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Battles of heart and mind – Cover Story News




The start of 2020 for Manpreet Singh, 32, had been joyous. He had taken a group of tourists to Thailand and Vietnam in January and his travel company, Four Seasons Holiday Planner, was doing well. Ever since COVID-19 made headlines in February, however, Singh has had to cancel 50 tours. I know people in the sector who can’t sleep at night, but I don’t want to go on a downward spiral, he says. A firm advocate of mental fitness, Singh is now using his spare hours to focus on his physical health too. He is using heavy pickle jars for tricep curls, gas cylinders for weighted squats and chairs for push-ups. The glass will only be half empty when you want it to be, he says.

2. Covid Counsel

In times like these when we are bombarded with mostly depressing information and news about coronavirus, let us not be selective about picking up negative or stress-related information. Read, but not just about coronavirus. Similarly, watch TV but not just news related to coronavirus

(Dr Anuttama Banerjee, consultant clinical psychologist)

Sit down and take up to 10 deep breaths when you feel anxious. Bring your mind to the present moment because with the constant onslaught of negative information, your mind pushes you into worrying about the future

(Ameeta Menon, wellness coach)

3. A Counter for Corona


Checking the news 24X7 for latest updates can lead to a rise in anxiety. It is good to be aware, but do not overload your mind.


Physical and mental well­being complement each other. A sustainable workout routine at home can be your best friend while practising social distancing. Download online fitness apps and join virtual groups to stay motivated.


Professionals must maintain a routine. Use collaborative tech tools to keep up a schedule with peers. Designate a clutter-free space in the house for your work. Also, time your tasks.


Humans are hardwired for connection, so it is important to not disconnect mentally. Stay in touch with friends and family through video calls, or via texts and voice calls. For those who feel lonely, there are online support groups like TalkLife and Panion.


Our mind tends to drift and exaggerate circumstances. The grounding technique’, which focuses attention on the pre­sent moment, helps. Remember 5, 4, 3, 2, 1’, an exercise that asks you to count five things you can hear now, four things you can see, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.


Catch up on your reading list, watch a movie you missed, listen to that podcast you always planned on checking out.

(Vikram Beri is founder,, an online platform that helps people get psychological counselling.)


Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris(RANDOM HOUSE Rs 699; 272 pages)

If you’re the sort of person who finds self-isolation frustrating and social distancing upsetting, this book promises to make you feel a little more at ease. Helping transform loneliness into solitude, Harris argues that it’s only when we are alone that we really learn about ourselves. Drawing on the research of leading neuroscientists and psychologists, Harris prescribes the lasting joy of solitariness.

The trauma of everyday life by Mark Epstein (PENGUINRs 1,169; 240 pages)

Endorsed by the likes of Siddhartha Mukherjee and Pankaj Mishra, this book makes a simple yet remarkable claim you don’t have to be unlucky to experience trauma. Touched by death and illness, we all know this to be true. Epstein, a psychiatrist and a Buddhist, further argues that loneliness and fear are forms of trauma too. By teaching us how to use our trauma for good, he offers essential comfort.

More than happiness: Buddhist and Stoic Wisdom for a Sceptical Age by Antonia Macaro(ICON BOOKS Rs 499; 208 pages)

For hundreds of years now, the Buddhists have been self-isolating. The Stoics, on the other hand, have preached that it’s best to be unruffled by things that happen outside us, since we can’t control them. Considering the times we live in now, both these philosophies can offer much-needed respite. Macaro gleans from the two traditions the implications of their teachings to then help us live the good life.

5. A Few Deep Thoughts

Being locked in indefinitely is a lot like being on a lonely nuclear submarine patrol. Takeaways from an Indian Navy officer who’s plumbed the depths

A stint on a nuclear submarine is among the loneliest experiences an Indian will ever endure. It can stay underwater almost indefinitely, its endurance is limited only by the staying power of its crew. Life in a 100-metre-long metal tube with very little privacy and far away from home makes for stressful living. The vessel’s complement of over a 100 crew live in cramped bunks. Several officers share cabins, six bunks to a small room. Think of it as the equivalent of being inside the windowless 1st class AC compartment of a passenger train. With five others. For weeks on end. A nuclear submarine officer who completed one of the Indian Navy’s longest patrols till date, 50 days underwater, details how he beat the stress.

The challenges

It’s a mind game, so you need to keep yourself positively occupied. If you fall prey to boredom, you will get depressed. Thinking too much about home or counting the days left till you can reach shore also results in depression.

What we did

Held group activities, a cooking competition, fancy dress contest, quiz, push-up competitions, evening news of the submarine. Even ran a weekly newsletter;

On a personal level, learnt to play the guitar, wrote a journal, learnt MS excel (entered engine parameters and health and weight parameters);

Never discussed religion or politics. But did discuss senior officers (in a fun way) and our training in Russia;

Did a lot of paperwork onboard so that when I was back in port, I didn’t spend time completing documentation, writing reports on maintenance work of machinery, sailors performance, etc.;

Also wrote a paper on the forgotten quality of leadership;

Never dwell on the small stuff like lousy food, waking at odd hours or dirty toilets;

It’s a great time to interact with your men hear their problems/ give suggestions.

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