Dr Renuka David: Beating Stress, Finding Happiness & Keeping Mental Ills at Bay

Unlock the secrets to mental health and happiness with wellness expert Dr Renuka David. These notes are part of Dr Renuka’s webinar lecture at the WCC in Chennai.

How does one make time to be happy when there are deadlines to be met every day?

Dr. Renuka: Constant stress is one of the major causes of depression. In the region of Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost region with a sub-tropical climate, there are about 50 in 1,00,000 people who are older than 100 years. Putting it more poetically than purpose, they refer to Ikigai as ‘the happiness of always being busy’.

Everybody has an Ikigai. If we know what it is, it shapes our days. If we are unsure what our raison d’etre is, we still carry it in ourselves. And it is broader than our passion or desire. Instead, Ikigai combines four elements: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. Individuals are part of a moai, or a support group of people with similar interests who look out for each other.

Finding your purpose:

One of the promises the book makes is that it helps find our purpose. The secret to a long life is not to worry. Choice is in your hands, the situation isn’t. A person is happy not because everything is right in his or her life. He or she is happy because his or her attitude towards everything in life is right.

‘Happiness’ tools:

Plan your day in advance with a to-do list, which will help you manage time better.
Do the difficult part of your exercise when your mind is fresh.
Set realistic long-term and short-term goals.
Address your barriers.
Before sleeping, prepare your checklist and plan your next day.
Get adequate rest.
Focus only on the positives.
For any new task, prepare for the worst. But this shouldn’t hamper you from trying next time.

How can one inculcate self-confidence?

Practice who you want to be, to be the best version of yourself.

Self-esteem is how you think about yourself as a person – how you treat yourself, and believing that you are good and worthy no matter what setbacks you face in life. So it’s not necessarily about being perfect, or having everything go exactly how you want. It is simply about being alright with yourself no matter what happens, or where you’re starting out, and being able to accept everything about yourself — both strengths and your weaknesses.

Do not be afraid to fail.

The only way you learn is by failing; it is not the failure, but what do you do after you fail. Do you give up or does it bolster you? Keep challenging yourself by always trying to step out of your comfort zone, and be ready for failures. As Michael Jordan said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

Keep no space in your heart for doubt.

Choose faith in the power of God, hard work, love for your peers, country, parents who are working hard to give you their best. Choose excellence over the doubters and haters.

Practice the following:

  • Prioritise yourself. If you don’t take control of your time and your life, other people will.
  • Read and write.
  • Be supportive towards one another. One person’s failure shouldn’t be your success.
  • Know your own value.
  • Empower yourself with a good education. Something better will happen if you are willing to work hard – remember the power of hope.
  • Have fun!

How does one deal with the pressure to excel?

Do it for yourself.

Expectations are hopes and beliefs that are focused on the future, and may or may not be realistic. A need is something that is necessary for healthy relating and living. A desire or want is a preference about something you would like to have or possess.

Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

There are just so many unrealistic standards out there. By nature, we tend to make comparisons, so of course when a woman’s comparing herself to what she sees in advertising or the media, she’s going to wind up coming up short. And if her self-esteem is already low, she’s going to blame herself, and feel like she’s the reason she isn’t living up to this image of the perfect woman, who never yells at the kids has this high-powered job, does everything perfectly and balances the chores and the house work and all that.

Perfection is not the expectation.

Is it necessary to be ambitious?

What is your definition of ambition? When can you walk the fine line between pushing the bar and feeling content? To quote Aristotle, there is “healthy ambition”, “unhealthy ambition”, and “lack of ambition”.

Healthy ambition is individually enabling and socially constructive.
People see it as the essence of progress, virtue and character. Those with ambition take action, set goals and build meaningful things. While unhealthy ambition is inhibiting and destructive, and more akin to greed and the essence of corruption. Those with this ambition take from others, cheat, swindle and are ruthless in getting what they want. Without this ambition, it is synonymous with laziness.

To me, it seems that the latter problems of ambition are mostly because ambition is a selfish pursuit. In other words, ambition is bad when it centers around your ego and self-aggrandizement. It could be from a creative urge. An ambitious novelist might craft an engaging epic because the vision pulls her forward. It could be from a desire to change the world for the better.

Confidence seems to be a common ingredient in ambition.
Believing one can do things which are hard to accomplish seems to be a prerequisite for any kind of ambition.

Vision is also important.
Being able to imagine an alternative state of affairs and create it in enough detail so that you can venture forward and realise it, is also essential.

Tenacity and persistence matter too.
No truly ambitious effort will succeed without friction, so if you stop at the first sign of resistance, you won’t achieve anything.

What are some good ways to handle stress?

It is very important to train your mind to be positive.

  • Accept your failures and take them in. Allow yourself to react.
  • Don’t let a temporary setback define you as a failure.
  • Be constructive and learn from the situation. Try to convert every situation good or bad into an opportunity. Ask yourself – what did I learn, how can I re-route, how can I do it a bit differently this time?
  • Remind yourself that every time you try something valuable in life, you will not necessarily succeed. Keep in mind, your sense of self-esteem, purpose and to give your best to everything with passionate drive and focus.
  • Be on a quest to learn something new every day. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
  • Dabble in creative pursuits without fear.
  • Have the courage to hold on to your dream and pursue it with passion. Make it your purpose by educating and preparing meticulously with dedication, pure intention, commitment, discipline and intelligent hard work.
  • Remember the world comes around to help you.
  • Have realistic expectations.
  • Have self-love, self-confidence.
  • It is okay to not be okay on certain days and situations.
  • There is a force greater then you, which will guide you.
  • Keep a place pristine in your heart, where no one can enter.

An influencer and entrepreneur in the Wellness space, Dr Renuka shares inspiring lessons on leading a healthy and holistic lifestyle. Her passion lies in preventive healthcare and promoting healthy lifestyles to prevent non-communicable lifestyle diseases.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Reach out to our team to learn more about Dr. Renuka and other mental health experts on our panel.