Over the past few months, famous names in the sports world – from the renowned tennis player, Naomi Osaka, to Simone Biles, a gymnastic superstar and defending gold medal olympic – chose to withdraw from the French Open and Olympic ceremony. Both of them state their reason as wanting to focus on their mental well-being, an aspect that we so often dismiss when it comes to public figures. In order to understand the pressures of being in the public eye, and the ways celebrities choose to relieve themselves of the stress of it, we spoke to three of our own stars. To get a better understanding, keep reading:
The Role Social Media Plays In Negatively Impacting Mental Health
Social media is a powerful tool; it can be used to spread awareness about social issues, create positivity, harness inclusivity that traditional media might be lacking, give newcomers in the creative industry a platform, and much more. But like most things, social media is a double-edged sword. Public figures are put under enormous pressure to engage in public interactions – whether that be in the form of interviews, media conferences or frequent instagram posts. Our very own, Mahira Khan, says that ‘while the media is often judgemental, being cruel is another thing.’ Rehmat Ajmal too, feels that the scrutiny public figures go through can get extremely overbearing – ‘it takes a lot of strength and courage to carry on and manage emotions when being subjected to constant feedback, comments and criticism’. In our desire to feel connected to our celebrities, we forget to acknowledge that they too are normal people, who like us, are sensitive to hurtful remarks and need a break from time to time. We question them on their everyday routines, their makeup tips and their fashion, but rarely do we ask them one simple question – how are you?
But the adverse role the media plays in affecting mental health is not new; international public figures such as Princess Diana, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato and Michael Phelps, have all spoken about the detrimental effects of the pressures perpetuated by the media. In our own industry, Mahira Khan, Rehmat Ajmal, Ayesha Omar, Hania Aamir and more have pointed out the importance of being kind. In the past few years, mental health and its impact on public figures has garnered attention, though not at the rate it should. According to Ayesha Omar, ‘more awareness is being spread, but it is still not enough. I think we need to actively place mental health higher up in our list of priorities. People are always trolling and abusing public figures, and they don’t understand that at the end of the day, they’re human beings like them. There’s a lot of judgement, pressure and hate, and I think the media needs to really work on creating a more empathetic perspective toward public figures.’
How Does One Deal With The Pressure Of Social Media?
Like Ayesha Omar said, celebrities are no different from us, and while we can’t begin to imagine the pressures they face, many of us can relate to being negatively affected by social media in one way or another. Below are some of the ways our celebrities cope with constant media criticism and pressure.
Spending Time With Family And Friends
For Mahira, there’s nothing that’s better than spending time with family and childhood friends – ‘take a step back and get away from what is causing this anxiety.’ Apart from therapy, Rehmat Ajaml copes ‘because of a great support system’ that she finds in her family and friends. Spending time with loved ones definitely serves as a reminder of what is truly important, which is why Ayesha Omar feels that it’s extremely important to have ‘friends who are completely detached from the industry so that I don’t have to talk about work or discuss what’s happening there.’
Social Media Detox
Our mental health can truly benefit from taking time off social media and instead, using that time to engage in activities that make us happy and relieve our stress. Mahira says, “I like to take time off social media, especially when I find myself constantly on the phone and feeling uneasy. I take breaks at the most awful times though, usually around when I need to be on a film. But I’ve come to a point where I know I just need to, and over the years I have become a little better at managing my anxiety.’ Mental health should be a priority, even if one has other work or personal commitments. As a celebrity it’s even more difficult to ignore work commitments, especially when they involve being on social media, but like us, public figures too deserve a break from the daily pressure they face. Rehmat Ajmal says, ‘although ideally it shouldn’t have to come to this, disengaging from social media is a tool I use to protect myself from too much exposure.’
There’s no better time than a social media detox to indulge in self-care, and rituals that bring you true happiness. For Ayesha Omar, these include listening to Surah Rahman by Qari Abdul Basi as it calms her anxiety, meditating and going for long walks every Sunday to connect with nature. She says, ‘While travelling, I try to go to parks, make long phone calls with friends to catch up, listen to a lot of podcasts and documentaries, maintain a healthy-ish diet and take a lot of vitamins and supplements which help to regulate my stress levels and emotions.’
We have conjured up the idea that celebrities are different from us, when in reality they are quite similar – even what they do to relieve their anxiety is no different than what an average person does. Yet we treat them differently. Being in the public eye does indeed open the door for us to know about their private life, but we should not treat it as our right to know each and every thing, nor does it give us the license to be cruel about their personal choices. With more and more public figures coming forward with their struggle with mental health, there has been some positive change, but we still have a long way to go. While creating an open environment for public figures to be vulnerable, we must also be accepting of their right to privacy.