Coping with Corona Blues

Let’s face it, work-from-home seemed like a dream come true on Day 1 but a week-in and we’re bored beyond belief, agitated and totally Netflix’d out. We’ve all heard the Do’s & Don’ts when it comes to physical hygiene but what about mental hygiene? How do we ensure we stay positive & calm during this period? Let’s start with what NOT to do.
 
DON’Ts
  • Do NOT wake up thinking it’s the end of the world
  • Don’t spend all day scrolling through your feeds reading cases of death counts, how fast the virus spreads, & videos of horrible deaths from the virus
  • Don’t forward the above to everyone you know – you might not be infecting people with the virus but you’re infecting them with negativity
  • Do NOT watch Contagion!
  • Don’t engage in useless debates about how ineffective current strategies are & how the gov’t should be doing x,y,z instead – if you’re really concerned about all this, think of how you can help others in this time, even if it’s just to lighten the mood and make someone laugh
The more ‘normal’ you behave on a daily basis, the easier it will be to remain sane. I’m not saying be in denial. Be informed. Prepare for the worst but remember to HOPE for the best. In order to have hope, you have to be mentally strong. How do we ensure we maintain that hopeful & positive mindset?
DO’s
First off, deep breath & smile! 🙂
WFH me
1. Stick to a Routine. This is not a lazy Sunday this is a normal work week. Make sure you keep yourself occupied through-out the day and make mental rules that will help you stay on track. For example, I have a rule not to turn on the TV until 6pm no matter what.
2. Create a Dedicated work station. I’m seeing so many people with laptops in bed and on the sofa. This is not conducive to a productive workday! Set up a space in your house that is your dedicated ‘work-zone.’ Put your pen-holder, notepad, coffee cup, etc. on your desk as you would have at work. Don’t have a desk? Do it with your dining room table. As you’re stuck in the same space all day, it’s important you demarcate ‘work’ area vs. ‘relaxing’ area (e.g. sofa, bed)
3. Dress smart. Do you go to work in your pyjamas? Hopefully not! Once you get up make sure you put in the effort to get dressed and look good. Looking good helps you feel good! Put in the same amount of effort you would if you were going out. Put on that make-up, wear those tight jeans. If you’re in loose pyjamas all day you’ll be lethargic & more likely to cheat on your diet by munching. Bonus: every time you pass the mirror you’ll feel better when you see a polished version of yourself (as opposed to a scary, unwashed hair-monster!)
4. Exercise. Even 20 minutes a day can have amazing psychological effects. Make this part of your routine and set up an area at home to ensure this happens daily. Gym closures suck big time! But we have enough around the house to get a decent workout. If you live in a building with stairs, perfect. Avoid the lift (less hygienic anyways) and use the stairs to get in a bit of cardio.
5. Eat clean. Ok, your top priority might not be to get shredded right now but isn’t this the perfect opportunity to curb those temptations? You can’t order-in nor can you eat out. Now you have no choice but to cook all your own food! (It’s your mentor’s dream come true. They can finally calculate your macros effectively). Staying on track of your diet will help you feel like things are normal & help you see the silver lining in all of this.
6. Connect Emotionally– social distancing is the need of the hour but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with friends & family. Use this extra time to video-call people. Seeing someone smile or hearing them laugh just might make your day!
None of us have gone through this before and when you stop to think about the ramifications it is scary. Corona is not in your control. The good news is how you react to it is. We might not have a vaccine yet to eradicate this virus, but we can take steps to keep ourselves mentally fit & be the strongest version of ourselves to fight this thing together!

The Power of Letting Go

As hot-blooded Punjabis, conflict is something we are familiar with in my family. Growing up, I saw my parents deal with upsetting situations & people in two different ways: my dad would react & mostly get angry. My mom would ignore. Yup, these were the only 2 options presented to me. I have tested both of these options on several occasions. Neither seems to do the trick for me. In both cases, you walk away with nothing accomplished. Someone else’s actions affect you. You get angry, upset, & frustrated and ultimately the issue is still looming. It’s like the old adage, “getting angry is like trying to kill your enemy by drinking poison.” You get left with the bitter taste in your mouth.

I tried to find a middle ground which was to resolve. Let’s get everyone around one table, talk about it & come to an amicable solution. Aha! Then there’s that magical word everyone loves, ‘closure.’ This may work sometimes but not all the time. Especially when you’re dealing with difficult people. Some people don’t want to come to the table. They don’t even want to sit in the chair. They just kick it & walk away. Then what do you do?

Finally, overtime I have realised the power of letting go.

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Observe the thought, the feeling, the emotion that springs up within you.

Don’t try to fight it or ignore it. Let it come. But in the same essence that it comes, let it go. Imagine water bubbling up in a stream. What happens when you try to control the movement of water? Well, you’ll probably end up drowning.

Stop trying to control it.

Let it go.

Fill yourself with so much other stuff, that there’s no room for it to stay & fester.

What’s the other stuff?

1. Practice Gratitude

I never understood the power of this until I started practicing it. When you start appreciating people & things that happen to you, you are filled with less negativity. This is a very simple truth. Think about what made you smile the day before & try to hold onto that feeling. Every time you feel the sensation of a negative emotion, don’t fight it but remind yourself about the bigger picture. There is so much good happening in your life on a daily basis.

2. Respect & Connect

Value people for who they are – not what they are or represent in society. Connect with everyone at the most basic level. My most interesting life experiences & ultimately stories always started with a mistake, an accident, a wrong turn, a delay or a missed train that helped me meet such amazing people & have unforgettable moments. Those moments do count & I look back on them so fondly.

3. Just Laugh

It may sound strange, but sometimes you’re in a situation that seems so bad, so impossible, and so messed up that all you can do is laugh! You might cry first, and that’s okay as long as you laugh as well. I once unintentionally offended a well-known personality and it got blown completely out of proportion. Initially, I was pretty worried but then I realised, that hey, how many people can actually say they offended someone of such importance? It’s an achievement Sonal, I told myself. And it made me laugh. Thankfully it was one of those instances that did get resolved, but what’s more important is I laughed about it while I was in the thick of it. This also had the added benefit of helping me relax and think clearly – rather than get all worked up about what to do next.

You’re going to be filled with negative emotions & thoughts which is natural. But how do you not let them get to you? Meditation isn’t about controlling your mind it’s about accepting. Accept the thoughts that come to you. But also harness the power of letting them flow out of you.

Breathe Fresher – Air Purifier Review

In my last blog post I wrote about some techniques to manage the effects of Delhi air better.  A lot of people have been asking me about my take on air purifiers so I thought I’d share my detailed review here.  Last week I was invited to a meeting on the other side of town. But I woke up feeling nauseous, with a headache, and it felt like there was a cloud of fog surrounding my brain. I was very tempted to cancel but didn’t want to be rude. It was only when I checked the news that I saw the alarmingly high pollution levels in Delhi that day (+900!). A “normal” Delhi day is around 300 and safe levels are below 50. I realized my illness was not because of something I ate or a viral but most likely attributed to the condition of our air.

That’s when I decided enough is enough & I went out and got Havells’ Freshia Air Purifier to see if it could make a difference. When I checked it out in the showroom I was really impressed by its features & shiny display model. But the inner skeptic in me, wouldn’t be convinced until I had a chance to try it out in my natural habitat. So I took it with me to a newly constructed house covered in dust, an overzealous puppy & tons of people walking in & out seeing the new house (without removing their shoes at times – I know, fellow OCD’s can you imagine my horror?!) & most importantly my office which to be honest doesn’t get cleaned properly.

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I tried it out both at home & in the office and was pleasantly surprised as I got to test out all the features and see how it actually works. I kept it on the whole time. The only time it was switched off was to move it around. I had to figure out the appropriate purifier-vaastu after all (just kidding). Actually, I wanted to test it out in different areas to see if there was a differential impact. What I noticed immediately was that when I turned it on the PM2.5 levels in the room were an alarming 500. I thought it might be an error but after about an hour I saw the levels slowly started decreasing.

It’s unique from other brands because of its thorough 9 stage filtration process (most brands have a maximum of 5). Each stage filters the air removing the larger particles which are above 0.3 microns to the smallest air borne bacteria. Freshia filters dust particles, removes odour, breaks down harmful gases & kills air borne bacteria.

The dial at the top indicates the existing level of PM2.5 in the room. Within an hour or so, the levels started dropping. The colour of the dial indicates the danger level and gradually transforms from Red to Amber to Yellow to Blue & finally Green when we reach levels below 50 which is what’s considered safe.

One of my favourite features is Sleep Mode where it seems like Freshia is off but thanks to the noiseless BDC motor it’s running without the lights & sound. This was helpful because I’m a light sleeper and didn’t want to be disturbed throughout the night.

It’s also equipped with an automatic filter replacement reminder which is helpful, an air purity indicator, & dust sensor. Child lock is a bonus if you have kids or an excited puppy at home like me who wants to inspect every new gadget. Freshia also has a built-in humidifier (with an added filter for the water being used in the humidifier as well!) which is great especially if you tend to get dry skin with all the AC’s & heaters we use.

Overall, I would highly recommend this product to improve your indoor air quality. Do check-out my other post to know of more tips to curb the effects of pollution. Stay safe, take care of your health & make sure you take every precaution during this time!

 

Dealing with Delhi Air

Ok, so the pollution has been hitting us hard lately. You might’ve seen my latest video review of an air purifier. They are a great way to improve the air quality indoors and also help combat the dust & particles (e.g. dog hair) that get stuck within the home. It’s definitely an investment, but a worthwhile one if you’re concerned about the quality of air you’re inhaling considering the alarming levels. Tip: they seem to work better when you keep the AC on! Not everyone can afford an air purifier. However, there are plenty of other cost-effective techniques you can use.

Other techniques:

Masks – A lot of people are donning masks and to be honest their effectiveness really depends on the type of filter within the mask. I find them slightly suffocating but then again so is the air right now. Pay close attention to the brand and quality of mask if you’re purchasing one.

Plants – On one of the worst days of pollution this year, I actually stopped by a nursery and felt immensely better. Plants reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, they increase oxygen, and they help eliminate toxins. While hiding in a nursery isn’t practical or sustainable adding some flora in your house & office is not a bad idea as plants have proven other wellness benefits.

Plants

Hot Water Gargles – One of the most EFFECTIVE preventative measures is gargling in warm water as soon as you get home. You can do this every day and numerous times throughout the day. I do this as soon as I feel a sore throat coming on. These days I do this as soon as I walk into the door. It’s also a good idea to wash your face thoroughly as many times a day as you can. But also ensure you’re using adequate protection on the face throughout the day. I’m not one for a lot of makeup but you definitely need to create at least a thin layer of BB cream or foundation or sunblock (whatever suits your skin) to provide a protective layer on your face.

Overall, it’s not easy to deal with pollution in this season especially if you live in the Northern part of the country. But there are a few strategies that will help mitigate its harmful effects. We can’t change the air quality and not all of us can just leave town, but what is in our control is ensuring our immediate environment is as safe & comfortable as possible. Hopefully these tips will help you manage a bit better! Stay safe x

 

Men with power don’t impress me. Men who Empower do.

As someone who often speaks about gender issues, I’m reminded of a workshop I conducted a day before Independence Day two years ago. The topic was Domestic Violence and I was addressing young women from low-income backgrounds. During the Q&A part I was asked

“Where are the men? We believe you when you are telling us about our rights, but why is there never a man here telling us the same thing?” 

This year, a few days before Independence Day I had the pleasure of meeting a very senior security advisor to the Indian Government who asked us to support his plan for conducting self-defence camps for women across India. A noble cause. But all this got me thinking.

Mahavir Senior Model School, Delhi on August 14th for a Domestic Violence Workshop a few years ago

 

The problem isn’t just about the physical & sexual abuse women face but the attitude towards women in general. How do we change that? My answer is to involve the men in the process. We can have self-defence camps for women & domestic violence & sexual abuse awareness campaigns but these issues get neatly boxed away as “women’s issues” and thus largely only involve women.  Yes, as women we need to be aware of our rights and feel empowered to speak up but how about we work on the root cause of the problem? Men need to learn how to respect women from a very young age.

Why is it that we have thousands of IIT entrance exam coaching institutes, even in the most remote cities but we have 0 camps where we’re teaching men what it means to respect a woman? We have civics class teaching students about patriotic duty, but what about our duty to respect one another as equals, as fellow humans?

We don’t teach kids that staring, commenting, whistling, singing perverse song lyrics & doing anything to make the other person uncomfortable (even when there’s no physical interaction involved) is WRONG. It’s not just hitting, or raping or touching but treating someone in a way that makes them feel less than a human being. It’s disgusting.

We don’t have to wait until a crime occurs; let’s try to change the thought that leads to the crime. A bit ambitious? Maybe. But until we involve men in the solution, I don’t think we’re going to get very far.

I know I’m a few days late, but Happy Independence Day & Happy Rakshabandhan – I”m hopeful for a day when I feel free enough that I won’t need the protection.

Disclaimer: Invariably someone will comment that not “all men are bad” or things are “changing.” I am well aware of this and if you’re one of the great ones, kudos. But I can only write about my reality. As a woman, living in the nation’s capital in a safe sheltered neighbourhood with a lot of privilege and access that most women in India don’t have (for example living in a gated house with a guard), I still feel uncomfortable when I go out on a daily basis. And this is not just around “certain people” or “certain areas” but also around very educated individuals in supposedly safe areas. If you’ve never been stared at in a way that makes you want to crawl in a hole and hide, please feel free not to comment about the reality that women face in India. Or do. We can have a conversation 🙂

Face your fears head-on

My first interaction with a client was when I was 9 years old. My parents had retail clothing stores in Canada and would make me help out after school. The first time I handled the shop alone was when I was 11 years old. At that time I complained a lot (imagine every summer vacation & school holiday spent working!) but I am so grateful for that experience today.

I was an extremely shy person growing up, to the point where I was scared to speak to people. I still remember that the mere experience of dialling a number and speaking to someone over the phone would have me in sweats. My family shook that fear out of me by making me interact with people. It helped me build my confidence & helped me understand the importance of excellent customer service at a very young age. More importantly, I would later realise, it would help me throughout life whenever I would doubt myself. My Dad would say:

“You are a smart, confident girl Sonal. Never be afraid of anyone when you walk into a room – whether he’s a CEO or the Prime Minister of the country”

I would remember this every time a customer walked into a store and I had to interact with him or her. It’s been quite a few years since then and I still haven’t met a PM but have engaged with my fair share of CEOs & celebrities and guess what? Dad was right. It’s no big deal. I see so many people my age who are afraid to initiate conversations with others just because of their so-called status. It’s important to remember that everyone has their own insecurities & we all have at least one thing in common: we’re all human!

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I’m not saying child labour (that’s what I would call it begrudgingly when my parents asked me to help) is the solution for building a well-rounded person, but one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was making me face my fears early on & engage in an activity that helped me communicate better & relate with people. There are lots of other ways to do this. You could take a drama class that forces you to perform & build up your confidence or volunteer with strangers to develop your interpersonal skills. For me it was working because my parents needed help & we couldn’t afford extracurriculars.

Now, I look forward to public speaking and enjoy interacting with people whom I’ve never met. Of course, I still get nervous but I always remember my dad’s words. At the end of the day, your looks & bank balance isn’t (always) within your control but your intelligence & ability to overcome your weaknesses is.