of isolation. The amount of care and help these women need is immense but they are still expected to just soldier on and carry on their usual responsibilities.
Plus there is the added stress of the virus itself. It’s not just them who is at risk now but it is their baby too. I have seen my amazing sister battle COVID all while taking care of her newborn baby. I can only imagine the amount of worry and anxiety she would have gone through. Yet she always put her baby first with little regard for her own health. Nobody else is even allowed to be around in such cases – so you can imagine the feeling of isolation.
Balancing all of these issues along with self-care gets extremely hard. Especially when women, particularly mothers, are rewarded for being ‘selfless.’ But at what cost?
Coping strategies would you like to recommend to people dealing with mental health issues.
Mental health is just as important as your physical health. They both affect each other at any given point in time. You can’t ignore one for the other. They go hand in hand.
Whatever the mental health issue is – if you’re feeling some emotions that are uncomfortable like anxiety, sadness, disappointment, anything. Just sit with it. Your emotions carry data and information. You can learn a lot from them so don’t push them away just because they seem uncomfortable. They can give you some very valuable information about yourself if you listen to them and process them rather than wait to get rid of them. Talk about it with your loved ones to get more clarity. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Asking for help is the first step toward feeling better. It does not mean you are weak. You don’t have to go through it alone.
Make a mindful decision about whom and what you spend your time with. Engage in activities and with people that nourish you. Not those that deplete your energy further. For some people, constantly being around others may give them an energy boost. For some, alone time is what gives them energy. Figure out what works for you and do that.
Go to therapy!
I do not believe that therapy is only for people having severe mental health issues. Therapy is for everyone! I’d suggest everyone to give it a try. To know yourself better, to understand why you feel/behave the way you do, to have support during difficult times, to talk about people who won’t go to therapy and to just be yourself with no judgement.
Therapy is such a wonderful process if you give it a chance.
Finally, don’t wait to feel better to do things which you enjoy.
Don’t say “When I feel better, I will do so and so.”
Do it TO feel better.