Should it always be about the hustle?

In recent times, terms like ‘hustle’, ‘grind’ and ‘hard work’ are really trending. We are all trying to build a life where we are constantly pushing ourselves and striving for more.

I love how I have built my life. Working professionally as a Doctor, creatively as a Dancer and personally as a Blogger. It really is an amazing feeling. I am learning to push my own limits and reach for heights which I never thought were possible.

However, here is the real deal. It is exhausting and I am exhausted. I am constantly ill, sleep-deprived, and tired, all because I am constantly working on what to do now and then planning my next ventures. On top of all of this, commuting as much as I do to ensure I accomplish my goals has a knock on effect on my productivity and quality of the work I am producing. This made me question whether all this hustling was actually worth it, when my mental and physical health is not at its best as a result of it all.

Sadly, we are also the generation where mental illness is at its peak. Depression and anxiety are becoming so much more prevalent in professionals. So maybe if we built a community where it was more acceptable to take well-earned breaks, we would be facing a decline in mental health problems.

Long story short, I have learnt that we need to push ourselves to strive for more, but within reason. I am slowly learning about the importance of resting and giving myself a break. I do not mean just 1 to 2 hours a day. I mean 1 to 2 days a week. I need at least one day a week where I am focusing on nothing related to medicine/dance/blogging. I need at that one day to re-energise. I need that one day to bounce back stronger. I used to think taking a break was weak. No way!

Taking a break is the strongest thing we can do for ourselves. We need it. Especially as we are the generation pursuing more than one profession/passion. Let’s give ourselves a break, because we deserve it. At the end of the day, hard work alone is not enough. We need to know how to work smart as well, and that is where the trick is.

My new motto in life is: take as many breaks as you work!

Life as a Competitive Dancer

I watched a Tamil movie called Lakshmi last weekend. The day before I watched this movie, I was on stage in front of an audience of 1600 competing in my first ever professional Bhangra competition. Therefore, watching Lakshmi really struck a chord with me. This is why I am sat here right now blogging (after what seems like ages). Lakshmi is a movie which probably hit a chord or two for every single individual who has watched this movie so far. Dancers who struggle to convince their conservative parents of how important dance is to them will really understand the emotions of the protagonist who struggled, as a child, having to face the same issue. Dancers who have experienced stage fright would really understand how the protagonist felt on her first ever stage performance, whilst being blinded by the strong stage lights and immense crowd. Dancers, who have experienced relationship problems as a result of their arduous dance training schedules, will be able to relate to this movie as well. Those who do not dance may want their child to become as strong of a dancer as the protagonist is in the movie, or maybe even not!

For me however, watching this movie really hit home regarding the life of a competitive dancer. This includes: the auditioning phase; getting onto the team; sacrificing free-time/family-time/social life for training; facing failures as a dancer and as a team member; fighting through pain whilst struggling on stage; protecting and fighting for your team-members no matter what; knowing the feeling of having your team as your new-found family and willing to sacrifice anything and everything for this new family. All these factors get amplified 100-fold when dancers are also balancing another professional career or degree as well.

I competed in my first ever dance competition at the age of 9 years old. At that age I had no idea that I would be spending a large proportion of my dance career training for and competing in competitions. But here I am now, 15 years on, having competed in 11 national dance competitions: 3 Bharathanatyam competitions, 1 Bollywood, 2 Gaana/Tamil Cinematic Dance and 5 Bhangra competitions. Of the 11, 8 of them happened in the last 3 years!

I am writing this to showcase the realities of training for a dance competition. It is tough. It is not as glamorous as it sounds or looks. The final product that the audience sees is merely a 5-10 minutes result of more than at least 100 hours of training. The sacrifices competitive dancers make to perform the way they do on stage are terrific.

I am writing this blog as an awareness to those who do not know of what we, as competitive dancers, go through on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Many of us competitive dancers have sacrificed spending time with family and friends on numerous occasions. There have been times when I have not seen my family for 3 months! I have whole-day dance training during the weekends; I have university/work during the weekdays. I cannot jeopardize my team at any point. Ultimately I have signed up to investing my weekends into dance training, so I cannot just turn around and say, I cannot go training because I feel homesick, unless of course something urgent crops up.

The overall lifestyle of a competitive dancer is very different to that of a normal person. Firstly, I have to think twice about what I eat – I do not eat out; I cook my own food which I try to keep as clean as possible; I stay away from Tamil food, even if it is home-cooked. Secondly, I have to be cautious about what social and physical activities I do; for example, I have to avoid going out because I do not want to feel drained for training the next day and I want to feel well rested before training. Finally, competitive dancers have to get used to living with injuries – shin splints, blisters, muscle aches – I spend most of my time outside of training dosed up on maximum pain-relief and walking like a penguin, because of how many injuries I suffer. Even as I write this now, I am typing with my right hand because I pulled by biceps muscle in my left arm during training for my most recent competition I took part last weekend. No imagine this being our normal life for the most part of a year. Yep, that’s our life!

Training to be a competitive dancer means you are training to be an athlete. So yes, it is extremely difficult, but what is worth keeping will not come easy. I do not regret any part of this journey at all, because with every competition I have become more and more of a committed and disciplined individual. Every competition enables me to hone myself into a better dancer as well as a better human being and that is all I care about right now. Onwards and upwards.

Don’t take for granted freedom of speech

Words are so powerful. They have the ability to make or break any situation.

I’ve seen so many use words so powerfully to create such an impact in society. That is what I call inspirational.

In contrast, there are people who use the term ‘freedom of speech’ to talk bad about others and harm/hurt others. This is what I call an embarrassment to humanity.

If more and more individuals understood the power of their words and how to tailor it to meet the needs of society, we would all be growing at an exponential rate!

Love with no judgement

Spiritual practice is not easy. It takes time. Praying, meditating and chanting mantras are a fraction of this vast world.

I believe spirituality comes from a place of love, where our thoughts, words and actions are positively in line with each other.

Spiritual practice and spirituality is truly tested in the way we think of and treat those who have done harm to us, or those we have a reason to dislike. If we turn to them and embrace them with love and forgiveness, that is when our spirituality is truly rewarded.

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

Tips on how to sleep well

Sleep deprivation is becoming so much more common which undoubtedly has a negative impact on our health and well-being. So here are a few tips that I am trying to practice to ensure I can sleep well.

1) Meal times – I aim to eat at least 2 to 3 hours before I go to bed, and I drink plenty of water before bed.

2) I try to have a shower before bed or at least wash my face with warm water before going to bed. I am a morning shower person, so more commonly I wash my face with cold to warm water before bed.

3) Sometimes, I light a non-scented candle when I go to bed. It really does help to calm the atmosphere and myself down.

4) I aim to not not touch anything for the last 5 minutes before going to bed. On work days, I set your alarm before getting into bed, keep it aside and go to bed. I do struggle with this the most because I do a lot of planning for the next day on my phone, so I need to get better at doing this. Somedays are better than others, but I am working on it slowly.

5) I set calming alarm tones in comparison to the loud ones. The reason being I want to wake up calmly; as a result, I look forward to waking up the next day knowing that I will start it peacefully. I might try out a mantra or chant.

6) Finally, I wake up with a smile and feel grateful for waking up alive and well.

I practice some of these tips more often than others, so I am working towards slowly incorporating most if not all of it into my night/morning sleep hygiene routine.

If you do practice any of these, let me know what you think. If you have any other tips, please do share!

Love,
Praveena

Walk yourself to Peace

Who else likes going on walks on your own?

I do!

I get moments when my mind feels very cluttered and I therefore find clarity by taking time to spend time with myself. This can be via walks, temple visits, reading, colouring… It gives me an opportunity to breathe and embrace the beautiful world we live in.

Truly grateful!

Love,
Praveena

Lost in thoughts

‘The MIND acts like an enemy for those who do not control it’ ~ The Bhagavad Gita

The power of our mind is just unbelievable. When we can control the negative and feed the positive, we can truly feel empowered mentally and spiritually.
A few years ago, I decided to feed my mind in the form of prayer, good people, memorable experiences and gratefulness.

When you have got that clarity, everything looks that much more beautiful.

Love,
Praveena

Cosmetic Surgery – A hindrance to self-confidence?

I had a very interesting conversation with my sister today about celebrities who have done cosmetic surgery and how it may have changed their appearance.

Celebrities have a huge following which means they have the possibility of creating huge social change a lot easier than others. Yet there are some who have fallen victim to the pressure of it all and started changing their appearance to gain more ‘acceptance’ (this may be self-acceptance and/or that from others). As a result they have added fuel to a whole new culture of cosmetic surgery. Obviously they are not the only ones responsible but they have created this notion that having certain facial features is what makes one beautiful. This, in turn, means more of the general population have resorted to such means more easily. Shouldn’t such celebrities be encouraging everyone to embrace themselves for who and how they are? I’ve seen it all being said, but again actions speak louder than words.

Everyone is entitled to have insecurities. However insecurities, in the spiritual sense, represent a bigger problem. It means one is not accepting themselves for who they are and how they look. Cosmetic surgery (unless it has a medical purpose) fixes the ‘effect’ but not the ‘cause’. We need to work on figuring out the cause of this insecurity. Surprisingly, in most cases, the ‘cause’ of this insecurity is down to ‘what others do/think’ or ‘what we define as beautiful’. If it’s a former, it shows that we are not living for ourselves but for others. If it is the latter, we need to question what made us define beauty the way we do.

Confidence is an inside job, so if we are relying on the external appearance to give us confidence, which is an internal trait, where does the problem lie?

Think about it,
Praveena

Study tips for Finals

Finals were a super stressful time for me. However, having all my notes prepared and at the ready to go for when revision started made my life that much easier.

REVISION NOTES

I am usually very last minute with everything, however organised I try to be. I wanted to change that in my final year so I started preparing typed notes from day 1 of final year. Therefore by the time I got to the end of my final rotation, I had just about all my notes typed up.

When it came to revision, I went through these notes and created key cards of points I know are new content and I will struggle to remember first time round. By doing so, I avoided the need for me to have to go through my big pile of typed notes. Instead I had bitesize summary key cards!
Then I started going through these key cards and as I did so, I created my post-it notes (discussed below), which I went through the day before exams.

Overall I went through all my notes for everything at least 3 times before exams.
Everyone has their own way of studying and revising. For me, creating/writing and repetition of notes is important especially will the breath of knowledge I have to acquire for exams.

REVISION SNACKS

I do not know about you guys, but I tend to eat very badly when it comes to revision. I do very little cooking and just eat whatever is available to me. Little did I know then that my eating badly had a knock on effect on my revision productivity, until I changed my eating habits.

When I eat something a bit too filling, I tend to feel sleepy and cannot carry on with revision. For this reason, I began to stick to fruits and vegetables which I would snack on. My favourites have been cucumbers and carrots.

I just wash them and then eat it raw! I find it a lot lighter yet filling. Overall my concentration improved, alongside my productivity and my skin!! A win-win.

I guess the message I am trying to convey is that it becomes easy to neglect our diet when we have revision, but if we took a few extra steps to take care of what we ate, it will have a positive impact not only on our revision, but our body and skin as well.

THE DAY BEFORE AN EXAM

I like making summary post-it revision notes. Why? I end up make pages and pages of notes and revision key cards. The day/night before the exam, I physically cannot go through all the notes so these summary post-it notes are great.

I usually just write the bits that I commonly forget – minute details like certain drug names and doses for particular conditions.

I find it a perfect way to cover everything quickly, provided that I still remember major key concepts and medical presentations/conditions.

Hope you found this useful. I will be sharing more of my revision tips soon so keep your eyes peeled. For the time being if you have any questions or would like revision coaching, give me a message!

Love,
Praveena