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Protect Your Mental Health

Jan/28/2024 / by sweta-vikram

Your emotional wellbeing is in your hands

Full length portrait of South Asian woman in the outdoors smiling
Photo via Shutterstock

On January 16, I found out that I passed my doctoral finals. I am now a Doctor of Ayurveda. It was a bittersweet moment. My parents aren’t alive to celebrate this massive milestone. While I have a supportive village of family, friends, and colleagues, no one can take the place of your parents, right? Especially when my father’s wish was to attend my graduation ceremony.

The next day we left for Aruba. The timing for our trip worked well. This was my birthday week and a perfect time to pause, celebrate, and reflect. It was an intentional week to disconnect from work. This trip and the week away gave me some real things to think about, like—we all crave inner peace, but how do we find it? 

Here are some ideas I discovered upon reflection.  

Disconnect From Social Media At Times

I am married to a man who uses social media for business and sports news. No lovey-dovey or such posts from him. I never post anything in real time when traveling, and no geo-tagging for sure. My shares are mostly educational and informative. But I took things to another level in Aruba—I didn’t check my phone for extended periods of time. My mind was at such peace, I slept with utmost surrender.

We post, then we refresh the app to see if there are any likes or comments, and then we sit in self-loathing if the engagement is low. If hundreds of people like our social media share, our mood is in the hands of external validation from strangers. Not being on my phone showed me what I needed: heartfelt connection with my family and friends on my birthday.

Even if you are a non-competitive person like me, other people’s news will affect you depending on how your day is going. We know that no one’s life is perfect, yet we succumb to social media posts of unattainable happiness and success. Why put yourself through that torture every day? Take time off when you feel social media is getting in the way of your mental wellbeing.

Enough With The Guilt

Like most women business owners with a South Asian mindset and immigrant background, sometimes I battle guilt for no reason. For instance, I asked myself a million times if I should take the entire week off. Basically, I was questioning if I deserved a break.

After my father’s chautha (fourth day after death), my mother’s death anniversary rituals, and my father-in-law’s cremation (all on the same day), I boarded a plane alone from Mumbai to NYC to take a test in my Ayurveda program the next day. Despite all the suffering, I stayed focused and completed everything on the agenda.

I have traveled since my father and father-in-law died. But I hadn’t taken a real vacation because I was in a business program, building a company, and completing my doctorate in Ayurveda. Be it summer or Thanksgiving or new year, despite gatherings and trips, I was always on some deadline. After eight months of going non-stop, a little voice had the audacity to ask, “Is one week too much, Sweta?” 

Don’t Personalize Bad News

If you are 35+, you probably get to hear more bad news than good news on a given day. Caught between relationship struggles, job challenges, friendship drama, childcare needs, and elder care responsibilities, there is almost never a week where something doesn’t go wrong.

On my birthday, I found out that a dear friend lost her job, and a colleague was in the hospital. I gave myself the time to communicate with them and express my concern and condolences. But the minute I felt I was starting to personalize their struggles, I stepped out to get some fresh air. Then I did a short meditation. Being empathetic is a great trait, but not having boundaries to protect yourself against other people’s problems is a huge issue. I reminded myself that my birthday was the one day I get to focus on my feelings and needs without any explanations. That’s survival, not selfishness.

Spend Time In Nature

Never underestimate the power of nature in restoring peace and balance in your life. Our AirBnB owners had rabbits and roosters in a barn. I would go watch them. When the rooster crowed, I would crow back. Then it would respond to me. Watching the birds fly and feeling the cool breeze on the skin was therapeutic. We were lucky to have access to a private pool with a hammock and a quiet beach not too far away from where we were staying. If you can’t go out, even enjoying the sunrise and sunset from your home can instill a sense of optimism and peace within.

Give Yourself Time

I spent most of my birthday and the day before sleeping, soaking in the sun, and responding to warm birthday wishes. I am an extremely outdoorsy and activity-loving person. But I told my husband that I needed time to rest and recuperate. We ate delicious meals and enjoyed tropical fruits. We swam, went for walks, and chatted with the locals. But we did all these at a slow pace. I don’t remember the last time I had felt so rested. 

I have returned to NYC with new realizations on how to stress less, sleep better, stay focused, and feel amazing. For the most part, our mental wellbeing is in our hands. Do try the above suggestions and let me know if any of them spoke to you.

“You are worthy of happiness and peace of mind.”


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