Pragati Sureka - Psychology Can Provide You With the Tools to Unearth Your Best Potential (Psychologist, Life Coach And Author From India)

Pragati Sureka
Tell us about your background and journey. What led you to take up this career path? 

I have a Master's in clinical psychology and, currently, I'm doing my PhD in emotional well being. I have been practising for the last 15 years and I pioneered this concept called Emotional Ability Resources. From my research, what I have found is that when people have an issue, they need to give an ear to it. 
By giving ear, it means paying attention. It also means giving emotional ability resources, things that strengthen you, like daily meditation, journaling or having a supportive group of friends. So I believe these are things which help you cope with any crisis. Especially during the pandemic, it didn't matter how much money one had or how big or small one's problems were. 
Everyone needed to look after their mental health. It stopped being optional for anyone. So for me, my focus of research is how can a common person look after their mental health daily? Stress is normal. But stress disorder is not normal. 
Everyone can learn to cope with stress but in the case of stress disorder, one needs the help of a qualified mental health practitioner to deal with it. The reason why we struggle with mental health is that we don't invest in daily self-care. 
For this purpose, I create daily content on YouTube and Instagram which is very simple and easy to follow so that those who want some guidance but yet want to make their own decision have well-researched content put in a very simple relatable format.

What are some common myths in society about psychology?

The most common myth is you need to have an issue like a very big problem to go to a psychologist. If I don't go to a psychologist, then maybe my problem is not so big. So what people don't realize is the aspect of self-development that is there once you start looking at psychology or even counselling. 
If you're looking at counselling, unless and until there is a clinical diagnosis of a disease, it's to help normal people function better. Like you go to a gym not because you have a health ailment. You go to the gym because you feel you can get fitter than where you are. 
Psychology can provide you with the tools to unearth your best potential and to function at an optimal level so that whatever your aspirations and goals are you achieve them in a way that does not undermine you, like self-sabotaging. Somebody's over drinking, over smoking, or getting into relationships which are not good for them just to fix or just to calm the mind.
Daily self-care is a proper psychological tool. It can help you take care of yourself in a very good manner. There's a lot of research about it. These are the benefits of psychology, which, unfortunately, the common people are unaware of.

How can people practice mindfulness?

One of the best ways, at least for the youth, is to go to YouTube. Google it and see a practice that you like. Otherwise, deep breathing; three counts in; hold for three counts, and breath out for three counts. That works very well. Ten repetitions of that. That's the simplest way to start with mindfulness.

 Instagram - @emotional_ability

What are your tips for people who want to practice this profession?

What is important is you get formally trained in it. There are also a lot of certificate courses. My full recommendation is to do at least a Master's in the subject, work under supervision and then go into it. Recently I've just attended a workshop on leadership coaching at Harvard Medical School where they talked about the importance of having basic counselling skills or having a background in therapy or psychology to be good at their work. 
So I strongly recommend that even if you're planning to get into coaching it's better if you have a master's in some kind of psychology because what happens is if you skillfully don't know how to listen to another it's very difficult to be an effective coach. So I strongly recommend a formal education background. There are lots of adult learning programs out there for those who are already a coach or do not have the time. 
One can even start with a diploma. Also, you have to continuously keep reading. You have to keep adapting. That's where you relate to people and help them transform. So my strong recommendation is to invest in proper training. 

Is work-life balance a myth or reality according to you?

Work-life balance is a complete reality. There is no other way forward. Life is all about the sense of balance that we feel. But we need to invest in daily preventive mental health care and self-care to achieve that balance. Because then we learn how to handle our priorities and set goals. We learn time management skills. We learn to live mindfully - not like a 5-minute practice a day but as a way of life and a mindset that one builds.

How can one manage stress?

Again prioritise well. Time management. Adequate sleep. Adequate nutrition. The majority of young people don't eat enough and even if they do it is not nutritious. Stress has a lot to do with the level of stress hormones that get released when we don't have adequate nutrition in our bodies. Bananas are great in soothing and pacifying the mind. So one of the simplest things to soothe the mind is to eat two bananas a day. It sounds very cliche but it is simple and affordable and everyone can do that. 

Which is your favourite book and why?

My favourite book is Man's Search for Meaning. I love this book wherein Viktor Frankl explains that we can choose our attitude in any given circumstance because at the end of the day that's what matters - not the qualifications or challenges that we have.
Interviewed By -  Nimisha Dutta