When the pandemic hit, the storyteller, Ayurveda counselor, mindfulness coach, yoga teacher, and meditation guide in me was called in to help. Be it kids or adults, mental health crises became of utmost importance. How do you support people’s emotional well-being? What are the best ways to strengthen immunity? How do you keep congestion at bay? How do you move your body if the gyms and yoga studios are closed?
Through articles, workshops, speaking engagements, and one-on-one coaching, I was able to share my work. September 2021 also welcomed my new book, “A Piece of Peace.” I was featured in the first Ayurveda documentary with Dr. Deepak Chopra and other Ayurvedic experts. Along with others, Pfizer invited me to give a talk on the power of mindfulness, Ayurveda, and holistic health to their team of medical professionals. Don’t get me wrong, two years later, I still am grateful for how my work has shaped up and the fact that people feel a connection and curiosity to holistic wellness.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I miss having a little space to breathe and be silly. I know that I am not alone. Research will tell you that women are exhausted and burnt out from the pandemic. Between focusing on their career, taking care of children, managing elder care, managing home, starting families, launching businesses, returning to school … There is very little time left to focus on YOU and what brings joy.
It’s important to own who you are. But remember that there are health risks (physical, mental, and emotional) involved when you ignore yourself. Because our diet, lifestyle, emotions, sleep, hormones, relationships, career etc. are all tied together.
Meditate daily: I think of meditation as mental flossing. During the pandemic, the mind has been working nonstop. Fear, anxiety, self-told stories, depression, angst, sorrow, loss, joy, hope … a gamut of emotions. It’s imperative to pause. When it comes to a crisis, we can’t always control what’s happening in the world around us, but we can change how we react to it. It’s easy to get into a reactive mode, want to blame someone, and make up stories because that distracts us from what’s really going on. Bringing the attention back to your breath helps.
Move your body every day: I don’t mean necessarily signing up for a 10K. Choose small steps and activities that interest you. Workouts offer ME-time. Some studies show that exercise can work quickly to elevate depressed moods in many people. The Guardian tells us that a 2010 study saw participants put through eight weeks of daily yoga and meditation practice report a reduction in stress. And their brain scans showed a shrinkage in their amygdala — a brain structure responsible for fear and anger. Exercising even moderately boosts endorphin levels, and these feel-good chemicals protect our brains and bodies while reducing the risk of depression. Yoga can also help reduce stress, improve the quality of your sleep, lower anxiety, and increase the flow of creative juices.
- Practice abhyanga: In Ayurveda, anointing oneself — from head to toe with warm oil — is called abhyanga. Having a massage therapist anoint you with oil daily falls under the realm of impossible and unaffordable for the majority. This is where self-abhyanga comes in — a practice where you massage your own body with warm oil before taking a shower. It can be energizing, stimulating, and relaxing depending on the season and the oil you use. It lowers stress, improves your sleep, enhances the appearance and quality of skin, helps you sleep better and so much more.
- Eat mindfully: Notice if your appetite feels low when you are stressed: or if you find yourself face down in a pint of ice cream to cope. Do you pour yourself that third glass of wine on a Wednesday night because you have a deadline at work? Do you start happy hour at 3 p.m. on some weekdays? Ask yourself if you are hungry before mindlessly serving your plate again. Sit and eat slowly in silence. Chew your food. No arguments or debates at the dining table. Rely more on seasonal foods and try to eat according to your Ayurvedic dosha.
- Do alternate nostril breathing: One of the great techniques for balancing and harmonizing our brain is the alternate nostril breath, known as Nadi Shodhana, which is very rhythmic, soothing, and grounding. Nadi Shodhana is excellent for not only releasing physical tension, but also for supporting a clear mind, enhanced tranquility, and stress reduction. You can read here about how to do it.
- Pursue your passion: It’s important to be responsible and do what you need to do to provide for yourself and your family. It’s equally important to make time for fun and what uplifts you. And no, this must be something that isn’t related to your career development or higher learning. For example, dancing is what brings me joy.
- Connect with your tribe: It doesn’t matter whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, the human connection is a real part of balanced living. Whether you see people virtually or meet them in-person or do a phone chat, make sure to stay connected to your community. No one can do it alone, or should do it alone. It’s important for us and our mental health to feel supported, heard, and not isolated.
- Get your sleep on: Did you know that inadequate sleep is linked to chronic illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, heart disease, chronic inflammation, and a few others? Ayurveda has a great deal to say about how to support balanced sleep in general: get into bed before 10 p.m., and be awake latest by 6 a.m. Often, simple adjustments to routine, exercise, diet, and lifestyle habits can have a profound impact on sleep.
- Build healthy boundaries: It doesn’t mean lack of empathy or care. Boundaries don’t mean abandoning people; they mean showing up with a wholesome attitude. Boundaries mean freedom. They help us own our personal and emotional space, so we don’t show up depleted. Partners, children, friends, and family will understand if you communicate what you need instead of lash out in frustration.
This spring, let’s make a sustainable plan, so we can continue down our path with fervor and longevity instead of crashing and burning recurringly.
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud” ~ Coco Chanel