Oftentimes, when I sit down to write these editorials, there is a conflict in the avenue I wish to lead it down. It is a writer’s dilemma to an extent, I suppose— finding yourself faced with different ideas, interpretations and expressions which can’t necessarily be compared or contrasted.
One such editorial would have to be this one, wherein I am conflicted simply by virtue of how many things health encompasses and the various avenues that all those who have submitted for this issue have taken. Health is deeply intertwined with our daily lives and can mean very different things to different people.
It’s one of those things that we’ve known and tried to understand right from when we could perceive the world— our bodies are automatically and instinctively geared towards keeping us healthy, our cells are constantly working, our tissues repairing, our lungs exhaling and inhaling— functions that we do not actively think about, but are there in the backs of our head as we learn more about them.
So, to begin, I will be frank with my words— I can do much more to keep myself healthy. I can improve upon my sleeping schedule, my eating habits, my pre and post-workout routine, and the list goes on. I have only recently started to understand the gravity of each of those factors, as broad as they are. I have learnt how recovery is crucial to productivity, how my body works in its own unique way and has to be catered to accordingly, and how every little one of my cells could do with some love and affection.
Health, as a term, clicks differently sometimes too. As much as I try to avoid speaking of the deep collective trauma that many of us in India endured earlier this year, it has led to many of us linking health to deterioration— physical, mental, environmental— and so on. Although I have little exposure to them (something I could not be more thankful for): the beeping of hospital machines, ambulance sirens and talk of complex medical terms all still put me on edge. Even unexpected calls from my peers late at night lead me to think of the worst-case scenarios.
I have learnt that health is something that most of us take for granted. It isn’t intentional, of course, but health and all things related to it impact how we live, and we tend to forget that.
Not everyone has immediate family that isn’t in and out of the hospital every month. Not everyone has a hospital nearby or access to advanced medical technology. Not everyone has access to clean water and uncontaminated food. Not everyone has the same physical or mental capacity, and the society we live in does not cater to those who go about their lives fundamentally differently.
Normalcy (in its most generic interpretation) is a blessing or has at least been made into one. Adequate accessibility is a necessity that we are far from fulfilling, and we could always certainly be more empathetic. Concrete steps are required, and while we have attempted to take them, we are far from done. I’m genuinely unsure if we’ll ever be done.
The Olympics and Paralympics that took place this summer changed my perception of a lot of things. Firstly, mental and physical health are highly intertwined (in my imagination, they form a double helix— not always touching, but always supporting each other— if one base between them is mutilated, taken away or replaced, it all can come falling very fast).
Secondly, I realised once more that I sometimes observe the world very narrowly. There are so many incredible athletes with disabilities and so many ways to adapt to individual needs. All of it is built upon pillars of investment, innovation, grit and willpower— and most certainly, good health and wellbeing.
I fortunately came across many of the invaluable experiences and stories that professional sport brings with it. An important lesson that essentially went against what continues to be a notion of the status quo: many medal-winning athletes emphasised the importance of recovery and self-care, often over the grind and the hustle. While they all belonged to different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, most of them had been through some physical or mental setback at some point in their careers. It was some form of access to tools for recovery had enabled them to bounce back. They all attempted to live what we should consider essentially healthy lives: getting proper sleep, eating a balanced diet, drinking the required amount of water and letting themselves recover after their practices or workouts. Many of them were taking mental help along with standard physical therapy too. If you’re interested, you can find many such stories online.
The moral: those who are considered to be some of the most hardworking, dedicated, determined and fit people in the world know how to find the equilibrium between work and recovery, and that is what sets them apart from the everyone else. Physical and mental wellbeing are not built simply upon pushing yourself to break your limits, but rather upon expanding your limits to find comfort and contentment in better health.
I recently had the opportunity to work on a campaign about eating disorders, ‘Vyadhimukt’, with my fellow students. A tidbit from an interaction with two sports psychologists from Discovery SPL stuck with me: you can’t force someone to tell you if something’s wrong, but if you want to help them, you have to approach them with an open mind. You can’t be accusatory about something they may not necessarily be able to control. You can inform them that you noticed something was off, ask them if they were okay, and refer a professional if need be. So, the next time you see a friend or family member having problems with their physical or mental health, if they’re comfortable with it, being there for them can be the best thing you can do.
Professional help must reach as many people as possible, regardless of whether it’s in the form of better doctors, technology, or simply creating spaces that provide healthcare. There’s a large sociopolitical and environmental side to it, too— one that extends to destigmatising mental help, encouraging affordable check-ups, removing the fear of healthcare in certain sections of society, and creating efficient, accountable administrations in the industry that cater to a diverse set of patients.
That’s been a long chat, and I must wrap up my very scattered thoughts. The issue delves deeper into many aspects of health, each important in its own way. There are beautiful articles, artwork and images that you can peacefully ponder upon whenever you get a break in your stressful exam prep (a reminder: you need to take those. No objections).
Healing of any kind is not linear, and there will always be ups and downs— but they do not have to be mountain peaks and deep ravines— they can be gently sloping hills and valleys with lazy meandering rivers. I hope you can appreciate your mind and body for all you do, and have the capacity to lend a helping hand to all those who need it.
Wishing you good health and happiness going into hoodie season,
A healthy life is one with no shortage of basic requirements. Linked below are some organisations that you can donate to in order to support families in need.
https://covid19responsefund.org/en/ (UN and WHO)
https://indianredcross.org/ircs/donatenow (Indian Red Cross Society)
https://goonj.org/donate/ (NGO, India)
https://www.beyondmeds.in/donate-now/ (NGO, India)