Lessons on Mental Health from Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter. The name itself is enough to take us to the magic of Hogwarts and the brilliantly chaotic school life of Quidditch, magical creatures and spells. The author of the series, JK Rowling, responsible for the magic and wisdom, herself suffered from depression and therefore, has keen insights on the topic. Some of these insights have been subtly woven into the fabric of the series.

During this quarantine period, I decided to revisit the series through movies. After all, who wouldn’t want a bit of magic in these trying times?

While watching the third movie of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I came across five things that can help us deal with our mental health in a better manner.

1. Depression = Dementors

“It was horrible,” said Neville, in a higher voice than usual. “Did you feel how cold it got when it came in?”

“I felt weird,” said Ron, shifting his shoulders uncomfortably. “Like I’d never be cheerful again […]” — JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Our lives are a mix of happy and sad, both coexisting and giving the other meaning. Take happiness out and life doesn’t feel like life anymore but a pale imitation of it. This is exactly what a dementor (depression) does.

Dementors are foul creatures who feed off all your happy memories and leave you feeling depressed and without life. When dementors descend on a place, the flowers die and the lake water turns into ice. Life becomes colourless and devoid of joy.

To be kissed by a dementor means not only forgetting the good times but also reliving the bad ones over and over again. It seems easier to just lay down and let them suck your soul out because you have no energy and reason to continue to battle them.

Depression feels similar. You have no desire to do anything including things that can help the depression to lift off.

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Cheers,
Priya
(Writer, Language of Mind)

49 Quotes on Anxiety

#43 is my favourite

Anxiety has a way of making you feel lonely in this world. You forget the fact that other people have suffered from it and have been suffering from it.

Following are some quotes that can be helpful in making you feel less alone. Maybe they will give you an insight but that’s not the main purpose. When we feel less alone, we get power to deal with things on our own.

1. “I think this is what we all want to hear: that we are not alone in hitting the bottom, and that it is possible to come out of that place courageous, beautiful, and strong.” — Anna White

2. “I was moving in a narrow range between busy distractedness and a pervasive sadness whose granules seemed to enter each cell, weighing it down… I ghosted between islands of anxiety… a fatigue that dulled my zest, decanted it. Sorrow felt like a marble coat I couldn’t shed.” — Diane Ackerman

3. “Everyone must imagine his own snakes because no one else’s snakes can ever be as awful.” — Tove Jansson

4. “Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” — Jodi Picoult

5. “The largest part of what we call ‘personality’ is determined by how we’ve opted to defend ourselves against anxiety and sadness.” — Alain de Botton

6. “Anxiety always originates from a lie. All lies, whether self generated or accepted from another person, will resonate as a pendulum swinging to and fro as a reminder of an inconsistency with truth and impeccability. The further the lie is carried, the more the intensity of anxiety builds. The feeling may begin as unease, building to angst, translating to anxiety, panic, and even dread. Ultimately, anxiety creates stagnancy. What’s the solution? Speak the truth even if it scares you. Be authentic.” — Deborah Bravandt

7. “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

8. “People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the burdens are attached to them.” — George Bernard Shaw

9. “Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it-just as we have learned to live with storms.” — Paulo Coelho

10. “It was one of those days when I was thinking too much, too fast. Only it was more like the thoughts had a mind of their own and going all by themselves at a hundred miles a second, and I was just sitting back, feeling the growing paranoia inside of me.” — Sasha Mizaree

11. “But in neurotic anxiety, two conditions are necessary: (1) the threat must be to a vital value; and (2) the threat must be present in juxtaposition with another threat so that the individual cannot avoid one threat without being confronted by another. In patterns of neurotic anxiety, the values held essential to the individual’s existence as a personality are in contradiction with each other.” — Rollo May

12. “Behind every flinch is a fear or an anxiety — sometimes rational, sometimes not. Without the fear, there is no flinch. But wiping out the fear isn’t what’s important — facing it is.” — Julien Smith

13. “Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems” — Epictetus

14. “But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window-maybe rearrange all the furniture.” — Raymond Carver

15. “And all this talk, over and over, of bravery: it would be nice one day if a public figure could talk about having depression without the media using words like ‘incredible courage’ and ‘coming out’. Sure, it is well intentioned. But you shouldn’t need to confess to having, say, anxiety. You should just be able to tell people. It’s an illness. Like asthma or measles or meningitis. It’s not a guilty secret. The shame people feel exacerbates symptoms. Yes, absolutely, people are often brave. But the bravery is in living with it, it shouldn’t be in talking about it.” — Matt Haig

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Cheers,
Priya
(Writer, Language of Mind)

PS - Since #43 is my favourite. I don’t want you to miss it. Here it is.

43. “I lied and said I was busy.
I was busy;
but not in a way most people understand.

I was busy taking deeper breaths.
I was busy silencing irrational thoughts.
I was busy calming a racing heart.
I was busy telling myself I am okay.

Sometimes, this is my busy -
and I will not apologize for it.”
- Brittin Oakman

How to Stop Panic Attacks – A Step by Step Guide

How about you just stop panicking?

Stop panicking. Period.

Don’t you hate it when someone tells you “Stop panicking” as if that suggestion will magically halt your panic attack? I know I do.

That is why, today, I am bringing you my best suggestions on what to do when you are having a panic attack.

But first, what is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden onset of anxiety or worry that grips you. Panic attack is an overwhelming event and is accompanied by physical and emotional symptoms.

Panic attacks usually have the following symptoms:

  • “Racing” heart

  • Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy

  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers

  • Sense of terror, or impending doom or death

  • Feeling sweaty or having chills

  • Chest pains

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Feeling a loss of control

Because of the kind of symptoms, people may feel as if they are having a heart attack or a stroke or are dying

A panic attack can hit you anytime. One moment, you are watching TV, minding your own business and the next moment, panic is atop you.

The good news is that panic attacks are treatable.

Should I go and see a doctor?

If you have regular panic attacks, it is possible that you have panic disorder. It would be a good idea to talk to a psychiatrist about the situation. The doctor will prescribe you medicines and psychotherapy but you will still need to learn coping skills to deal with panic attacks. Try to use skills they teach you in psychotherapy with what I am sharing below and eventually you will develop your own mechanism with tools that work best for you.

If you do not want to go to the doctor or cannot afford to go to one or you feel that even though you may have had a couple of panic attacks, it’s not serious enough to warrant a doctor, then try and use the information to the best of your capability and review your decision to meet the doctor again in a month’s time.

3 Simple Truths

1) You are NOT dying

Even though it may seem that you are dying, you are not. Panic attacks usually last a minimum of 10 minutes and the symptoms start dissipating soon after. However, it is possible that your panic attack may last longer. The good thing is that it will not last forever and will go away eventually.

It is also possible that you might be panicking about having a panic attack and perpetuating panic.

2) Stop being scared of having a panic attack

You may feel like rearranging your entire life in a bid to stop having triggers that may begin a panic attack. It is a very common fear and avoidance is usually the first response from a majority of people.

That is a problem because:

  • You cannot avoid a panic attack even if you do rearrange your entire life. The sad truth is that there’s simply no escaping it.

  • A life rearranged to avoid any trigger is not a life, it is something which is a poor imitation of life. Our main focus should always be to lead a full life while managing our issues in the best way.

Stopping going out because the restaurant may give you a panic attack is similar to stopping learning to drive because you couldn’t manage the brakes right the first time. More exposure will help, not less but only with the right tools. (Like you wouldn’t attempt to drive again without learning from an instructor, you do not need to go to the restaurant again without learning to manage your attacks) And it is always a good idea to practice in a safe place before working the highways. 

3) Don’t run away from it

This is a counter-intuitive tip but this is the only thing that helps. Acceptance is the key and the best response to a panic attack. 

Who wouldn’t want to get away from the sweating, crazy palpitations and the fear that something is wrong? We all would but remembering that it will pass should be enough to start accepting that you are having a panic attack. Maybe it was caused by a crazy repetitive thought. Maybe it was caused by a physical trigger. Regardless of what happened, it is the truth of your reality for the next 15 to 30 minutes.

Trying to run away from it will only prolong it. The best bet is to accept that all the physical symptoms that you are experiencing are only short term and will go away soon.

Think of it like this. Let’s say you are lying down on a road and suddenly you see that there is a giant cloud to the left of you. It wants to pass over you and go to your right. But as soon as you see it moving towards you, you start running to your right in a bid to thwart it. But the cloud will keep chasing you; this may go on for minutes, hours or even days. But if you had just stayed there and let the cloud pass from over you, it would be gone in 10 minutes, 15 minutes tops.

Stopping panic attacks

Step 1 – Remind yourself of the 3 simple truths aka Will live, Will pass, Will embrace

You need to remind yourself that panic attacks won’t kill you, even though it seems they will. Now that you are not dying, remind yourself that this will pass soon and take all the uncomfortable symptoms away with it. Now that you know it will pass away soon, there is no need to run. Just make yourself at home and wait for it to pass.

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Cheers,
Priya
(Writer, Language of Mind)

5 Thought Patterns (Cognitive Distortions) That Multiply Your Anxiety and Stress

You have likely heard some variation of the statement, “You are not your thoughts.” It may seem like utter bullshit but frankly the statement can’t be truer.

As humans, we live with our thoughts 24×7. Our thoughts are such an intimate part of us that so many times we don’t even realize that they are not facts, simply our perceptions broadcast constantly on Personal Universe channel. Not only are our thoughts not facts, sometimes they are as far from reality that they actually disrupt our lives.

Such thoughts are extreme in nature and are referred to as cognitive distortions.

What’s a cognitive distortion and why do so many people have them? Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves. — John M. Grohol, Psych Central

Essentially, these are the ways our brains fool us into thinking things that are just not true. So yes, you are not your thoughts.

Continue reading on Medium (and don’t forget to clap 50 times). It’s a free link (you do not need to have Medium membership to read it).

Cheers,
Priya

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It can't get worse than this...

Or can it?

Hi,

Coronavirus? Oh my! Another problem. As if we weren’t stressed enough.

Sometimes, I think that it can’t get worse than this. People locked in homes. Graduates getting their degrees through email. Food shortages. Beds’ shortages. Doctors’ shortages. World leaders blaming each other. Life seems to be at a standstill.

But isn’t that a selective view?

So then, I ask myself to look at ALL the things. Worked to the bone workers getting enough rest. People getting a chance to spend more times with their families. Companies shifting things online. Earth getting a respite from continuous pollution. Animals having the time of their lives.

There is no doubt about the fact that coronavirus is a serious threat. But continuously obsessing over the fact won’t do us any good. Sometimes, after seeing things realistically and pragmatically, we need to put on our rose coloured glasses & see what’s good in the world.

And with that, I want to leave you with 2 quotes:

1) ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ - Mr. Rogers

2) “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ―J.R.R. Tolkien

I hope you’re safe wherever you are. I hope you use this time to take care of yourself. I hope things become better soon.

Cheers,
Priya

PS - Have you tried my free Udemy course called “Gamify & Destroy Your Stress and Anxiety”? The lockdown may give you time to go through it now. It has 3500+ students & 50+ reviews. Check it out here.

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