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Anxious or not?

An accelerated life style led by everyone these days, strained between work, family and social relations, leaves no time or space to acknowledge, reflect, and cope with all the changes happening in daily individual lives, which is precisely the reason why promoting awareness and education about mental health is becoming more important day by day.

This is exactly what Middlesex University Dubai aimed at, and achieved on the 25th of October 2017, celebrating World Mental Health Day. The hall of Block 16 was blooming with activity, with counters set up by enthusiastic students from the various university clubs. One of the stalls offered the students sticky-notes and color pens to jot down their answer to ‘What makes you happy?’ and the students filled an entire banner with their happy thoughts. I managed to see quite a lot of different thoughts voiced, like long-drives, books, coffee, time with family, football, dance and sleep. Answers were ranging from the simple little things in life to more abstract self-developmental concepts.

Another counter conducted an online survey to promote awareness about mental health, which included questions like ‘What do you do when you are feeling low?’ and ‘Do you practice meditation at least once a week?’. Post-survey, one of the students would brief you on the importance of mental health and the dire consequences it may inflict upon neglect, after which they would provide you with a green ribbon pin, which symbolizes the support and awareness for the cause.

The Oasis Theatre hosted workshops and seminars on ‘Curbing Anxiety’, making sure the students were aware and educated. The theatre was filled with students who were either personally struggling with anxiety, knew others that are affected by it or just generally interested in learning more about the topic.

Two reputed art psychotherapists from ATIC: Art Therapy for Anxiety, Andrew Wright and Mariam Al Halawani, threw in some colour among the students. After explaining how art works for psychotherapy and in curbing anxiety, they handed out papers, sketch pens and crayons for the students to draw a place where they’d like to be to feel calm, emphasizing that the activity does not in any way require artistic skills, for those who were anxious. Students came up with colourful drawings of beaches, balconies, cliffs and seashores. The students surely, while gaining first-hand experience, also had a lot of fun during the workshop.

Dr. Thoraiya Kanafani, a clinical psychologist, gave an elaborate lecture on ‘Understanding Anxiety’colour while stating the symptoms, precautions and measures to evade it. Students could be seen nodding and their eyes lighting up when they spotted some of the symptoms. The doctor pointed out signs such as sweating-hands and accelerated heart rates while emphasizing the importance of breathing exercises and how to use them in case someone has an anxiety attack.

The most influencing of all perhaps, would be the presentation by one of the students himself, Omar Al Bahra on ‘Coping with Anxiety’. Being diagnosed with anxiety and previously on medication, Omar explained how he coped, and over the years, learnt to be in control of his anxiety. Omar left all the students, speakers and lecturers in awe, by being courageous enough to bring forth his informative presentation, because most of us can understand how anxious it must be to present in front of a huge audience about such a serious personal topic. What Omar has done is truly commendable. The presentation invited a lot of questions from the audience, who wanted to know the how’s and what’s of dealing with anxiety.

While today, most individuals are focused on achieving physical fitness and stamina, mental well-being and resilience have been neglected. The importance of mental health, especially in the ever-increasing fast paced life, cannot be overstated. Rather than ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body,’ it has now gravitated towards “A healthy mind breeds a healthy body”.

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