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Amygdala Hijack By Alpana Awasthi

Mental health issues following the covid19 pandemic stem from 'normal' people being exposed to 'extraordinary situations'. Currently all of us are experiencing, thoughts and situations which we have never experienced before. This pandemic is inducing a considerable degree of frustration, worry and concern in the population at large and among certain groups in particular. To inculcate awareness about mental health and provide a space for positivity and destressing amidst our hectic schedules few students of our school took this initiative to organise a webinar for grade 9 and 10 students on 31st July , 2020.
The guest speaker Mrs. Alpana Rajesh Awasthi began with the introduction of Amygdala - which is the integrative centre for emotions, emotional behaviour and motivation in our brain. She continued the discussion with categorisation of emotions into Good, Ok and Bad. She also highlighted some emotions like sadness,anger and other troublesome emotions and emphasised on the saying that it's okay to not be okay. Ma'am accentuated on the fact that excessive emotions are not good for our mental health and briefed about some coping strategies. The session ended with an interactive Q and A with the attendees.

Happy D.O.S.E. Webinar 

With the overall objective of raising awareness regarding mental health issues and mobilising efforts to ensure mental well being, The Amygdala organised an international webinar on Thursday, August 06, 2020 in collaboration with The Scrunchie Project, a US based organisation. The 17 year old founder of The Scrunchie Project, Harshini Padala talked about how the organisation promoted gender equality and education by connecting and empowering women, through virtual workshops, awareness calls and selling scrunchies in merchandise fundraisers. The event witnessed the participation of over 200 attendees from 10 different countries – India, Canada, USA, Argentina, Taiwan, Nepal, UK, Lebanon, Turkey and Bangladesh.
The webinar revolved around the theme 'Happy D.O.S.E' to boost the happiness chemicals, Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, Endorphins, and instil positivity and mental well being during this pandemic. Eminent speakers for the session, Dr. Sara Byczek, Director, University of Michigan and a clinical psychologist, and Professor of psychology at Barnard College, Lisa Kim Son of Seoul broke the stigma around mental health by sharing their astounding yet inspirational experiences. The speakers brought forth various mantras and coping mechanisms to deal with stress and everyday problems, especially during COVID-19. Misconceptions regarding depression, anxiety and mental health issues were clarified through an interactive Q&A session. Dr. Sara indulged the attendees in a mindful relaxation activity which involved shifting focus on any object around us. Lisa talked about metacognition, and how courage plays a pivotal role in overcoming challenges to our mental health. Heartfelt advices "We are not perfect, but perfectible" by Lisa and "Its okay, not to be okay" by Dr. Sara left an indelible imprint in the minds of all. Partner school teacher, Mrs. Nadine Nayef Saassouh of Hasbaya Public School, Lebanon shared about the emotional turmoil being faced by the Lebanese and how the webinar was a means to establish mental peace and stability during such exigent times. The session ended on a positive note with endless smiles, relaxed and aware minds!

Self Reflection Webinar 

The Amygdala is an initiative by some Choithramians, serving as a global virtual platform to bring advancements and comprehensive awareness towards ideas that can create an impact. On September 10, 2020, they organised a webinar on the theme “Self Reflection: It’s Not All In Our Head” in collaboration with Apricity, a creative outlet of Jigyasa Jain connecting young people through books, clubs, creative digital services, and a blog promoting independent prospects, diverse thoughts, ideas and talents.

The event witnessed the participation of attendees from different countries – India, USA, Argentina, Philippines, Lebanon, Brazil and emphasised on how self-reflections give rise to self-discovery, help individuals grow, develop and extract value from their mistakes. As a student, it can often be tiring and strenuous to respond to stimulations both academic and otherwise which may aggravate anxiety, stress and identity issues. The webinar encompassed an hour of various interactive sessions, fun activities and healthy discussions upon possible ways in which one can practice self-reflection and embrace their innate self-love during this pandemic.

Vivienne Le, a mental health specialist at Mclean Hospital, Boston shared her experiences of how travelling, volunteering, cutting off social media and living in the moment helped her move at the right pace amidst difficulties she had to conquer as an individual. She also accentuated how self-help books helped her throughout the journey. She conducted a fun Tibetan personality test to help youngsters recognise their priorities in life and shared with us amazing methods of journaling, positive affirmations to discover our true self and nurture this core feeling.

Sophia Shieh, an Active Minds board member talked about the thin line that separates overthinking and introspection, imposter syndrome & showcased a TED talk ‘Fake it till you become it’ by Amy Cuddy which focused on how non-verbal expressions of power and dominance can boost self-confidence. Through a 60-second Pixel Thought activity, she provided a relaxing and optimistic approach to deal with situations that cause anxiety and stress. The session ended on a positive note that this pandemic has given us a valuable resource - ‘time’, an opportunity to self reflect, recalibrate our emotions and enhance our skills.

Believing In Yourself Webinar 

Continuing with the relentless efforts to achieve UNSDG Goal 3 - Good Health and Well Being, the Amygdala Forum on October 20, 2020, brought together students from India, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, Philippines and Lebanon, on a single platform to share experiences on the topic ‘Believing in Yourself is the Key to Good Health’. The event was in lieu of the 75th UN Day on October 24, 2020, with the theme ‘The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism’. Students shared their endeavours which made them realize how self-belief was the key to inner peace, satisfaction and confidence, which made the atmosphere inspiring and bolstered positivity amongst them. It was mutually acknowledged that we are programmed to always doubt ourselves but through initiatives like these we can change such notions and retrain ourselves to work towards the improvement of our mental health. As the event concluded mentor teachers from each school shared how valuable this session was for them, their students and why the concept of believing in yourself was certainly an important path to follow.
Partner Schools:
Tirathbai Kalachand School, Indore (India)
M. L. Khanna D. A. V Public School, Dwarka, New Delhi (India)
Nazarbayev Intellectual School of Chemistry and Biology, Kyzylorda (Kazakhstan)
Shinhwa Middle School, Seoul (Republic of Korea)
Nguyen Trai High School, Quang Binh (Vietnam)
Arjun English Boarding High School, Gulmi (Nepal)
Rafael B. Lacson Memorial High School, Talisay (Philippines)
Hasbaya Public High School, Nabatieh (Lebanon)

Catchy Awareness Slogans Written by School Students During Mental Health Week 

As a part of the ‘Manodarpan’ initiative of Ministry of Human Resources and Development, Choithram School observed Mental Health Week from October 4, 2020 to October 10, 2020. An array of activities were organized to provide psychosocial support to students, parents and
teachers for mental health and emotional well-being during COVID-19 outbreak and beyond. Students wrote catchy slogans to create awareness about mental well-being. The slogans reflected their efforts for keeping everyone in the community emotionally strong and mentally healthy.

Dr. Mukesh Bhachawat Briefs Parents About Mental Well-Being of Adolescents 

On September 19, 2020 the Amygdala Forum in its pursuit of a mentally healthy society, reached out to the parent community of Choithram School, Indore, since collective efforts at all levels are the only means to achieve this common goal. The webinar witnessed the active involvement of over 250 parents of students of classes 9th to 12th. The session was conducted by Dr. Mukesh Bhachawat, a leading consulting paediatrician at P.C. Sethi Hospital, Indore. Since the parent-child relationship has the deepest impact on a child’s mental health, along with other secondary factors, the session fulfilled its aim of providing direction to parents, methods they could adopt and practice. Discussing about the impact of this pandemic on the mental well-being of adolescents, he raised awareness regarding the pivotal responsibility parents should shoulder during such stringent times. With a scientific basis through adolescent psychology, he gave measures that could be implemented by them on a regular basis to relieve stress among their children. The session ended with a question- answer round and many parents got their queries answered. ‘This initiative was the first of its kind and an important one indeed,’ said Mrs. Raminder Mac, Dean – International Affairs of the school.

Eye Catching Posters to Draw Everyone’s Attention During Mental Health Week { 4-10 October, 2020}

De-Stress With Us! ~ Webinar 

On December 02, 2020 the Amygdala, a student led global forum and an initiative of some Choithramians, organised their 5th international webinar on the theme ’De-Stress with us!' The session witnessed participation of 65 students and teachers from Philippines, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Bangladesh and India. With the exam season around the corner, the webinar was successful in finding answers to the complex theory of stress, boosting the potential of students, and helping them feel relaxed and energised!

The resource person, Ms. Yogita Chhablani Pande, is a certified Image Consultant from Conselle Institute of Image Management, USA, a NABET certified trainer and is also trained in one of the most popular psychotherapy that is RECBT from prestigious Albert Ellis Institute, New York. She got everyone engaged by introducing the new concepts of 'eustress' and 'good worry', emphasising why a certain level of stress and worry are not particularly bad for your mental health - which made everyone view stress in a different light. Her personal experiences aligned with the scientific aspect of how one should break down stress were extremely beneficial and eye-opening. Due to the immersive nature of the webinar, many questions on stage fright, test anxiety were welcomed and impeccably answered. The session was a wonderful combination of active participation and new perspectives translating into a positive trajectory.

Finding Your Ikigai! ~ Webinar 

With 2020 approaching its end, we are soon going to embark into 2021, with fresh hopes, new discoveries and perspectives. To mark this end with positivity and self growth, the Amygdala Forum conducted this year’s last international webinar, on December 20, 2020, on the theme 'Finding Your Ikigai' which means finding one's purpose in life, a reason for being. The gathering witnessed active participation of more than 30 students and teachers across the globe. We were elated by the presence of our guest speakers, Dr. Dheerendra Prasad - Professor and Medical Director, Radiation Medicine at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, New York. Sameendra Prasad - A stamps, Rodman and Jefferson scholar, working at Swiss Re as an Environmental Analyst and Shefalika Prasad - a Jefferson and Echols scholar at the University of Virginia, on the pre med track studying cognitive science and drama. Our eminent panel of speakers was from diverse walks of life enabling the audience to get a broader perspective into questions surrounding career paths.

The webinar emphasised a person’s intuition and curiosity as powerful internal parameters which help us in connecting with/finding our ikigai. It was concluded how in today’s world, we all are competing to achieve high, to be the protagonists of the story but amid this endless cycle, we fail to discover and reflect our true self. The session allowed the audience to self-reflect and seek answers to their queries. It was also noticed how people tend to neglect the importance of personal freedom and self-reflection. Especially for adolescents, balancing stress becomes very difficult. The webinar was a means to elucidate the meaning of self-reflection and introspection, reasons why it is important, how it affects our mental well being and resources and techniques for practising it ourselves.

Q/A Session With Dr. Padma Srivastava

The Amygdala on Sunday, July 25, 2021 conducted an interactive Q/A Session with Dr. Padma Srivastava, Professor, Head Department of Neurology, Chief Neurosciences Centre, AIIMS, New Delhi tackling issues of grief, loss, procrastination and mental well-being during the pandemic. The session was hosted by Nandini Bhachawat and Ishita Rochlani of the Amygdala team. The webinar was conducted to address and spread awareness about mental health and how to deal with such issues of mental wellbeing. It was an attempt to answer questions that surround mental wellbeing of individuals and ways and methods to overcome the difficulties which have arisen due to the spread of COVID-19 virus. Nandini Bhacahwat moderated the session and conveyed the most common questions of the audience.

The objective of the webinar was to start healthy discussions in a secure setting and to take away suggestive measures and enriching activities that will help to increase our levels of mental well-being and facilitate in living a balanced life with concern and care for our minds!


- We must validate our emotions, it is completely normal to experience grief and loss during the pandemic. Talking to our loved ones and venting out to those who we have established a strong connection with helps in balancing our mental health.

- It takes 3 months to recover from grief and loss. During this period isolation is detrimental, and connecting with loved ones for emotional support is extremely import. If an individual still experiences pain and suffering after three months, they must consult a professional.

- Human beings are not nocturnal creatures, although we have different personalities such as owls (late-risers, more active during the night) and larks (early-risers, more active in the morning), being awake at night can make us unhealthy. Although we won't notice the effects of it when young, it will affect us later in life.

- Having a To-do list and micro-managing each tasks during the day and holding oneself accountable enforces discipline which eventually helps us be more focused and succed in life.

At the end, our Team Member Ishita Rochlani extended a heartfelt gratitude on behalf of the organization to Dr. Padma for for rendering her valuable time on such short notice amidst her busy schedule and encouraged the audience to always remember that hardships in life, physically or emotionally prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. She asked the audience to promise themselves to stop fighting what's out of their control, instead focus on one's own energy on building the new!

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