10-Day projects to turn around the way you feel

When we talk of the pandemic and the emotions we associate with it, words like anxiety, uncertainty, stress come forth from most people. The fact is that in the past year and a half there has been an unprecedented rise in people reporting behaviour that points to a mental health crisis.

Not all of us think we are overwhelmed enough to warrant a trip to the therapist. We think we have coped with harder things so why should this be any different. However, even after all these months, after the lockdowns and changed social behaviour and the shattered hope that once we have the magic wand of vaccines everything would be just as before, we still have uncertainty.

Still at home, stepping out tentatively, learning to manage routines that keep us safe, it’s time to relearn how to recharge. There’s a sense of weariness, of does-this even-matter, to sameness, so much so that many of us crave an energy boost.

Over the past few months, I have repeatedly tried to kickstart a fitness routine having fallen off the bandwagon sometime last year. I enjoy long walks, occasional runs, yoga, aerobics, meditation and now suddenly I had no energy to do any of these. The walks are now limited to a small area, which I guess feel restrictive. With the limited stepping-out activities of the household, I now have all the time in the day to exercise but can’t seem to stick to a routine.

Recently, I was reading an article by Cami Ostman, a family therapist, on ways to recharge and to break out of a slump with a nod to the different situation we are in today. She talks about creating personal challenges  with a firm time frame. She created a 10 day challenge to run everyday for 10 miles. The idea is to do something that you love, to push yourself out of your comfort zone and get a sense of accomplishment. And all this in a very doable time frame that doesn’t stretch into weeks or months of an unforseeable future. And it offers a feeling of being in control of one little part of your life.

So there it was – the way out for me. In the past few weeks I have started multiple 10 day projects. I have revamped the kitchen (ok, just improved the looks) with wallpaper and painting and by cleaning and throwing out clutter. I have reclaimed a little patch of the garden for my seedling experiments. I am journaling and feeling better for dumping my worries on the paper. And I am about to begin on my fitness routine.

I really feel this is a good way to feel satisfied that I am making an effort and there is a result attached to it. Try this simple way to recharge and let me know what you think of it.

This post is part of CauseAChatter, and I am talking about Mental Health.

Also posted for Blogchatter Half Marathon.


Different kinds of weather

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine”.
Anthony J. D’Angelo

Scenario 1:
Sometimes, we just have a bad day. It may not be that we got out of the bed on the wrong side, or the morning was rushed and everything just went worse from that point or that it all started off bad. Sometimes, it takes a moment for things to go downhill. Just a botched up job, or an unmet expectation and we carry that mood with us. Other things may be going well, but we have now put on our tinted glasses, seeing the world around us darker.

Scenario 2:
I just need a break. Each day is the same-reactive, rushed, unfulfilling. Routine is boring, I need more challenges. I need to be more productive and efficient. On the other hand, too challenging a week is exhausting and I am unable to manage the work-life balance. Maybe a relaxed weekend is what I need to recharge myself and chart my territory and goals again. But the weekend goes in chores and the same thought patterns.

Rare Scenario:
We change our routine. Maybe inadvertently, maybe because we have become wiser. No, we don’t laze around. Everything gets done, simply at a different pace. We don’t rush, we don’t make lists, we do not judge, we do the best we can. We are in the moment. We just ‘are’. And everything changes. Our expectations, our internal chatter and our perception of time.

That is our weather now. The day is the same, so are the circumstances and the people. But we have modified our response. So there is peace within and sunshine!

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather”.
John Ruskin

Snow is exhilarating!

Renew, Rejoice

Almost a week into the new year and no talk of resolutions, wishes, desires? I had been a stickler for the New Year routine for years when I realised that all I was doing was making the same list over and over again, narrowing or expanding the scope. That made me give up on resolutions.

Still there are times when life needs a course correction, when things become dull or uninspiring, when everything seems jaded. How then to find joy and contentment in daily life even when I am not climbing mountains or clinching that deal?

Here are some of my mantras for constant self-renewal.

Change your surroundings

Tackle your immediate environment first. Clutter can cause a lot of stress. Getting rid of the unnecessary gives you a priceless commodity-freed up space. Cherish that and feel the calm descend.

Another way is to go for a walk or a drive to an area you usually do not frequent. It may not be always possible to travel or to go on a vacation. The stimulus of being in a different place would bring in fresh ideas.

Do not draw from the same well

When feeling stuck in a rut, try to do things differently. Be creative in other areas. If you normally find your creative outlet in painting, try sculpting. If you write, try music as a way to get your creative juices flowing again. You need not even take rest or a break. Turning from one creative activity to another is a great way to rejuvenate your mind.

Examine your life script

Forget star alignments or God’s will or destiny. Much of that happens to us is governed by our minds-our perceptions, our imagination, our expectations and our vision. Analyse how you perceive yourself. Think about how you expect your life to turn out. Enumerate the things that are holding you back. Then, try to understand why you are not living your life the way you would really want to. Frequently, we are the ones holding ourselves back. We all can write our life script and work towards making it happen.

Stay fit physically

Physical fitness is a precursor to mental agility. Working out, taking care of what you eat, staying active make you feel good and in control. A healthy mind resides in an active body.

Connect with nature

Living an artificial lifestyle leads to stress and dissatisfaction deep inside. Spending some time communicating with nature brings on a sense of calm. It may not mean spending time in hills or near the sea as that may not be possible. Going for a walk in the relative quiet of the morning, taking up gardening or even contemplating with your own potted plants are great ways to feel closer to nature and yourself.

Practise Gratitude

Expressing Gratitude on a regular basis brings an amazing amount of positivity into your life. Start a Gratitude Journal, keep a Gratitude Jar, count your blessings with beads, enumerating your blessings every morning are great ways to keep negativity in check. If you are unable to let go of your negative thoughts, replace one consistent negative thought with a strong positive one. It would soon work wonders in your life.

Seek out new connections

Seek out new people in your life for they would bring an element of newness and expand your mental horizons. Make friends with people of different age groups and social background. It is as important to interact with an eight year old than with an eighty year old. Make connections with people from diverse professions.

Review your Identity

We cannot and do not change what we are essentially, but we do change our habits, hobbies, even professions over a period of time. Give more time and thought to the direction you would like to move in and the person you would want to become.

Rejoice in the wonderful gift of life that has been handed to you!

The Mistakes I Make Daily

I make mistakes all the time. I rarely admit to making them, though. But, there are a few that I need to owe up because they undermine the quality of my life on a daily basis.

The #1 mistake I make daily is not to pursue happiness. Yes, I do need to pursue happiness actively on a continuous basis. This is the choice I have made for myself.  Many of my actions and behaviours are directed towards this goal. Yet, sometimes I feel that happiness is elusivse. To really feel happy, the approach has to be inside-out. To gain happiness, I have to create happiness through positive thinking and by fulfilling my potential. Many times, in my unguarded moments, I let negative emotions like anger, fear, resentment, guilt overshadow what could have been my good moments.

The #2 mistake I make is not building on relationships. There are people in my life who are very dear to me but these are the same people I neglect because I take them for granted. I need to invest in my relationships for a fulfilling life.

The #3 mistake is swapping the long-term goal for the short term. Sometimes, I focus solely on the day and what it brings, reacting to each and every situation and exhausted in the end.I go in for instant gratification rather than think about my goals over time. Instead I need to be more proactive towards my day, taking things calmly and using my judgement to negotiate the rough curves.


3 Ways to Counter Boredom

All of us encounter boredom some time or the other. For most of us it is simply a blip in our life. But for many this malaise can surface with alarming regularity. Tackling the empty feeling with no radar to guide you can wreck your nerves and ironically can leave you feeling more drained than people who are focussed in their approach. It may require an in-depth analysis of your life goals, beliefs and time structuring. But, first some strategies that may work very well without having to look for a life coach.

1.Get Involved
Often, boredom can be attributed to the fact that we are doing the same things over and over and the spark goes missing. These could be the routine chores like shopping for groceries, household chores, generating the same or rather very similar presentations at work, dealing with customers in the same manner, hour after hour, day after day.

The solution is to get involved in what you simply cannot avoid in the course of making a living or even in living a life. When you catch yourself complaining, take it as a warning that you need to revitalise yourself. Be aware of what you are doing. Concentrate and stay in the present. If you are doing the dishes, notice how the soap suds are cleansing, notice the pleasant sensation of water on your skin, revel in the satisfaction of getting the chore done. While in a queue at the local supermarket, instead of fretting, check things off your mental list. Observe your fellow shoppers. Engage your mind in mental games.

Getting Involved means watching inwardly how you can improve the experience. It can be quite satisfying for having a focus soothes your mind.

2.Get Active
Often, boredom takes us to activities that we wish would help us relax and rejuvenate. We plomp ourselves in front of the TV for some mindless watching. Or open the laptop for some aimless surfing. Or chat on the phone, where we talk of our boredom and reinforce the feeling. The more literary curl up with a book.

But the fact is that all these are passive activities, helping us to pass time and distracting us from our overwhelming feeling of boredom. They do not relax us, unless we are coming from back-breaking labour.

For rejuvenation, turn to active pursuits. Writing, instead of reading, for instance. Or gardening. This makes the brain work in creative ways. Indulging in your hobbies makes the brain happier and more relaxed. Work towards a small goal for better involvement.

3.Get Going
Sometimes, all you need to dispel that washed-out feeling is to just get up and do the things you dread. Make a list of things that need to be taken care of. Do them rather than procrastinating. Make those long put-off phone calls, make that shopping trip. Call over your friend to help you out and make the chore more enjoyable. Introduce variety in your routine by doing things the other way. Change your physical environment by moving around things in your room. Introduce beauty-put out some flowers even if in the midst of clutter or some artistic knick-knack. One different and positive act would motivate you to go in for similar experiences. The idea is to get off your backside and move your limbs. The mind would stop running around in circles and the hands would do the thinking.

Finally, if your boredom is all pervasive and even life threatening, have a list of things to be done all ready for an unexpected attack. Know and document what worked for you before so that you can be your own healer.

Have fulfilling times ahead.