Take off your social mask

We all have a social mask. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all do. Most of us even have our social mask so well defined so we can rally it out on our CVs, LinkedIn profiles, social media bios, or when someone asks the golden ‘Tell me about yourself’ question.

Want to hear mine?

‘I am a 26 year old Sri Lankan Tamil girl, born and brought up in the UK. I am currently working as a junior doctor for the NHS. I am also a Bharathanatyam and Bhangra dancer. I am a dance choreographer, events organiser and blogger. Above all, I am a daughter, sister, lover and friend.’

Fancy right?!

In the last 2 weeks that I have had to self-isolate, I have reflected a lot. During these two weeks, I was not any of what I described above. I was a human being in bed, confined to one room, taking regular paracetamol to bring my fever down, rubbing Vicks onto my chest and nose to aid my breathing; I hadn’t showered in days; I was not eating. Ultimately I was an unwell human being. That’s all.

I looked at myself as a human being. That is what I am. I am a human being. We all are the same. We are all human beings, trying to survive in a world that so desperately wants us to have a definition for ourselves.

This desperation is what pushes us to make decisions, say things, build stories that may not be hundred percent true to who we truly are, and what we have achieved. Why? Because we want to fit in. We want to feel validated. We want to feel like we have a purpose.

This forms part of the reason that I bid Instagram farewell. We are all so tuned into to thinking so two-dimensionally. We are all looking at ourselves through social masks, rather than as human beings. I found it all so fake and untrue. I found myself moulding into this 2D person. I saw people lie about their lives so openly, for attention. I was scared I was falling into this trap. The funny thing is, if we all used such technology as mere human beings, it probably would not be as exciting as it is. I needed a break from such superficiality. I needed a break from mindless scrolling. I need a break from creating dance content just to create a ‘buzz’.

It was a really hard decision. I have been going back and forth on this decision for at least a year now. I was scared of deactivating my Instagram accounts because I was scared that I would no longer be defined as a dancer, because I did not have an Instagram page that said I was one. It made me realise how much I was relying on social masks to define myself. That is when I told myself, enough is enough.

Socially I am living a life that every girl/boy my age could only dream of. Spiritually, emotionally and mentally, I was losing myself to social conditioning. I decided to snap out of it and here I am. Thank you to social distancing, self-isolation and self-reflection.

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.

Home-sick

I am currently sat at my dining table, in the comfort of my own home. I feel so grateful, blessed and happy today.

This, however, was not the case when I was away from home, due to work, for over the past two months. Working Christmas day, Boxing day and New Year’s Day was one thing; but working shift-after-shift with very little breathing space and opportunity to go home and rest, was something else altogether. I was physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausted. As a result, my mood hit a rock bottom for a couple of weeks in January.

January marks the beginning of the year filled with hope, but for me it marked a feeling of hopelessness, lack of motivation and commitment. I had withdrawn myself from everything and everyone. I just about managed to wake up and go to work. I was forcing smiles at everyone whilst I was crying inside. I had very little motivation to cook which meant I was living off Tesco-brand prawn crackers for dinner for at least 2 weeks. Basically, I was in a very bad place and I was very close to getting professional help because I had no idea who to turn to and I had no idea what to do with myself.

It was not until I had a phone conversation with my parents that I realised why I was so low. I missed my family and my home. A LOT. I missed being spoilt by my parents. I missed eating my mum’s food. I missed my dad always fixing my car to ensure it was that much safer to survive the motorway drives I do. I missed listening to my sister’s random outbursts of singing from her room. Ultimately, I started to value and appreciate my family and my home to an extent that I thought could not be possible until recently.

I am not a ‘perfect’ child, whatever that means. Many people think I am, but I am not. I have made my fair share of mistakes and I have hurt my parents a lot. I am a human after all. It was never intentional but clearly there was a point in my life when hormonal influences had overridden my actual mind. What has changed now? Well I am working. But more than that, I am working with lives. I see individuals at the brink of their lives just wanting to spend their last moments surrounded by their family in the comfort of their own homes. Can we blame them for wanting this? NEVER. Seeing life and death daily is beginning to change me very slowly. Everything I see at work reminds me of my family. I do not know whether this is healthy for me in the long run, but I know that such reminders are what push me to take extra care of my patients (even though there is only so much you can do as an F1 doctor). All these thoughts and memories of my family, coupled with not being able to see them for ages, started to overwhelm me. I realised that my low mood was attributed to feeling so home-sick.

This weekend has been the first since the weekend before Christmas, that I spent time with my family…and I am on cloud nine! I have decided to stay home all weekend. I wanted to enjoy home and genuinely feel grateful about being surrounded by the most amazing individuals ever. I would not be the person I am today if it had not been for my mum, dad and sister. I am enjoying my bed, my mum’s food, my dad’s constant advice giving, and my sister’s general presence. I even enjoyed having the most pointless arguments with my mum yesterday!

When I was driving from Birmingham to London this Thursday night, I was literally crying out in happiness. I am not even exaggerating. Yes, it all sounds very melodramatic, but when your mental health has been suffering for so long because you have missed home that much, that drive back home becomes a very emotional affair.

I parked up, opened the door and was greeted by my mum and dad’s hugs. HOME. Suddenly, all that sadness, welling up inside me, faded.

Life is short. I am realising this more and more especially as I work in a profession where individuals may deteriorate within a blink of an eye. This has made me appreciate the loving and caring souls around me that much more, because we do not know what will happen tomorrow. Be grateful, stay humble and be present. Most importantly, do not take family and friends for granted. Life is full of blessings, and a beautiful family is the first and ultimate that we have to cherish.

My Morning Routine – For Increased Productivity

How well your day is going to go is very much determined by how you start your day.

My mother instilled this value into me ever since the day I remember. Therefore, I give a lot of importance to how I start my day. I really enjoy having a calm and relaxed morning. This sets the manner in which I am going to progress for the next 24 hours. For example, when I have a rushed morning, the rest of the day naturally becomes stressful and I lack motivation to complete anything. When I have a calm and productive morning, the rest of the day develops onwards and upwards!

Firstly, with my usually busy schedule of trying to balance medicine, dance and blogging commitments equally throughout the day, being organized and productive is of utmost importance to me; as a result, I like to use my mornings to plan what I need to get through for the rest of the day. Secondly, I struggle to find me-time during the day, so my mornings are the perfect time for me to really enjoy my own company and spend time with myself, and only myself.

I am going to now go into more depth about what I do in the mornings, especially as many people have asked me how I manage to balance everything and what helps with my productivity.

1) I wake up at least an hour before I have to leave for work. For example, if I need to leave at 8am, I wake up at 7am, the latest.

2) The moment I get out of bed, I make my bed. This may sound like a unimportant thing. Remember, however, that it is a task. This is the first task I perform for the day, and it is already one which helps to keep my room look and feel clutter feel. When my room looks and feels this way, I already feel more positive.

3) I then brush my teeth, shower and get ready. I usually plan my outfit the night before, so I do not need to stress out in the morning, and the process of getting ready is a lot faster as a result.

4) Once I am ready, I go straight to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. Whilst the kettle is boiling, I make sure to drink a glass of water and eat a fruit of some sort (bananas are my favourite!) – what you eat for the rest of day is also determined by what you eat in the morning, so remember to eat healthily. By this point, the kettle has boiled and I can make my tea.

5) With my tea, I go to my room/living room and open my diary to check what I have to do for the day. I edit my things-to-do list as necessary, either in my diary or my phone. I personally like to have a physical diary. You may call me old school, but it actually does help when I am able to physically write my commitments, things-to-do and deadlines. I use my phone to compliment my paper diary but I have learnt not to rely on my phone as much as I once did.

6) Once I have gone through my to-do list, I am mentally prepared for the rest of the day and know exactly what I need to achieve.

7) After this, I pick up the recent book that I am reading, I sit down and read for around 20 to 30 minutes. This time is crucial for me; and it is the only time I get during the day to read. It is my form of meditation. I forget about everything and immerse myself into the world created for me by the book.

8) Once I have had my reading session, I am nearly ready to take-on the rest of the day. All I have left to do is pack my lunch (if I am taking lunch to work), water bottle and bag. I prepare my lunch the night before in my lunch box and leave it in the fridge so I do not have to worry about it in the morning. The same applies for my water bottle and bag. This then means that I actually do not have much else to do before I leave for work.

9) Finally, with everything ready now, I just put my jacket on, take my bag and am ready for the day!

As you can probably see, I plan the order of even the smallest of things for my morning. When my morning goes smoothly, I genuinely have a lot more motivation and drive to get through all my tasks and jobs for the day. My mind is in the correct place as well to face anything the day is to bring.

A large part of my morning routine involves me being organized the night before. These changes will not happen overnight. It has taken me years of conditioning to ensure my mornings go according to my plan. Everyone’s priorities for their morning routine may be different, so I do not expect everyone to follow this. My point is, having a focused and detailed morning routine will set the tone for the rest of the day, so do not neglect your mornings!

Hope you found this useful. Please feel free to share your morning routines. Would love to hear what you guys do!

Praveena x

Alive, Well, Happy & Grateful

It has been quite a while since I blogged. I have been so busy with medicine and dance which has meant that finding the time to sit down have time for myself to reflect on my life and thoughts has been a lot more difficult. However, I am back, and I have a few things I would like to talk about.

Firstly, ‘work’. I say this in inverted commas because I seriously do not see medicine as work. It is my passion. I am grateful that I can say this. I love waking up in the mornings, I look forward to Mondays and do feel sad when Fridays come. Yes, I am a very bizarre human being! I was never that ‘perfect’ medical student. Truthfully, I did not enjoy being a medical student as much as I enjoy being a Doctor. I feel so purposeful now and I realize how worth-it all those years of hardship were. I am still clueless most of the time, and I have several moments when I have to turn to my colleagues and the amazing nursing staff to help me out. I have even experienced moments where I was so near to tears in the middle of the ward. Nonetheless, this is what being a Doctor is all about – LEARNING and GROWING, not just as a Doctor but as a human being. I am so much more driven to be a good Doctor, seeing first-hand and working with some amazing ones. Ultimately, it is not easy at all and most of the time I have no idea what I am doing; but the key here is, I am doing my best and turning to someone for support when I need to. This is just the beginning of my medical career. I have so much more learning to do, so many more exams to sit, but for now I am enjoying every moment of my medical career however pain-staking and stressful it gets.

Secondly, dance. I do not think many people believe me when I say I have dance rehearsals pretty much every day of the week. Well I do! If I am not doing anything medicine related, I am doing something dance related. This could include working on dance shows, wedding choreography or own projects. Currently I am focusing on the former two. I do not want to say much about it now but do trust me when I say I am busy with dance rehearsals.

Last but not least, YouTube. Now this is one I have wanted to have a heart-to-heart about, with you. The reason is because I have not been amazing with staying on top of YouTube. This year I set myself a goal of wanting to be more active with producing YouTube videos – dance videos, tutorials, discussions. However, I have only managed to release on dance video and two discussion videos about dance. I have been meaning to film another video but I have not had the motivation to film it. I am not going to make any soppy excuses here. I would like to be open and honest. I did want to try YouTube and I am glad I did, but, is it for me? Unfortunately not; well not now anyway. I wanted to give YouTube a go and I am glad I did; I got such a wonderful response to my videos. So many of you were very encouraging and spreading so much positivity which made me feel very grateful. YouTube, however, takes a lot of commitment and time. At this point in my life, with my medical career, dance shows/projects, wedding choreography business, I am struggling to find the perfect time to film and release good-quality content. Therefore, for the time being, I am going to pause with my YouTube videos. I do not want to promise that I will be back on YouTube; I will try my best to produce content in the future if time and circumstances permit. I will blog about the topics I wanted to create videos on, so keep your eyes peeled.

I would like to thank everyone for your patience with me. I believe that I do not need to post constantly on social media to prove that I am doing something purposeful/useful, which is why it may seem like I have gone very quiet…but folks, I am alive, well, happy and grateful!

Lots of love,
Praveena

PS: Feel free to message me if you have any questions about medicine, dance, blogging, YouTube, or anything really. Would love to hear from you!

Materialism is TOXIC

We are the generation that is obsessed with things: clothes; make-up; cars and technology; home decoration; skin and hair-care; branded bags, watches, accessories, jewellery; ultimately ‘products’ of any sort.

We are have come together to create this world of materialism which I believe is a vicious cycle. Products and goods have taken over our lives, our way of thinking and ultimately our souls.

We are living in the age where we literally worship anything that looks beautiful, new and expensive. We take photos/videos with it, share it onto social media and feed into this materialistic world even more.

I have fallen victim to this. I have seen so many around me fall victim to this. We have been drawing attention to the clothes we wear; the cars we, or others, drive; the accessories we have; the homes we live in. Ultimately, our lives have become so much about the stuff we own or wear, than about us.

Our economy is very much built on our addiction to material possessions and I have to admit that social media has not made it any better. People get more likes when they share their ‘obsession’ with things. If we keep liking, the world of materialism will only grow more. More businesses will start throwing more products and luxurious services in our faces, which will entice our senses; we will invest more and get more obsessed and…you get the point.

Now I am not saying we need to throw everything we own away and live in a shed. No. I do believe that we have the potential to live more minimalist lives; this way we can truly tap into our souls and serve those that need it more.

Life comes to this. What is our purpose? Are we serving our purpose? Are we serving this planet in any small way that we can? The ultimate spiritual goal is to live a rich life with less stuff. Let’s come together for that.

Love,
Praveena

Medical School, Dance and everything else

‘Praveena, how do you manage Medical school, dance, blogging and everything else you do?!’

I am not going to give you the cliched ‘Time management’, ‘organisation’, ‘commitment’ talk. That is given in life regardless of what you want to pursue.

I am going to tell you how much I struggled. Honestly it was tough. Society prefers me to do one or the other, but not everything. This is because society does not believe that I can do all of it well.

I wanted to prove society wrong. I think it is completely okay to have a passion for multiple things. I think it is also okay to pursue it simultaneously with the right mindset.

Being a medical student (now doctor!), dancer/choreographer, having a small wedding choreo business and blogging sounds glamorous but it involved a lot of sacrifices at different stages of my life.

To pursue my medical studies, there were moments in my life that I had to stop dancing. To pursue dancing, there were moments when I had to put dance over medicine. When I wanted to establish my business, I had to sacrifice my health and well being and travel more between cities (driving two hours from Birmingham to London and back doesn’t sound as strenuous but imagine doing that nearly every weekend for the past year!). To blog, I had to invest so much more time into reading.

To pursue it all at the same time, I had to sacrifice my social life big time…and I still do. I couldn’t go out as much because I would have to be awake early the next day to drive back to London/Birmingham. I stopped watching TV shows for a whole year, because I genuinely did not have the time. The big reminder is, this is the CHOICE I made. Others may not be like that and that’s completely fine. Just remember to make a choice that is true to what you want.

During each stage of this process there were failures and disappointments I experienced. As a result I was constantly being judged for my choices. By several people, but I put that all to the side because I knew exactly what I was doing. It may have not been the way others may have done it, but that’s okay because I am slowly getting through it.

Sometimes the balance has tipped and I have made mistakes. It was not all as smooth as it looks. My health, my education, my dance career, business, blogging have all suffered at some point or another. Nonetheless, finding the drive to get through and find the light at the end of the tunnel was key.

Moral of the story – be ready to sacrifice. Be ready to commit. Be ready for criticism. Make the choices to pursue what you love. You do not need anyone’s permission except your own to do good. So just do it!

The journey has only just begun. Being a student did make it a lot easier to pursue everything I wanted to and establish a strong foundation for my passions. I will start working in a month and a half. Therefore, work life is going to present to me a whole new set of challenges, so I do not know what is going to happen and how difficult it is going be. That’s the perks of life though right…ready to take on the next set of challenges to further establish my profession, passion and everything else.

Your Lunch Break

I am sat in my hospital library having just finished a wonderfully refreshing book by Laura Archer called ‘Gone For Lunch – 52 Things to do in your lunch break’.

I have not started working yet but I know that when I do, I will do my level best to ensure I invest at least a good 10 to 15 minutes for lunch – (based on what my friends, who now work as doctors are saying, getting a 5 minute lunch break is a blessing; so let’s see what work life has in store for me!).

Reading this book made me really think about how important taking some time out to invest in ourselves is, especially during a long working day.

How many of us truly give ourselves a well-earned lunch break? We try to multi-task by doing admin jobs whilst eating, we scroll through our phones whilst we eat, or we do not give ourselves an opportunity to eat at all. We get so focused on having to finish work on time that we think working through our lunch break will enable us to do that.

The impact of not giving ourselves a lunch break can be negative on the quality of work and the quality of our health.

We are all entitled to a lunch break. I do not think there is any professional work-place that expects us to work for 8 to 12 hours constantly. So why do we expect that for ourselves?

For us to work productively, we need to have a break. Giving ourselves a fun activity to do during that break will make us look forward to the break and ensure we take it (even if it is for 15 minutes). It also means we return to work after our lunch break, with so much more energy and our productivity will increase. This in turn will make us enjoy work that much more, because we are not tired and we are not hungry.

Remember, we are humans. Not robots. We are entitled to a lunch break so why deprive ourselves of it?

Work. Break. Work – a cycle of full enjoyment!

#HustleHard

This piece is a short one.

I am back at University and I have officially started my final year as a medical student.

Just as much as I am excited, I am nervous. I need to get through this last leg before I start an infinite journey into the real world of medicine, being a doctor, and continuing as a dancer.

I am even more excited, yet nervous about my responsibility to balance my profession and passion, which reside in both medicine and dance.

So here’s to a new year of excitement, challenges and learning opportunities!

The Unspoken Truth

Depression is a very touching topic and especially within our Tamil community it is quite a taboo.

My 4th year audit was on the identification and management of depression in type 2 diabetic patients at a local GP practice. I decided to do my project on this topic because evidence suggests that patients with a chronic health condition such a Diabetes are at an increased risk of developing depression. Therefore as part of National guidelines’ diabetes management plan, patients should be regularly screened for depression. I was hence able to explore the management of physical and mental illness side by side, which I surprisingly have never before had the opportunity to do.

I loved doing my audit and the results were shocking. However, I am not here to discuss my results and provide you with a summary of my study. I wanted to use this space to raise awareness for depression within our society, and in particular within my Tamil community.

Depression is real

I can be certain that when one of us goes to our parents, aunts or uncles saying that we may be depressed, they are likely to dismiss it completely by saying something along the lines of ‘Oh no, don’t be silly, it is all in your head’, ‘You can do this’, ‘Don’t come up with silly excuses’, etc.

There are so many unspoken truths in my community – depression, and other mental health problems, are some of them. All I can say is that depression is real and I have seen it amongst my patients, my family and friends, and myself.

The moment you see someone dear to you constantly having a low mood, reduced self-esteem, is isolating themselves from the world, has changed patterns of eating or changed sleeping patterns; do not be the one to neglect them and their emotions. Talk to them or try and ask for help. Do not push them away, and most importantly do not make them feel as if the depression they are suffering is not important enough or real enough.

Depression is one of many mental health conditions, which are all equally as important and as serious as physical health conditions.

There have already been many attempts to raise awareness about depression in our community, so let us all come together to do the same. Let us turn the taboo into a spoken truth.