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.

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.

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.

Here’s a late night thought for you

With the advent of social media, the need to share every positive and negative moment of our life has become such a norm.

The question I have started to ask myself is this: ‘Is this a necessity?’

I have started to become more aware of myself and my surroundings which has meant I have become less inclined to post ‘live’. Any moments I want to keep a record of, I take a picture or video, put my phone away and then enjoy the moment.

I feel like I have recently fallen victim to the pressures of having to post every ounce of my life as it unravels.

My motto in life is whatever moments are private, are the most precious. I want to be more present and care less about posting and more about living the memories I want to create.

I do not think there is any harm in posting whatever one feels comfortable posting. The most important thing is about comfort. As I get older, I want to share less. My close family and friends will be a part of my deepest and more valuable moments and that is all I need in life.

Why Twitter?

I recently re-started using Twitter after ages!!

When I say re-started, yes I mean it. I used to be an ardent fan of Twitter back when I was in 1st and 2nd year of university. Towards the end of 2nd year/beginning of 3rd year my use of twitter waxed and waned and I completely stopped using it. I’m in my 6th and final year of university (at last!!) and I have jumped back onto the Twitter bandwagon. This time however, the purpose of it is very different!

I had a personal twitter account when I was 19/20 years old, which I used for several purposes. Predominantly it was to share my personal emotions and feelings about certain situations – yes, that whole phase in life where social media was used to indirectly (or directly in some cases) target people who we felt had hurt us (looking back I cannot stop cringing!).

Now, 4/5 years later, I am older and wiser. I am slowly on a mission to find my purpose, which means I want to aid people in any way possible to do that. This was my reason for changing the way I started to use social media.

It started with Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and now Twitter. I wanted to use it as a platform to share wisdom and motivation. Therefore, with a new Twitter profile, I decided to begin this new journey. Why? Because we are all in this game of life together. We need to grow together which means we need to help each other out.

Now that I have started using Twitter a lot better, I feel like I am learning more and contributing more to the world of wisdom, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

For those who want to follow me on Twitter, it’s @PraveenaUK 😄

Do I look like a joke to people?

My recent realisation about how consumed people are getting over social media happened as a result of a situation I was faced with.

Several individuals who have started up their own businesses in the Tamil community, especially in the realm of fashion and beauty, use social media widely to promote their brand. I think it is definitely a brilliant tool to use to promote brands because of how broad the audience is.

However, a recent encounter made me realise how people are getting engulfed by social media, and particularly Instagram. Let me describe what this was. There have been an influx of shoots taking place where several stylists, make-up artists, saree and jewellery vendors get together to showcase their products via photos and videos which can then be shared extensively across social media. I am not criticising the intentions behind it at all, because that is exactly what businesses need to do to promote their brand and help it grow.

What did make my blood crawl (quite literally) was that I was approached by one of these vendors to come along to one of these shoots. I am a dancer and I have been using social media to showcase my dance work. Therefore, naturally I thought that I was probably needed to choreograph a video shoot, or something along those lines. But no… wait for it…

The reason they wanted me there was to plaster all over my social media (my Insta story and insta feed) that such a shoot was taking place, because I have an active followership. They wanted as many people to come together to plaster all over social media, so the shoot could get a buzz on social media.

I was not available for the date anyway so I did not commit to it. Nonetheless, after a few weeks I started to think more about this. This is what cross my mind:

Do I look like a joke? I have built myself as a dancer through years of training. I found it so disrespectful and to be very honest very disheartening that people will do shoots just for social media and to create a buzz. That is exactly how it came across to me. I am all for promotion if the intentions are right. If I believe in a product or brand, then I will of course promote it without a doubt. However, to ask a person (me) who does not even belong in the fashion industry to come along so I can stand around and be on my phone to record and post on my insta story came across as very desperate to me.

I apologise to all those who genuinely do such shoots for the sole purpose of building their brand and using it to build their portfolio. Building a portfolio can be done through several avenues, but it has become so easy to rely solely on social media. That is wrong.

Let me conclude with a message to all vendors. This may come across as a harsh blog. Yes it is. I was hurt. Very hurt.

I love photoshoots, so this is nothing against the industry at all. I have previously modelled for my friend’s fashion line, and looking at all these shoots inspires me to think further about my own fashion. I like engaging with genuine shoots with an intention to inspire people. I do not like engaging with shoots which are merely done for a social media buzz. There is a fine but important line to draw.

Every time anyone does a shoot now, think about why they are doing it. If anyone wants their brand to last, they cannot just merely rely on impressing people. If this the case then social media is being misused. Whatever type of brand it may be, think about how it can be escalated to a level where it is positively impacting people.

Sorry about the rant guys x

The Challenges of Instagram

Those of you who know me well will know that I do love sharing key moments of my life, and particularly on Instagram – I have done so for several years now.

I have had a private instagram account for just over 4 years now – @praveena_pranavarooban. I call this account my private account because:

1) I follow and am followed by people I know very well and on a personal level – friends, cousins, etc.

2) I post more personal aspects of my life on that profile – my parents, my extended family, my relationship, my social life, etc.

So now I wanted to discuss the purpose of my public account and how the aims of it changed overtime:

Initial aims of my public profile and PraveenaUK:

• Strictly for dance – to show that I am a dancer and wanted a platform to share my love for dance – whether it be through photos or videos
• Should post nothing aside from my solo stuff and achievements
• Dance covers
• No family
• No friends
• No relationships
• Nothing about any other people around me

Aims of my public profile and PraveenaUK:

• Motivate
• Inspire
• Business profile – a medium through which people can enquire and book for wedding choreography
• Showcase shades of my personal day to day life by sharing stuff about me – what I am up to; my love for reading, books, sarees; the positive people around me – my dance teams, friends I made through dance, some of my closest friends, my work/business teams, my sister
• A dance and personal portfolio
• Still will protect my parents because they are not used to the impact of being in the public eye and they are not a massive fan of it, which I completely respect – so no parents and extended family members (unless they are dancers)
• No relationships

I met up with a friend of mine recently, and she asked me what the reasoning behind this gradual change in the nature my posts on my public account was. She had noticed that it was becoming more personal now and asked me what the reason behind this was.

[I am very glad to be surrounded by people who question my every action. Such friends make me think, push me, keep me grounded and help me stay focused].

So back to her question. The reason my public account has started to become a little more personal is because I believe that people are now aware that I am a dancer. There is no need for me to keep showcasing that I am. Now it is time people get to see the person behind ‘Praveena UK’.

I like posting about my team members now (whether it be dance or business), because they are individuals who have taught me so much about dance, and how to conduct myself as a dancer and choreographer. They are a family whom I feel blessed to have gained.

I am in the process now of creating a correct balance between showcasing my professional and personal life. I am certainly more focused on giving more importance to my professional life than personal, but I do not want people to neglect the fact that I am human. I do have a personal life and in the correct doses, it will add a lot of value to my professional brand.

Every person who I share on my public profile are people who have contributed to shaping me as a dancer, choreographer, blogger and the human being that I am today.