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.

Make the most of Lockdown

We have spent so many of our years busy being busy. We have been living that ‘treadmill’ life.

UK is now officially in lockdown.

We have been given an opportunity to come together as one, to save lives and save our NHS. At the same time, we have been given an opportunity to focus on being human, to breathe and to heal.

There is so much we can achieve during this lockdown period – trust this coming from a girl who has been confined to a room for 14 days!

Here are a few things that we can all focus on doing:

⁃ Spend time with those in our household

⁃ Connect with friends/family we may not have spoken to for a while, via text/phone call

⁃ Meditation

⁃ Prayer

⁃ Reading books

⁃ Do an online course

⁃ Learn a new language

⁃ Indoor workouts

⁃ Journal

⁃ Breathing exercises

⁃ Going on solo walks (currently UK is allowing for outdoor exercise once daily)

⁃ Cook together as family

⁃ Watching ‘feel-good’ movies/shows

⁃ Practice skin and hair care routines

⁃ Have games night with your household

⁃ Spend some time studying

⁃ Eat healthily

⁃ Practice gratitude daily verbally or in our journals; we have so much to be grateful for even in such crisis situations

⁃ Goal-setting

⁃ Limit our time online and increase our time offline

⁃ Go through our daily tasks at home slowly and mindfully; be present

Ultimately let’s use this lockdown period to focus on being human.

It’s time for us to enjoy our time at home. It’s time for us to be grateful for everything/everyone we have. It’s time for us to shower ourselves and others with love.

And guess what, we are saving lives and our healthcare system at the same time!

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.

Self-Isolation AKA Self-Reflection

Last week I came down with a very nasty flu. I was feverish, lost my appetite, could not talk, had a runny nose, terrible cough and did not shower for days on end.

You can imagine how run-down and helpless I felt. I spent months working so hard to balance medicine, dance, travel, dance competition preparation, family and friends. I was ready to go back to work when I became bed-ridden. My boyfriend had to come and pick me up from Shrewsbury and drive me back to my parents house in London, because they were scared of what would happen to me if I stayed alone with no one to look after me and feed me food in a timely manner.

With the recent Corona Virus pandemic, my work place told me very firmly that I had to self-isolate for 14 days! 14 days!! When I found this out, I was overwhelmed. I was grateful to be at home but I started becoming so anxious about not going into work. I felt purposeless. I got so scared. I started overthinking what would happen with my medical training if I took this much time off. I started worrying about being bored at home. I was having an emotional and mental breakdown.

I started to spend more time procrastinating on social media, aimlessly browsing through Instagram, much more frequently than normal. This led to me becoming more and more anxious about the lack of activity I was doing. I felt like everyone was accomplishing things, and I was merely lying in bed, isolated from the world, and recovering from a basic flu.

Corona Virus (Covid-19) is what the whole world is talking about at the moment. Within the last two weeks, circumstances have changed from focusing on self-hygiene advice to quarantine/national exams being cancelled/schools and businesses closing. Therefore, when I was told to stay indoors, as a doctor I completely understood why I had to isolate. Nonetheless I felt guilty. I felt guilty for staying indoors isolating myself, when I felt obliged to help out the NHS and just do my job.

To think that the whole world population, known for our ‘busy’ lives, is now forced to stay at home and stay connected to our family during such vulnerable times, baffles me.

The world works in mysterious ways.

Everything happens for a reason.

I started to realise that reason when during the last two weeks. I deactivated my Instagram account. I started journaling again. I started reading again. I started engaging in positive actions which helped my overall physical and mental well-being. During this time of self-isolation, I started to self-reflect. I also started to reflect on worldly and spiritual matters.

Every single measure taken by us is to protect humanity. We may be divided by our faiths, cultures, social classes, but we are all living one common purpose right now – I do not how many of us actually realise it. For the first time since the day I remember, we as a world population are living as one. We are all living so purposefully to protect and save humanity. It is amazing what we are all accomplishing as humanity. I wish for such unity and love in all our decisions for our future, even after corona virus has died down (which I firmly believe it will).

Maybe there is a hidden message with such a pandemic. Maybe God is trying to tell us something. Maybe God is telling us to focus on what is so important. Unity. Love. Happiness.

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.

Is it worth it?

I do not think my anxiety has ever been so bad. I’m currently on a FY2 rotation that is reminding me of how ego-centric some individuals in this healthcare world can be.

I can’t remember the last time I actually breathed properly. My breaths are so shallow and I constantly have a sinking feeling in my chest. I get stressed every time my name is mentioned in conversation. I am 5 days late on my period, which is freaking me out big-time. My skin is exploding with spots, even with clean-eating and skin care, which has never happened before.

I came into this profession in the hope of interacting with humans, and using the knowledge I have gained to help people. Instead, I constantly feel on edge that I’ve made a mistake. I am constantly judged by my seniors for what I do and don’t do. I was always seen as the most helpful individual; now I feel like I have shuffled to the bottom of the pile. I feel like I am a day 1 medical student, not getting the recognition I deserve for the hard work I am putting in.

I don’t complain that easily and I have a very high threshold to bullsh*t. For me to come to a breaking point where I can’t take this anymore, just shows me so much more that this particular specialty and its staff are not my kind of people.

I would like to believe that I am good human being who wants the best for her patients. I know I am safe doctor. However, I am being questioned left, right and centre for every single decision I take.

Enough of the stress. I am grateful for some of the lovely individuals I have met on this rotation who are genuinely the sweetest. I do not want the negativity of others impact my overall experience of this rotation, however difficult this may be.

Ever since the day I made the decision to be a doctor, as a child, I knew I wanted to be a GP. I was in denial all through medical school because of the stigma associated with being a GP. Those who decide to be GPs are deemed as lazy, not knowledgable and just generally boring. I, on the other hand, think GPs are one of the nicest group of humans you will find, who are so in touch with humanity and life, and they are so damn smart! They have a life outside of medicine which they are equally proud of, and that’s what I want. I strongly believe hospital medicine is the tip of the iceberg. All the hard work, to prevent the population from attending hospitals in the first place, takes place in the community by GPs and other community healthcare practitioners. Isn’t it something like 80 to 90% health consultants happen in the community? So for all those ‘stuck-up’ hospital practitioners (which isn’t everyone by the way, but there are few who think they are above all), it’s about time you stopped dumbing down community health-care.

I cannot wait for November! I will be so focused on my GP applications. And then from December onwards, I will be starting my GP rotation, which I genuinely cannot wait for.

Good things are coming Praveena. So for now, just be patient and remember to BREATHE. All the pain you are experiencing now is for you to appreciate the amazing-ness that is yet to come!

Situational Judgement – Do not trust too soon

So I haven’t blogged in a while.

I had a few incidences happen which has led me back to writing this time round.

For those of you who are new to my blog, my name is Praveena. I turned 26 last Friday. I am currently an FY2 junior doctor, working on my Trauma and Orthopaedic rotation. In addition to doctoring, I am also a dancer. I have put some emphasis on my career in Medicine just now because what I am going to describe is to do with my job.

For over the past year, I have been a very hard working individual. I am may not be the most knowledgeable at all times, but I work hard and smart to ensure everything is done for each patient, ensuring patient safety is of utmost importance always. Not once has anyone said I am anything less than hardworking, motivated and enthusiastic. In fact I know this for myself.

Last week I was on my night shifts. There was a trauma call so I was in A&E Resus with my Registrar. After a while, my Registrar told me to go back to wards and complete any outstanding jobs left there, and that he will stay on A&E and sort anything else out. I asked him whether he was sure, he said ‘yes of course.’ Therefore I came back to the wards and made a start on outstanding jobs.

My shift finished, I was off for the weekend. Today, I was meant to go in for work, however I was taken ill so I had to take a sick day. I caught up with my work colleague after she had finished work. We were just talking about the job and how it is going when she dropped into the conversation that the Registrar I was working with on my night shift last week, was complaining about apparently how I lazy I was, and that he had to do all the work in A&E and that I wasn’t there to help him out. This took me by a massive surprise because he was the one who told me to go back to the wards.

At the time my colleague disclosed this to me, I was fairly fine. Now, however, the more I think about it the more upset I am getting. Why? Because I am so hard-working, and I know it. I’ve worked really hard all my life and build a very good working reputation. It breaks my heart to think that one false accusation can really destroy it.

I have made a choice to be nice to everyone. I have made a choice to bite my teeth through any hardship. However, there is a very fine line. I am not here to be trampled on, and I am not here to stand and listen to people talk lies about me. I do not accept people use their authority to throw whatever garbage that comes out of their mouth at me.

I do not think of this as a failure. It is a lesson. It is a lesson for me to be more alert and aware of others. It’s not my job to please others. My loyalty lies with my job and my patients; not with the seniors who look down on their juniors. I will continue to be the lovely and grounded human that I am, because that is the best version of me. Sadly, however, I am also forced to be on high alert of anyone who is quick to judge me. If I hear anything of the sort again, I will have a low-threshold to approach them and address this issue with them directly, or even better, escalate it to my supervisors.

No junior doctor should be made to feel like they are peasants ever; sad truth is, there is a small group of Registrars who treat us juniors this way, and it is not on.

Just had these thoughts on my mind, and I was crying about it all evening. Wanted to just write about and and let out my anger, frustration and sadness.

Looking forward to work tomorrow.

Nothing is as sad as superficiality

Positive vibes. Spirituality. Positivity.

These terms have been become so overused and meaningless in the past few years.

I merely see them as fancy hashtags for Instagram posts. The recent trend.

Don’t get me wrong, I was following this trend as well. However since the beginning of this year, I started to go through a whole mental, emotional and spiritual change. My whole way of thinking began to evolve. I can feel that I am vibrating on a whole new frequency. This shift is scaring the hell out of me, but the more I become aware of it and talk about it, the more I am accepting and embracing this new me.

I just feel like so many individuals are living a life for a very superficial and monetary purpose. Money. Status. Please others. Please self on a superficial level. There is deeper sense of being, which I strongly believe in. We are born for a higher purpose. This higher purpose is short of being easy. On my route to finding my higher purpose, to serve others, I have been becoming more and more aware of myself. This awareness is scary as hell. You start to realise that there is a lot more to our creation.

What we are currently experiencing is a mere illusion. It takes a lot of courage to delve deep and figure out where we sit in this world. What purpose we are going to serve to make this place a better place…because guess what, that is what this messed up world needs more of. Humans who have built a life to serve others and help create a better generation of humans for the centuries to come.

I am a good person

I recently shared with you my insecurities. One of you guys, read it and wrote me a beautiful message on my blog. It was in short about taking time to focus on the positives I have as person, because as women we have the tendency to focus on our flaws, than champion our strengths.

I took a moment, after reading the message, to think about my strengths. Damn was it hard! How did I find it so difficult to think of my strengths, yet within a blink of eye I could list out all my insecurities and perceived negatives?

After days of long and hard deliberation here is few things I believe are my strengths. I’ve split it into the same categories as I did my insecurities, just so I can see for myself that in every avenue I have my strengths:

> Physical: I am beautiful, and I am so confident in my natural God-given beauty, which does make me feel so empowered and one with nature. Here are some of the favourite physical features about myself: my eyes, my cute beauty spots across my face, my healthy looking hair and my booty! Yep, you read that right.

> Relationship: It is a blessing to be in a secure long-term relationship. No matter how hard things get, we always seem to power through and find ways to become even closer. It is that much more tough when we have been living in two different cities for the most part of this relationship. Being in a long-term relationship for as long as we have been, and keeping that relationship alive and so beautiful is tough. Things were a lot easier when I was a student; I would just drive down to London as and when I wanted so to spend time with him (I was a bad university student so just bunked off my classes!). However, in my final year, I cut it down to weekends predominantly, and now with work we hardly see each other. We both work on different schedules, and we both have other commitments, individual to us, outside of work. He travels a lot for work and his performances. My weekends are taken up with my wedding dance business. Nowadays, we would be grateful if we could spend at least 1 hour, every two weeks, together. It is tough, and we have had so many difficulties as a result of it. Nonetheless, we are only coming out stronger. I pray God blesses us with more such happiness and strength, for which I am always grateful.

> Career: I am a doctor. I have a small yet significant wedding dance choreography business. And now, I am taking blogging a lot more seriously, and maybe in the future, I can make a career out of blogging as well!! Why the hell am I being so tough on myself?! I have worked so hard to build a life that I have dreamt of. There are few more things yet to do, but that will come with time. I am so grateful to be in a position of such responsibility. I am so grateful of the people I meet daily through my career. I am grateful for how my career is shaping me into a better person day-by-day.

> Travel: I need to accept that I currently do not have the travel bug. And that’s okay. I am on a mission of my own, and travelling does not fit into that picture at the moment. I just need to accept that be more loving to myself. On the contrary, I am instead saving some money. It is not a lot, but something is better than nothing right? I believe the savings will come to use at one point in the near future and I am proud that I am becoming a more financial aware person, because of my savings.

In addition to the above, for which I am forever grateful for, I have some great qualities as a human being. No one has ever really applauded me for them, but why wait for them, when I can applaud myself.

> I am a great listener. I spend more time listening that talking, and I believe that is a very important quality to have.

> I am very understanding. Whatever you throw at me, I will actually take time to think about the situation in your shoes. This has cost me my own feelings at times, but that is a conversation for another day.

> I am quite organised, disciplined and dedicated. If I set my mind on something, I will do all I can do to ensure it gets done.

> I am a loving human being. I am not good with regular messaging, and regular meet-ups. If you understand that and accept me for that, I will shower you with so much love always. If you do not understand that, and judge me for my decisions and the way I am, I will just step away. When I decide to love someone, I do so with my whole heart. Love rises above all.

It is so refreshing to look at how beautiful of a human being I am; and I am proud of myself for it.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. Just as we are uncovering our weaknesses/insecurities, we need to become more aware of our strengths; that balance is what will keep us in a state of mental and emotional balance.

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.