Mental Well-being During Lockdown

I wish there was less negativity around lockdown. I am so happy at the moment. I have so much control over my life, and I feel so in touch with my inner self. I really want more people to feel this way. This feeling is truly addictive, and the moment we figure out ways to feel so, there is no turning back.

I’m going to get straight to the point and describe ways in which we can help improve our mental well-being during lockdown.

1. Keep a gratitude journal. I have been reading about having a gratitude journal for years, but I only started practicing it one month ago. Every morning, I spend 10-15 minutes writing about what I am grateful for. There is no better way to start my day and I am so happy to have finally got into the habit of doing so. (If you do not like writing, then voice note it to yourself and listen back to it at the end of the day!).

2. Learn to breathe. As a human beings we are terrible at breathing in a nourishing way. This only worsens our states of anxiety. I personally have been focusing on breathing more regularly throughout the day. Every time I feel my mind wonder, I try and focus it back on my breathing. It is making me realise that our breath is the only real thing at any moment in time. By taking control of our breathing we are claiming control over how we respond to the external situations.

3. Be present. Being sat at home is apparently ‘brain numbing’ and ‘boring’. I think the complete opposite. We can add value to every moment of our life if we are present. We need to focus on what is. We need to focus on the now. We may never get such an opportunity to spend again with our family. We need to relish it and use it to reconnect with our loved ones. We need to learn to be present in each of our endeavors big or small, throughout our day.

4. Learn to do things on your own. Workout alone. Dance alone. Cook alone. Clean alone. Sing alone. Enjoy your own company. Enjoy getting to know yourself. The reality is, not many of us know who we really are. Our understanding of ourself has unfortunately become what we think society thinks we are. This is the prime time to change that. When we get comfortable being alone, we are unstoppable.

5. Take a break from social media. This is potentially the hardest. Everyone is bored at home and using social media to entertain themselves (thanks Instagram and TikTok). It is just proving how much we are seeking for external validation to define our happiness. Such happiness is short-lived. This applies to any distractions we may have. We need to break free from this escapism culture and face our real self. Take a few days off, maybe a few weeks – I took a month off! I stripped away everything I thought I was, to find out I am just a human like anyone else.

I have said this before and I say it again. I honestly believe we have been blessed with lockdown. We have come to realise how much our excitement and joy has always relied on external factors/events, rather than from within. This is the time for us to make peace with our inner selves and just enjoy being, instead of complaining about everything that we could have been doing if lockdown was not in place.

Stay home. Stay safe. Learn about yourself.

No one told me it would be this hard

It is so difficult to focus on this present moment when I was programmed all my life to think about the: ‘what if’, ‘what next’, ‘how will it’.

I sat down to meditate today and I really struggled to hone in on the Now. I had a flood of thoughts about what I had to do next, and what I had to do tomorrow. I felt like I was physically fighting my way against thinking these thoughts which drained more of my energy.

Accept it. Don’t resist it. What I had learnt today is my thoughts do not define me. I cannot start judging myself for not being present. Actually thinking those thoughts was my present. The more I resisted, the more I hated myself for resisting. I just have to accept that that is what my mind is thinking of at this moment, be at peace with it and continue. I believe that slowly that will help to calm my mind down.

I can see that this journey to awareness and presence is going to be a long one, but I know I will get there eventually.

Distracted by the ‘Ping’

I was sat in ten minutes of silent meditation, before heading off to my night shift. I forgot to put my phone on silent. Although at the time I was annoyed at myself for this, I was glad that it happened the way it did.

My phone ‘pinged’ four times during the ten minutes. I did not once open my eyes. I tried my level best to consciously ignore it (the irony!). However, every time my phone pinged, I noticed a shift in my spiritual energy. My concentration diminished. My focus wavered. I mean, I have already been fighting against my uncontrollable series of thoughts, which is why I have started practicing silent meditation; but the phone going off every few minutes made me realise how my brain is programmed to respond to notifications. A small portion of my concentration is taken away from me every time this happens.

We do not realise how toxic our gadgets can be to our mental and spiritual growth. A simple thing like receiving notifications actually has a massive impact on our ability to be present and focus on the activity at hand. This explains why we struggle so much with mental health – we are unable to align ourselves to one state of being at any one time.

What have I learnt? Well, my mental health is important to me. For me to remain focused and present, I need to actively shut down all possible distractions. I need to learn to ‘Say No To The Ping’. This is going to be tough journey for me because I am physically attached to my phone and I have been using it as a way of diverting my mind away from my present moment negative thoughts, without realizing I am only making my situation worse. I do not know how I am going to break free from the distractions, but I know I am, and that thought alone is enough to make a start.

Is it worth it?

I do not think my anxiety has ever been so bad. I’m currently on a FY2 rotation that is reminding me of how ego-centric some individuals in this healthcare world can be.

I can’t remember the last time I actually breathed properly. My breaths are so shallow and I constantly have a sinking feeling in my chest. I get stressed every time my name is mentioned in conversation. I am 5 days late on my period, which is freaking me out big-time. My skin is exploding with spots, even with clean-eating and skin care, which has never happened before.

I came into this profession in the hope of interacting with humans, and using the knowledge I have gained to help people. Instead, I constantly feel on edge that I’ve made a mistake. I am constantly judged by my seniors for what I do and don’t do. I was always seen as the most helpful individual; now I feel like I have shuffled to the bottom of the pile. I feel like I am a day 1 medical student, not getting the recognition I deserve for the hard work I am putting in.

I don’t complain that easily and I have a very high threshold to bullsh*t. For me to come to a breaking point where I can’t take this anymore, just shows me so much more that this particular specialty and its staff are not my kind of people.

I would like to believe that I am good human being who wants the best for her patients. I know I am safe doctor. However, I am being questioned left, right and centre for every single decision I take.

Enough of the stress. I am grateful for some of the lovely individuals I have met on this rotation who are genuinely the sweetest. I do not want the negativity of others impact my overall experience of this rotation, however difficult this may be.

Ever since the day I made the decision to be a doctor, as a child, I knew I wanted to be a GP. I was in denial all through medical school because of the stigma associated with being a GP. Those who decide to be GPs are deemed as lazy, not knowledgable and just generally boring. I, on the other hand, think GPs are one of the nicest group of humans you will find, who are so in touch with humanity and life, and they are so damn smart! They have a life outside of medicine which they are equally proud of, and that’s what I want. I strongly believe hospital medicine is the tip of the iceberg. All the hard work, to prevent the population from attending hospitals in the first place, takes place in the community by GPs and other community healthcare practitioners. Isn’t it something like 80 to 90% health consultants happen in the community? So for all those ‘stuck-up’ hospital practitioners (which isn’t everyone by the way, but there are few who think they are above all), it’s about time you stopped dumbing down community health-care.

I cannot wait for November! I will be so focused on my GP applications. And then from December onwards, I will be starting my GP rotation, which I genuinely cannot wait for.

Good things are coming Praveena. So for now, just be patient and remember to BREATHE. All the pain you are experiencing now is for you to appreciate the amazing-ness that is yet to come!

Period.

It’s so interesting that I come from a cultural group that celebrates a woman starting her period, through a ‘puberty ceremony’. Men and women in the girl’s family come together for this celebration, with no form of shyness, embarrassment or awkwardness.

Nonetheless, why is it that the generation in our culture which so religiously celebrates starting a menstrual period, then feels shy and embarrassed to talk about it after. There are many men, especially in my parents generation, who feel awkward and shy to talk about it, yet spend ounces of money on a puberty ceremony which serves no purpose whatsoever than to show off one’s financial status (especially in this modern-western civilization). How many of those fathers, brothers and uncles then openly talk to their daughters about her once monthly period? I have not yet seen it.

Did you know that in Tamil, the most civilized way to say that I’m on my period is this: ‘sugam illai’ which directly translates as ‘I’m not well’. Are you joking me?! Being on my menstrual period does not mean ‘I am not well’. The woman’s body goes through this process naturally. Why is it then so stigmatized/medicalised?

I am fully aware that we cannot change the ideals, values or behaviours of those in the generation above me, in my tamil community…sadly it is too late. I just hope both men and women alike can openly talk about a period in my generation and the generations to come. We need to socially and culturally normalize a normal biological function, rather than masking it in all our non-sense values. Period.

Nothing is as sad as superficiality

Positive vibes. Spirituality. Positivity.

These terms have been become so overused and meaningless in the past few years.

I merely see them as fancy hashtags for Instagram posts. The recent trend.

Don’t get me wrong, I was following this trend as well. However since the beginning of this year, I started to go through a whole mental, emotional and spiritual change. My whole way of thinking began to evolve. I can feel that I am vibrating on a whole new frequency. This shift is scaring the hell out of me, but the more I become aware of it and talk about it, the more I am accepting and embracing this new me.

I just feel like so many individuals are living a life for a very superficial and monetary purpose. Money. Status. Please others. Please self on a superficial level. There is deeper sense of being, which I strongly believe in. We are born for a higher purpose. This higher purpose is short of being easy. On my route to finding my higher purpose, to serve others, I have been becoming more and more aware of myself. This awareness is scary as hell. You start to realise that there is a lot more to our creation.

What we are currently experiencing is a mere illusion. It takes a lot of courage to delve deep and figure out where we sit in this world. What purpose we are going to serve to make this place a better place…because guess what, that is what this messed up world needs more of. Humans who have built a life to serve others and help create a better generation of humans for the centuries to come.

I am a good person

I recently shared with you my insecurities. One of you guys, read it and wrote me a beautiful message on my blog. It was in short about taking time to focus on the positives I have as person, because as women we have the tendency to focus on our flaws, than champion our strengths.

I took a moment, after reading the message, to think about my strengths. Damn was it hard! How did I find it so difficult to think of my strengths, yet within a blink of eye I could list out all my insecurities and perceived negatives?

After days of long and hard deliberation here is few things I believe are my strengths. I’ve split it into the same categories as I did my insecurities, just so I can see for myself that in every avenue I have my strengths:

> Physical: I am beautiful, and I am so confident in my natural God-given beauty, which does make me feel so empowered and one with nature. Here are some of the favourite physical features about myself: my eyes, my cute beauty spots across my face, my healthy looking hair and my booty! Yep, you read that right.

> Relationship: It is a blessing to be in a secure long-term relationship. No matter how hard things get, we always seem to power through and find ways to become even closer. It is that much more tough when we have been living in two different cities for the most part of this relationship. Being in a long-term relationship for as long as we have been, and keeping that relationship alive and so beautiful is tough. Things were a lot easier when I was a student; I would just drive down to London as and when I wanted so to spend time with him (I was a bad university student so just bunked off my classes!). However, in my final year, I cut it down to weekends predominantly, and now with work we hardly see each other. We both work on different schedules, and we both have other commitments, individual to us, outside of work. He travels a lot for work and his performances. My weekends are taken up with my wedding dance business. Nowadays, we would be grateful if we could spend at least 1 hour, every two weeks, together. It is tough, and we have had so many difficulties as a result of it. Nonetheless, we are only coming out stronger. I pray God blesses us with more such happiness and strength, for which I am always grateful.

> Career: I am a doctor. I have a small yet significant wedding dance choreography business. And now, I am taking blogging a lot more seriously, and maybe in the future, I can make a career out of blogging as well!! Why the hell am I being so tough on myself?! I have worked so hard to build a life that I have dreamt of. There are few more things yet to do, but that will come with time. I am so grateful to be in a position of such responsibility. I am so grateful of the people I meet daily through my career. I am grateful for how my career is shaping me into a better person day-by-day.

> Travel: I need to accept that I currently do not have the travel bug. And that’s okay. I am on a mission of my own, and travelling does not fit into that picture at the moment. I just need to accept that be more loving to myself. On the contrary, I am instead saving some money. It is not a lot, but something is better than nothing right? I believe the savings will come to use at one point in the near future and I am proud that I am becoming a more financial aware person, because of my savings.

In addition to the above, for which I am forever grateful for, I have some great qualities as a human being. No one has ever really applauded me for them, but why wait for them, when I can applaud myself.

> I am a great listener. I spend more time listening that talking, and I believe that is a very important quality to have.

> I am very understanding. Whatever you throw at me, I will actually take time to think about the situation in your shoes. This has cost me my own feelings at times, but that is a conversation for another day.

> I am quite organised, disciplined and dedicated. If I set my mind on something, I will do all I can do to ensure it gets done.

> I am a loving human being. I am not good with regular messaging, and regular meet-ups. If you understand that and accept me for that, I will shower you with so much love always. If you do not understand that, and judge me for my decisions and the way I am, I will just step away. When I decide to love someone, I do so with my whole heart. Love rises above all.

It is so refreshing to look at how beautiful of a human being I am; and I am proud of myself for it.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. Just as we are uncovering our weaknesses/insecurities, we need to become more aware of our strengths; that balance is what will keep us in a state of mental and emotional balance.

Coming to terms with my insecurities

I have several insecurities. I have found it very useful to put my insecurities out there, so I do not feel vulnerable or guilty about them. I do not think I will ever overcome and forget about my insecurities, but I can make peace with them.

The first step to making peace with my insecurities is by acknowledging and being aware of it.

So here goes…my biggest insecurities:

> Physical: my body, my hair, my skin, my eyebrows, and my lashes. However stupid this may sound, yes my physical insecurities sometimes do take a big toll on me. Ever since I was a little girl, people around me passed ‘interesting’ remarks about my appearance. This shaped how I started to look at myself. Day-by-day I am trying my best to overcome this, but it is not easy when I was made to feel unattractive for years.

> Relationship: I have been in quite a few relationships now. In each one, I felt like I was a 2nd option. I think (well I hope) the guy I was with on each occasion in the past, did not intentionally want to make me feel that way, but I did. I felt like I was never good enough. It’s my perception of those relationships. I have grown a lot since. I am now grateful to be in a relationship where I feel loved and cherished and made to feel like a number 1. Nonetheless, my emotions and insecurities associated with my past relationships sometimes to seep through and take a toll on my security in my current relationship. Sometimes I feel like I am going in circles. I give my boyfriend a hard time as a result. I am really trying my best to grow beyond my past emotions, so both him and I can be happy and stress-free. It is a work in progress.

> Career: Let’s be real. I am in one of the most rewarding careers ever. I am so freaking proud of myself for it. It is not easy being a doctor at all. I am doing my level best to be as good of a doctor as I can. At the same time, I am trying to balance my dance career. It is so tough. I feel exhausted and demotivated so much of the time. I then see all these Instagrammers who are dancers, constantly produce amazing content. I feel the pressure that I may need to produce content regularly to validate that I am dancer. This takes me into a whirlwind of negative emotions. Guess what, f*ck it. I am and will always be a dancer. Producing content is not what the success my dance career is going to be defined by. My definition of success in the dance world is very different to several others’ definition. Therefore, I should not feel pressured to have to fall into the trap of trends, producing videos, etc. That is not where my focus lies, not for the time being anyway. And that’s okay. If I feel crap, I will not dance. If I feel great, I will dance. It’s that simple for me.

> Traveling: I want to travel so much. Right now, I have a few other priorities that I am focusing on which means that I probably won’t be able to travel much for the next year/year and a half. That’s okay. I should not be judging myself for that. Nonetheless, I see all my friends traveling so much, and I’m thinking to myself…have I made the wrong decision? Should I be travelling now? This led to a lot of sadness. I felt so down. I spoke to my boyfriend and he pretty much counselled me. He made me talk through what my priorities in life right now are, and why. I came to realise how much I want to travel and learn. Right now I am not in the mental nor financial position to travel around the world. And that’s okay. If I keep progressing through life the way I am, I will eventually get to a point where I will be able to travel. I just need to take it at my own pace.

It has really helped me get off my chest some of my biggest insecurities. I am working on making peace with it. I am working on acknowledging that most of these insecurities come from comparing myself to others. So yes, there is a lot of work for me to do. But cheers to my first step.

I would recommend that if you have insecurities, you start acknowledging it and making peace with it as well. Write it down on a piece of paper at least. Figure out why you have this insecurity and how you are going to come to terms with it. Simple things like this go a long way.

So damn proud of myself

I am going to keep this short.

I’m so proud of myself!

Today I went to cinema on my own, for the first time in my life, and watched Aladdin (2019).

Now you may be thinking, seriously is that all Praveena?! Actually this is big deal for me. I have always done things with other people. If there are things I want to do, and no one else is on board, I have not pursued it. I decided a few weeks ago that this needs to change. If I want to do something, however big or small it is, I just need to do it.

I have always been the person to get a little anxious when I have to do things on my own. When I found out Aladdin was coming out today, I literally booked a ticket for myself without a second thought. I just couldn’t be bothered to ask around and wait to go with other people. I wanted to go so I booked it. However, today at work, the thought of going on my own got me very anxious. I was so close to not going to the cinema. I spoke to my boyfriend who said, ‘Praveena, you are going.’ (Gosh I do love him for his tough love). So I came back from work, showered, and then left to go to the cinema. I bought popcorn for myself, went to the theatre and queued outside on my own and sat on my own.

Literally it was the best decision ever!

May this be the beginning of a journey or self-love and self-development, where I grow more and more courage to do things and be present as much as I can. If I have a burning desire to do something, I don’t need to wait for anyone. I should just do it! Even if that means I am on my own.

By the way, the movie was so epic!! It reminded me of my childhood dreams of wanting to become a princess!

The hardest relationship…

…is between myself and my body.

Ever since the day I remember, I have had a dysfunctional relationship with my body. I think if I was left to my own devices I would have been fine and quite secure in myself. However, throughout my whole life people around me (many of whom were my relatives) passed comments about my body, my weight…and worst of all, compared my body to my other cousins’/friends’ bodies, which made me feel so sh*t about myself. I mean I was only a 10 year old child when I started facing such demeaning comments from some of my extended family members and family friends.

Believe it or not, when I was a teenager my uncles and aunts turned around to me and called me ‘fat’. By the way, I was of, and have always been of a healthy weight and within the normal BMI range. Nonetheless, who in my society ever cared about being ‘healthy’. Everyone just wanted LOOK ‘healthy’. Sadly being healthy, for many, meant looking ‘skinny’. I am not skinny. Never will be and never want to be.

I have come to terms with a few things now. Being skinny does not mean you are necessarily healthy. Eating the correct food and doing moderate exercise, at the least, is what being healthy is all about. My goal has always been to be healthy, and less about looking skinny. Why? Because I have fallen into the trap of crash and restricted diets, which have led to ill health and low mood to say the least.

My metabolism is changing as I am getting older, which is why I have become more aware than ever of what I eat. I try and avoid crappy food, but that does not mean I will not treat myself. I deserve a few guilty pleasures from time to time.

Now what I have experienced is only one end of the spectrum. I know of individuals who are naturally skinnier, and get called out that they need to put on weight. Guess what there are individuals who struggle to put on weight, no matter what or how much they eat. It is not their fault that their bodies are the way they are. Let’s not be giving them a hard time; let’s not put the pressure on them that they have to put on weight.

Ultimately, we need to encourage a culture where healthy lifestyles are so much more important than conforming to body types. I am so grateful to be surrounded by amazing friends who make me feel so beautiful. But I know that there may be individuals in this world who may not have that.

So here is what I wanted to say through this post. F*ck what they all say. If you suffering from body image issues, you are not alone. I am here with you, alongside several thousands across the country. Never stop living a healthy life. Don’t fall into the trap of crash diets. Don’t fall into the trap of extreme workouts. Be healthy. Be safe. Just love your body for what it is, and take care of it. It is seriously that simple.