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!

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