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‘Loneliness, depression and suicidal thoughts are common outcomes of Covid-19, fight them with positivity and seeking help’

Apeejay School Faridabad alumnus, Dr. Aanshika Puri, a Developmental and Behavioural Psychologist with a specialisation in Positive Psychology, extends online counselling to teenagers, among others, in these challenging times triggered by the pandemic.

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Apeejay School Faridabad alumnus, Dr. Aanshika Puri is a Developmental and Behavioural Psychologist who specialises in positive psychology. Looking at the silver lining in the Covid-19 pandemic, she opines that people have somewhat opened up to approaching and getting help from a mental health professional in these tough times. Apart from conducting extensive online counselling, Dr Puri incorporates art as a medium during my sessions. She is a self-taught folk artist who has been making Madhubani, Gond, Warli and Tribalt paintings since 2006. In a wide-ranging interview, she talks about the importance of taking care of one’s mental health especially during a lockdown compelled by the Covid-19 pandemic,the mantra for being a successful psychologist, her memories of being a staff child in Apeejay School, Faridabad and the key life lessons that she picked up in school which include resilience, teamwork, productive decision making and having a strong will power. Edited excerpts:  


Did you always want to be a psychologist when you were younger? How did you end up choosing this kind of a career?

Fortunately, being brought up surrounded by educationists, psychology as a discipline was never a novel concept. I remember being bent towards choosing law as a career option initially, knowing well that I would excel multifold in a creative field. However, despite giving the CLAT 2008 and clearing entrance examinations of two leading National Law Schools, I went with what my heart said was right for me. I wanted to study something which was not confined to academic literature and I could see its application in the real world. Psychology is one such discipline which is ever evolving and besides being a lucrative career option, gives you deeper insights about yourself thereby keeping your mental well-being in check.


How important is taking care of one’s mental health and seeking help, especially in times of a lockdown compelled by the Covid-19 pandemic?

Mental health at all times is absolutely essential to be nurtured well. In the existing struggle to help individuals understand this and thus equate physical health and mental health, the Covid-19 pandemic has just added fuel to fire. Poor mental health, being less tangible than poor physical health, is often ignored, missed or even taken lightly by the individual or/and their families, thereby making it even more critical. Being self-aware is the first step towards acknowledging and thus improving one’s mental health. Loneliness, anxiety, fearfulness, being overwhelmed with emotions, depression, feeling suicidal etcetera are some of the most common outcomes of Covid-19. However, looking at the brighter side, people have somewhat opened up to approaching and getting help from a mental health professional. Although audio/video sessions may not be the best way to for the healing process, they are certainly helping people recover. Therefore, I urge individuals to seek help from a qualified mental health worker, even on things which s/he may feel can be managed by her/himself.

Please tell us about your professional journey so far.

Well, I’m a Developmental and Behavioural Psychologist with my specialisation in Positive Psychology. Although I’m qualified to work with individuals of all age groups, I prefer working with children and adolescents. I’ve been working with various schools and colleges of Delhi/NCR, NGOs and corporates conducting training and workshops as a freelancer. Being an Army Wife, I take online/tele counseling sessions. Currently, I am training teachers in Jammu & Kashmir on various aspects of Psychology and Education. Having completed my PhD successfully, I have more time at hand to incorporate art as a medium during my sessions. I am a self-taught folk artist, making Madhubani, Gond, Warli and Tribalt paintings since 2006.


In your journey in the world of psychology, how important was the first job as a learning ground? Were there any mentors who helped you?

Your first job, be it any discipline, shapes you as a professional to a large extent. This surely depends on various factors such as your own approach towards being guided or criticised, your  being in sync with your long term goals, availability of a mentor, non-toxic work environment, to list a few. As psychology students, we are given a fair share of exposure to face real life cases in the form of observations, participation, visits and practicals. Even though no two cases are same, all this helps to learn the concepts, unlearn false expectations and relearn the correct approach. My teacher from college, renowned psychologist Dr. Jayanti Dutta, has been my mentor throughout these years.

What, according to you, is the mantra for being a successful psychologist?

Psychology helps the psychologist understand the nuances of self-awareness, self-love and self-growth. Thus, it is a good feeling to truly understand that there is no one mantra. Being in touch with your inner self, creating and re-creating a state of mental and physical equilibrium, learning to step away and  not get overly involved, having clear set of work ethics and values, creating a judgment free space and having an attitude of gratitude are some of the ways which I like to follow.


How was your experience of the time you spent at Apeejay School ? Are there any members of the teaching faculty that you remember fondly?

I’m told that the first time I visited Apeejay School, Primary Wing in Sector 14, I was a couple of months old! My mother, at that time, was working in sector 14 branch, and later went on to head the Pre Primary Department in Sector 15. She worked with Apeejay for nearly 30 years. Being a staff ward meant long waiting hours in case of staff meetings, being in the auditorium until late evening during annual cultural evening practices and thus, school felt like home to me. I was at absolute comfort, probably at any time of the day. My first teacher, Late Mrs. Pam Roy who always taught Nursery B was my mentor. We’d never run out of topics even when I visited school from college and would end up talking for hours. The overnight camp which happened for class V students is yet another milestone memory. The thrill to stay the night at school with your friends participating in various competitions as a 10-year-old was immense. I was extremely attached to the house I belonged to, Kabir House. I remember being ecstatic and proud after I was announced as the House Captain. Thoroughly enjoyed being the treasurer of the Interact Club. I was actively involved with theatre and dance and participated regularly. In hindsight, one does realise the prominent and not so prominent yet essential learnings one has had from each teacher. Thus, I’m grateful to all my teachers who’ve touched my life.

Are there any life lessons, which you picked up in school at Apeejay that have helped you in your career?

You surely pick up things as you grow. The only difference is the choice you make, them being positive or negative in nature. Values such as being kind or being empathetic can only be learnt by example. Especially during early years, a teacher is next to God for the child. S/he may defy the parent but will always stress upon what the teacher says. Thus, when teachers lead by good example, life lessons and values are imbibed in students in the most organic way. Virtues of being respectful to everyone, resilience, teamwork, productive decision making and having a strong will power are some of the key life lessons which I feel that Apeejay has helped me adopt.


Please share some tips to inspire aspiring students at Apeejay schools, who may want to follow your career trajectory?

The bottom line of any recommendation would be focusing on developing yourself, both academically and otherwise. Apeejay is a platform offering a plethora of activities, from academics to sports to co-curricular. Thus, students must try to make the most of this opportunity which will help them holistically develop. As you grow mentally and emotionally, it leads to clarity of thought and thus, would reduce chances of confusion and despair especially while taking important career decisions. Psychology is a bubbling field, not just financially but in terms of work satiety. I love my work because it not only helps me assist other individuals but most importantly helps me keep myself in check. Thus, if you’d like to pursue psychology, start small by managing your time well, trying to be more empathetic, being less judgmental, and checking your language and behaviour. It is only when you will work on yourself, will you be able to be in a position to offer assistance to another individual.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected] He tweets @Aasheesh74

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