Talk it to out

To help readers cope with their anxieties in these stressful times, TOI has launched Talk it Out , a series under which our panel of expert counsellors will answer your mental health queries. This week’s advice comes from psychologist Dr Roma Kumar

I’m 18 years old. I have a smartphone addiction. . First I didn’t recognise it as an addictive behaviour. I was procrastinating. I wanted to get rid of it but couldn’t get the slightest motivation to do so. I recently acknowledged my behaviour and have been feeling guilt, remorse, panic and overwhelmed. I had completely cut myself from around the world. I request you to help me out.


Gadgets are useful and essential tools for communication, research, learning and entertainment, among other things. Spending a lot of time connected to your phone only seems to have become a problem as it is absorbing so much of your time. Try designating media-free times together with family, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms. If you use your smartphone as a “security blanket” to relieve feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or awkwardness in social situations, you’ll succeed only in cutting yourself off further from people around you. Try not to stare at your phone as it will deny you the face-to-face interactions that can help to meaningfully connect you to others, alleviate anxiety, and boost your mood. Go grayscale as there are many colourful apps on the phone. They are designed to trigger your brain’s reward system and make you feel good. Limit what’s on your home screen and take social media off your phone.

I am 16 years old. In 2017, I met a boy and I am in love with him but never told him. We are good friends. I feel like I want to focus on my career and do something for my family and country but this repressed feeling keeps coming back. It may be due to less work nowadays. How to cope with this feeling? I was quite productive in the first wave but this feeling is stopping from achieving my dreams. Moreover, it makes me feel lonely. Please help me overcome it.


Use productivity as a stress buster, not a stress creator. We need to understand that we are all in a state of crisis and being unproductive should be the last thing we should be worried about. Find something that gives you relief and a break because that’s what we need way more than an accomplishment at this point. Stop comparing yourself with others. Not everyone works at the same pace or has the same passion. Choose an activity where the process gives you joy and doing it makes you feel good, simply for the sake of it. If a task or activity is causing negative feelings or additional stress, simply give it up for now. Instead of feeling guilty, how about you explore new things? This is not a time to be putting ourselves down, this is a time to be giving ourselves a break.

I am 42 and have fully recovered from Covid. My wife, 41, took care of me and supported me all around. Without her sacrifice I could not have recovered so fast. We are back to normal life but she is not mentally prepared to resume physical proximity. Is there anything wrong in my expectations or does she need to divert her mindset?


Issues of communication and consent are always important in intimate relationships, especially when your spouse’s comfort levels and concerns around touch and close contact have changed after being infected with Covid-19. It’s also absolutely normal to not feel like engaging in any sexual activity during this time. The anxiety that comes along with the pandemic , the stress of working from home while also managing the house and the worry she may feel for you can suppress her sexual drive. Don’t force yourself to feel something that isn’t coming naturally. Once things get better, your partner’s sexual drive may return to how it was before. It’s important to talk with your partner about what kind of behaviour she wants to engage in first. Remember that fondling, PDA (public display of affection), cuddling and kissing are also forms of physical intimacy, so enjoy them as much as possible.

I am a distressed 14-year-old teenager. My father died when I was 9 and things haven’t been the same since then. Firstly, my family bullies me day and night about my weight and says that I am a disgrace to their family. Even during Covid, I have to go out early at 6 for a morning walk and am getting only 5-6 hours of sleep daily plus hearing insulting comments day and night. I am already frustrated with online classes and the projects that I have to do. The study pressure is eating me from the inside. I constantly have headaches and pain in the body during classes. I do not have anyone to talk to, to share my problem with. My friends are not of great help either. I feel my life is a disgrace and I always feel suicidal. I am not allowed to cry or show my emotions as my family calls me a cry baby. I am distressed. I feel helpless. I laze around all day without getting my work done. Please help me.


You seem to be experiencing an intense flood of thoughts and painful feelings. Shame can also be self-defeating and cause you to avoid social situations or hide your true feelings in ways that make meaningful connections with others very hard. It’s important to take care of yourself and learn how to cope in healthy ways. Writing your thoughts and emotions down may help you release some of what you’re feeling and can help you organise your thoughts, better understand your triggers, and connect with yourself. Continue to remind yourself, maybe even create a mantra, that you are doing your best and for the time being you are focused on processing what you are going through. Prioritising your self-care and seeking out appropriate support can help you process your thoughts and feelings in healthy ways. Conscious breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques are helpful for the mind and body. Seek out a therapist and maybe look for a support group.

Dr Kumar is partner and co-founder, Emotionally

How to manage screen time during Covid

1. Set some boundaries for when you can use your smartphone

2. Turn off your phone at certain times of the day, such as dinner, playing with kids or the bathroom

3. Don’t bring your phone to bed. Turn it off and leave it in another room overnight to charge

4. Play the “phone stack” game. During meals with family, have everyone place their smartphones face down on the table

5. Remove social media apps so you can only check Facebook, Twitter and the like from your computer

6. Curb your fear of missing out and accept that by limiting your smartphone use, you’re likely to miss out on certain invitations, breaking news, or gossip. Accepting this can be liberating and help break your reliance on technology

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