Life in Kashmir: A Saga of Stresses and Strains

Life in Kashmir: A Saga of Stresses and Strains

By MEHBOOBA RASHID
Mental, physical and social health, are energetic elements of life that are closely linked and intensely interdependent. Mental disorders affect people of all countries and societies, individuals at all ages, women and men, the rich and the poor, from urban and rural surroundings. Depression, hopelessness, sadness, despair, misery and unhappiness are more likely following particular classes of experience – those involving conflict, disruption, losses and experiences of embarrassment and so on.
Many people living within zones of conflict suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders. It is a state resulting from stress, especially one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existing equilibrium. There has, however, been no definition of stress that everyone accepts. Therefore, it’s difficult to measure stress if there is no consensus on its definition. People have very different ideas with respect to their definition of stress. Probably the most common is, “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension”. Another popular definition of stress is, “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize”. Natalie Goldberg defines the phenomenon as, “stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down”.
Now coming to the impact of stress on humans, it has a very harsh impact. Examples of life stresses are the death of a loved one, emotional problems (depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt, and low self-esteem), traumatic events, such as a natural disaster, theft, rape, or violence against oneself or a loved one are other examples. Sometimes, stress comes from inside, rather than from without. You can stress yourself out just by worrying about things. All of these factors can lead to stress. These aspects and conditions are all present in Kashmiri society. The nature of violent conflict and many social, economic, family and other issues have made life harsh and hard to live and people usually suffer from stresses and strains.
In May 2016, Medicine Sans Frontier (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organization, revealed a shocking detail on Kashmir. The MSF’s survey was conducted by the organization itself in collaboration with the Department of Psychology, Kashmir University, and the Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Kashmir. The survey found that one of every two adults was mentally disturbed due to the ongoing violent conflict of more than two decades. The Valley’s “first comprehensive mental health survey” also revealed that one in every five adults in Kashmir was suffering from post Traumatic Disorder.
Now let me turn to the conditions of modern life. These have created stress and we all react the same way. We experience the adverse effects of stress in our body, our pulse pressure gets increased and we feel tension in our muscles. The causes of stress in modern life emerge from the many obligations we have to handle every day to the modern way of negative thinking. In modern society, we have many outstanding obligations and other thematic issues like our constant worry about the future; we also feel trapped in situations that sometimes we cannot change. All this weakens our immune system and it becomes a cause of many psychological and physical disorders.
Earlier people lived a less intensive live, following more closely their internal clocks. In recent decades, the pace of life has accelerated dramatically and most of us experience our days as an emergency situation, which requires continuous action and no rest. Since there is no time for rest and leisure, we move more and more away from ourselves and become more and more stressed. Unlike our ancestors, whose main worries were obtaining basic requirements, such as food, clothing and shelter, our lives are more complicated. There are more sources of stress and more opportunities for the stress to wreak havoc with our bodies. As the stress cycle continues, health problems become increasingly serious in both physical and mental domains.
To reduce and manage stress, primarily, the need of the hour is to end this endless trauma of violence and conflict and focus on peace building measures. But, at the same time, we need to make sure that our bodies and minds do not surpass more than they can withstand. This can only be achieved by relaxation. Sometimes, the enemy is in our head. The way we talk to ourselves , although generally formed in childhood, follows us throughout our lives and plays a significant role in all our experiences. If we think and speak negatively then this is a major source of stress. However, the silver lining is that it is never too late to learn the power of positive thinking. Let our first step be revisiting our thinking and our life styles.
—The Author is a Post Graduate Student at the Department of History, University of Kashmir.

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