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.

One hard good-bye

So this weekend, after ages, I drank quite a bit of alcohol. I got drunk to an extent that I was vomiting and passed out. I can’t remember the last part of the night. All I remember next was waking up in my friend’s flat.

I honestly have not got that drunk in ages! I have actively been staying away from alcohol for some time. I drink small amounts when I go out for meals, but that is about it.

Honestly, this experience has been an eye-opener (no pun intended). I feel embarrassed, and that feeling of what could’ve happened when I was completely out of it, gives me anxiety. I’m getting mini-panics every time I think about what others would’ve thought about me. I know these thoughts of what others think do not define the person I am, but I cannot help it can I?

I just thought to write about my thoughts and feelings. In the past 2 days, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection about what I want out of life. Alcohol is not on that list anymore. Having fun with alcohol is definitely not a priority for me. I have realized that I have so much to achieve and accomplish, and alcohol is proving to be a hindrance to that. It is slowing me down. Most importantly, it is the biggest barrier to my current spiritual growth.

I am not against alcohol at all and I will definitely have a glass of wine socially with a meal. However, drinking to get drunk and have fun is definitely not me. I’ve been there, done that. I’m turning into a different person, and I’m proud of this self-reflection and awareness of my spiritual, emotional and physical needs.

No one told me it would be this hard

It is so difficult to focus on this present moment when I was programmed all my life to think about the: ‘what if’, ‘what next’, ‘how will it’.

I sat down to meditate today and I really struggled to hone in on the Now. I had a flood of thoughts about what I had to do next, and what I had to do tomorrow. I felt like I was physically fighting my way against thinking these thoughts which drained more of my energy.

Accept it. Don’t resist it. What I had learnt today is my thoughts do not define me. I cannot start judging myself for not being present. Actually thinking those thoughts was my present. The more I resisted, the more I hated myself for resisting. I just have to accept that that is what my mind is thinking of at this moment, be at peace with it and continue. I believe that slowly that will help to calm my mind down.

I can see that this journey to awareness and presence is going to be a long one, but I know I will get there eventually.

Silencing the thoughts

Today I practiced 12 minutes of uninterrupted silent meditation.

I initially put a timer on for 15 minutes, and aimed to continue meditating for all 15 minutes. However, my thoughts started to waver and when I opened my eyes to check the timer, 12 minutes had passed. I gave myself the credit for the 12 minutes I had practiced for, and stopped there for the day.

My ability to quieten my thoughts has improved significantly since the first time I sat in silence. This time round, I focused so much on my breathing and its rhythm, that I mentally could not divert my attention to anything else. Nonetheless, during the 12 minutes, I had visions flash before my eyes amplifying my feelings of anxiety and fear (related to my current orthopaedic job I completed a few days ago), my feelings of jealously towards certain individuals I have come across, my feelings of confusion regarding how people may be judging me.

Therefore, I wanted to take this space to reflect on all three feelings.

1) My current job on orthopaedics gave me so much anxiety and every day I walked into work with the fear of what I may have screwed up at work, what I may have missed, what someone would say to me regarding any small thing I would have done. I was not myself. When I finished my last every orthopaedic shift on Monday, I felt a sense of relief. I felt like I could breathe and be myself again. Nonetheless, when I was meditating today, I had a flood of that anxiety creep up on me. It is going to take me time to get over those negative emotions I felt during that job, but I know I will get over it.

2) I have become quite obsessive over some individuals, especially some women (and on some occasions, men) on social media. I have somewhat started to develop some kind of jealously over their lives. I do think this has stemmed from my own insecurities about myself. When I can feel these emotions take over me, I always take time to remind myself of the good person I am at my core and the person I am becoming. Therefore, now every time I feel jealous or insecure over someone, especially on social media, I actually like their post, comment something positive and/or send them a prayer. This has really helped with my sanity and it has reminded me how important it is to be kind and send nothing but love. I am not going to judge myself over my negative feelings, but I am going to work to turn that negativity into something positive for myself and all those I may have been feeling that negativity towards.

3) Today is the 27th November. Today marks Maaveerar Naal – a day when Sri Lankans Tamils come together and commemorate the lives lost during the Sri Lankan civil war, especially the lives of the innocent Tamils. This is also the same day that several members of the Tamil youth start posting and sharing remembrance posts on their social media pages. I was feeling the pressure to share my own respects to the innocent lives lost, and I also felt as if I would be judged if I did not post something. At the end of the day, I did not do anything; I did not see what purpose it was going to serve an image for the sake of following a crowd. I instead took the time to reflect on what I could do to make sure the lives lost were not in vain. I instead took the time to reflect on how I can stand out as a Tamil girl and ensure Tamils across the globe would also feel proud and motivated to carry on the Tamil culture and language for the generations to come. That is me paying respect to the lives lost. That is me finding the Maaveeran (Brave Soldier) within me. That is me falling in love with my Tamil culture yet again.

Silent meditation is really helping me break down and evaluate my thoughts. This is how I am going to silence my thoughts as well. Rather than judging myself for the thoughts I have, I have decided to analyse the thoughts that I am focused on and write about it to you. It is slowly giving me control over my thoughts, which is what I have always wanted. It is a work in progress but I am on this journey to healing my soul. Join me on this infinite journey of soul healing as well.

Silence

Today I decided to embark on the next stage of spiritual practice. The practice of silence.

I had one hour left until my night shift started. I therefore decided to sit down for 15 minutes in silence. After years of reading spiritual texts, today I decided to practice the first of many principles.

Remaining in silence was scary. I had to face all my thoughts. I became aware of how crowded my mind is with thoughts, predominantly about the future. Within the first minute of sitting in silence, I started crying. I became aware of my pent-up negative energy breaking down in the form tears. I focused on that one tear drop which rolled out of my right eye, down my right cheek, all the way down my neck, finally being soaked up by my jumper.

After the initial bout of crying, I started to calm down. I was still overwhelmed by how much I thought about the future. All my thoughts were about the ‘what ifs’, ‘what next’. I tried to calm my mind down by focusing on deep inhalation and exhalation. I managed to achieve around 20 to 30 percent stillness overall. Still got a long way to go!

What amazed me was how I got into the hang of sitting with myself in complete silence. I did not realize time fly by. I have gained the awareness that my state of constant anxiety is because of my thoughts about the future. By constantly practicing silence, and eventually meditation, I hope to calm those thoughts down, in order to create a space of stillness – the canvas for my creative growth and spiritual enlightenment.

Behind this smile…

This smile holds so many secrets. Behind this smile, is endless days of exhaustion and tears; the number of days I have gone to sleep crying. I force myself to be a lot stronger than I actually am, for the fear that if I start to expose my tears, everyone/everything around me will crumble.

I always tell myself, it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to have any sort of emotion so long as we know how to process it safely and appropriately. Why do we judge ourselves so soon for any emotion we feel? Why are we so keen to label every emotion we experience? I can feel any emotion I want. After all, I am a human.

I just pray we are all kinder to each other. Judge less. Love more. Live more.

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.

Period.

It’s so interesting that I come from a cultural group that celebrates a woman starting her period, through a ‘puberty ceremony’. Men and women in the girl’s family come together for this celebration, with no form of shyness, embarrassment or awkwardness.

Nonetheless, why is it that the generation in our culture which so religiously celebrates starting a menstrual period, then feels shy and embarrassed to talk about it after. There are many men, especially in my parents generation, who feel awkward and shy to talk about it, yet spend ounces of money on a puberty ceremony which serves no purpose whatsoever than to show off one’s financial status (especially in this modern-western civilization). How many of those fathers, brothers and uncles then openly talk to their daughters about her once monthly period? I have not yet seen it.

Did you know that in Tamil, the most civilized way to say that I’m on my period is this: ‘sugam illai’ which directly translates as ‘I’m not well’. Are you joking me?! Being on my menstrual period does not mean ‘I am not well’. The woman’s body goes through this process naturally. Why is it then so stigmatized/medicalised?

I am fully aware that we cannot change the ideals, values or behaviours of those in the generation above me, in my tamil community…sadly it is too late. I just hope both men and women alike can openly talk about a period in my generation and the generations to come. We need to socially and culturally normalize a normal biological function, rather than masking it in all our non-sense values. Period.

My understanding of the pain-body

I read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and I learnt something very interesting which Tolle introduced, called the pain-body.

From the moment we are born, we are being shaped by every experience, everything and everyone around us. These influences can be positive or negative. Those that make us feel a negative emotion feed into our so-called ‘pain-body’. This pain-body is an umbrella term to describe our negativity or darkness. During the course of our life, certain events/moments can trigger this pain-body of ours to resurface in the form of anger, hatred, bitterness, depression, anxiety. We need to become aware of this. The mere process of becoming aware that these emotions are not our conscious being, but the unconscious pain-body taking over, is the first step to stop ourselves from identifying with it.

I can envision the pain-body as being something negative. There are some individuals who carry a negative aura around them. I can now say that it is not their conscious self that is negative, but their pain-body which they carry with them as a dark cloud. The pain body is something which can easily be triggered. I have my own pain-body which comes to light every time someone or something triggers an insecurity in me. My negative response to that is my pain-body. It is not my conscious self. To be conscious is to be aware of this pain-body. It will crop up time and time again; every time it does, I need to become aware that it is my pain-body. This way I can stop identifying myself with it.