What can be so unusual about self care? The answer totally stands out from the traditional idea of self care which involves spa treatments, meditation classes, yoga, gym memberships or “protecting your energy” by staying away from negativity. In today’s post, I explore a four-fold approach to everyday life that might freshen your perspective on what it means to care for yourself on a deeper level and value yourself in a way that prepares you to face the battles of life.
Getting to know yourself
Staying open to re-discovering who you are and what is important to you, in my books, is the highest expression of self care. Sometimes we tend to blindly accept certain behavioural patterns or mindset habits that we might have subconsciously picked up over the years, some of which might be unwanted or even toxic. Having a genuine sense of life-long curiosity towards why we operate the way we do without criticising ourselves is not just a path to become our own best friend but also a way to show ourselves that we care enough about ourselves to invest time for it.
2. Showing who you are
Showing who you are includes not just being vulnerable but also about confronting your overly judgemental and cruel aspects of your personality. Nothing screams self care as much as showing up as your authentic, awesome self. Regular self-inquiry aimed at improving your alignment to your core values and your authentic essence might seem like a lot of work. However, it is in the process of humbly showing up as your ENTIRE, gracious self that you experience the utmost freedom of self love and inner expression.
3. Going with the flow
Non-resistance to the flow of life significantly reduces that proportion of human suffering which is self-inflicted. Going with the flow doesn’t mean giving up or not having any goals in life. Being flexible with our plans, NOT unconsciously expecting people to fill previously-abandoned roles in our life, giving other people space to be themselves and staying open to miracles are excellent examples of self care and preservation. The concept of viewing life as an open-ended question and embracing uncertainty allows you to believe in your divine power of creation, sustenance, safety and resilience.
4. Empathising with others
When I started viewing Empathy as a self care ritual, my life instantly became reprogrammed to attract love, peace and conscious connections. Although empathising with others might hardly seem related to our own wellbeing, this practice cultivates the habit of valuing one’s own inner peace over mundane dramas. It helps to know that every single person in this world has their own unique journey filled with joy, pleasure, suffering and other types of karmic repercussions. Only someone who genuinely values and cares for themselves with full understanding of their own power to love, forgive and connect can actually empathise with others. This practice has the power to transmute our feelings of greed, jealousy, shame and hurt that we constantly experience into love, joy, belongingness, gratitude and service.
As a survivor of long-term depression and a certified meditation teacher, I consider the cause of mental health and well-being to be of highest importance, especially given the current emotional burden on humanity. Emotions are like waves. As children, we played catch with the waves at the beach, as if the waves were there to swallow our feet. When we realise that these waves ebbing and flowing is a natural process, we learn to courageously step on these waves, even ride it! What makes someone change from wanting to escape painful emotions to someone who wants to ride it? What’s the difference? One word, Power! When you shift from being overpowered by emotions to be able to ride the wave of emotions, you take your power back from it thereby becoming resilient. Believe it or not, resilience is innate to us and so is inner peace. The moment we realise this, we can easily stop identifying with the emotional rollercoasters and resurfacing unprocessed traumas so that we are connected to the infinite well of peace that is within us, allowing us to learn from these events. In this post, I share five simple yet effective tips, based on my experience, to ride the waves of emotions on a daily basis while preserving your mental wellbeing.
Weirdly analyse your environment
This might sound weird but when you are experiencing intense emotions, try noticing something weirdly interesting in your immediate environment. This exercise is not an evasion strategy rather it is merely an unusual way of being present. Regular practice of being present makes you believe in your power to deal with your emotions rather than becoming it. Make sure to not “escape” the situation by DOING something else, instead focus on keeping the replacement activity all about trivial observations. You might snap your fingers, pause your mental chatter, run to the balcony and start counting the number of leaves in the branches of a tree. You might try to notice the types of window panes your neighbours have. You might look at the clouds in the sky and see if you can find a pattern. You might try to “look” beyond the ever-expansive sky or try to see through the clouds and visually rank different clouds based on their density. You might start naming the different birds that fly by your building. The possibilities are endless.
2.Notice weird things about your breath and body
When you are in the middle of having an anxiety attack or a session of overthinking spiralling out of control, try to become very aware of your breath. If your breathing is fast, try to notice how fast it is. You can even start counting the number of beats per minute. Check if your anxious and erratic breath forms a noticeable pattern. Bonus points if you can match the rhythm to any of your favourite songs. By noticing such unusual details about your breath, you momentarily detach from the emotional tornado and you would be surprised to see that your breathing has slowed down. It also helps if you use your inner noise as a trigger to become curious about the sensations at the soles of your feet that are firmly supported on the ground. These exercises effectively connects you to the present moment and gives you some space to process whatever going on inside your head.
3. Cry, eat and hydrate
Yes, go ahead and cry! Forget about every time society shamed you for crying. Crying is good. It releases feel-good chemical messengers such as endorphins and oxytocin in your body. Crying helps you release difficult emotions so you finally feel lighter at heart and ready to calmly deal with difficult situations. I personally feel more powerful after I have had a good cry and it makes me unusually zen. Listen to your body-mind and acknowledge your painful emotions. Scream into the pillow. Jump up and down. Growl inside an empty room if you need it. Do whatever you need to bring out the stagnant emotions and to allow the stuck energy to freely flow through your system. Once you are done releasing your emotions, your breathing calms down. Prepare your most favourite meal, eat a large portion of it and drink about 4 glasses of water at once. Hunger and dehydration heavily influences our emotions. Once you are cried out, well fed and hydrated, you can sense some mental space within yourself to deal with any issue.
4. Watch the movie and pick out characters
Watching THE movie is a cool way of anchoring to the present moment. It merely means to observe the entire scenario that you are a part of as if it is a movie. It takes a second to snap your fingers and view yourself along with others around you as characters played in a well-directed movie. When we watch a movie, we know that we are the viewers of the movie and hence, we might feel the emotions portrayed in the movie while our identity remains separate from the movie. This exercise gives us the space we need to understand ourselves and the people who are involved in the issue by picking out the characters at play and empathising with their behaviours. This gives an opportunity to find solutions to problems objectively.
5. Stretch it out or reach out
Gentle stretching would probably be the last thing you want to do when you are knee-deep in an emotional swamp. There is something about stretching your body and how it influences your mental state. Sometimes I feel unresolved emotions come up in me while I do my yoga routine. At first, I thought of it as a bad sign, as if I am not allowing myself to relax. With time, I realised that these emotions are coming up in me to be released and the stretching of my muscles help with mobilising the stagnant energy that is possibly associated with my otherwise suppressed difficult emotions. It is not news when I say that psychosomatic illness exist and if your emotions can impact your physique, relaxing your physical body can relax your overactive brain thereby providing space for you to resolve the matters of concern. Some people like to dance to let go of repressed anger or frustration. I personally find it liberating. Dancing also helps you break a sweat, which in turn releases endorphins.
If you have trouble with any of this, reach out to mental health or holistic wellness professionals of your choice. You can never have too much help when you are struggling. There is no shame in seeking help. The shame lies in holding your Ego or the opinions of others over your own happiness and well-being.
Hang in there 🙂
Check out my related post on journalling and processing your feelings (includes journal prompts):
Imagining a world full of compassionate beings might seem idealistic to many of us, especially those who have been exposed to public hatred, humiliation and injustice. Change makers, motivational speakers, healers and other visionaries might agree with me when I say that although the idea of awakening to our true nature seem straightforward, there is a lot of work to be done. In many parts of the world, things are getting back to the new post-pandemic normal. Some of us are struggling to re-learn how to function in the world as a social being after having gone through a period of isolation. Some of us have reinvented our careers while others have reframed our idea of happiness. A majority of us consider the past 1.5 years as a period of struggle and profound growth. The relationship between struggle and growth is very interesting to me. The traditional idea of growth involves struggle and rightfully so, because you cannot make bread without kneading the dough. If we were to look at growth closely, we might realise that it is actually a change of state. Just like the myriad of triggers that shaped us into the “thick-skinned” adults, I perceive the recent struggles of humanity as a catalyst for change and consequently, an initiation of growth. I feel many of us have been walking with eyes so wide open for distractions and hearts so closed up for compassion that the wrong things in the world had to become worse for us to take notice of those things.
Acknowledging growth is not merely the responsibility of the change makers and the dreamers. The type of growth that I am talking about is relevant to every simple, average human being. Conventionally, the concept of adulting has been about developing a “thicker skin”, holding ourselves accountable and adapting to the world. While we as a society have come up with a seemingly fool-proof system of adulting gracefully, it is not news when I say that adulting sucks. It is not uncommon to think that being an adult is to be in misery, to be often broke and/or have an identity crisis, race for power, chase after true love, survive heartbreak, evade trauma, starve and jump through hoops until you embody the overrated and possibly borrowed definition of success. I can’t help but notice that there is one thing that can make adulting bearable and that is compassion. Compassion from strangers, parents, friends and well-wishers and most importantly, from ourselves can undeniably cushion the impact of the punches life throws at us. Growing from being an adult who is a proponent of gulping the hard pills down the throat to an adult who not only favours compassion but also celebrates it as one’s true nature, could be the humble beginning of our path towards world peace.
Contrary to popular opinion, compassion is not brought out by broadening our minds or stretching our limits in order to contribute to society. Compassion is neither a monumental task nor an aspiration reserved for the wealthy members of the society. Compassion is the most natural quality we human beings can express with the least amount of effort possible. If you need proof that compassion is innate to us human beings, look at a newly born child. Even the most evil person on Earth would have been a baby, with a soul that is so authentically expressed and a heart so open that it is shaken upon hurting even a small plant. What happens when the innocent little baby grows up? The baby is exposed to layers and layers of conditioning to make it fit for the world, which also includes the process of adulting. Kids think, speak and act from their hearts. Energetically speaking, our hearts are the energetic centre of love and compassion. It is not only the source of romantic love-based emotions but also that of an overall sense of wholeness and well-being that another human being can never give us. It is our soul-base. It is the portal to the ever-expanding internal Universe. It is home to the feelings that make us euphoric, drowning us in the bliss of feeling connected to other life forms and Mother Earth.
What makes the quality of compassion seem so surreal and unattainable is not only because of our own survival instincts but also that of our parents, relatives, neighbours and well-wishers. There is considerable shame associated with being an empathetic human being, especially the shame we are made to feel by those who have been hurt so bad in the past that they had to dissociate from the cruel world by developing unhealthy coping mechanisms. What many tend to overlook is the fact that the construct of life is not meant to make humans cold-hearted. Life is meant to expose us to a variety of circumstances, people and stimuli, all of which can be labelled as merely different forms of information. Information helps us learn about and understand the world and our life. Learning lessons in life is similar to scientific research, you observe and experience everything, collect data and interpret, even make your own experiments, vary some parameters, test the validity of the results and save it for your follow-up experiments. Throughout the entire process of your research, the objects vary but the subject of interpretation is you. They are your results and your interpretations are unique to you and your conditions. A good researcher is aware of the need to be objective while a bad researcher tend to take the results so personally and blame themselves. A good doctor sutures a cut in the skin while a bad doctor accepts that cuts are dangerous, the world is dangerous and hence, never reveals the skin to open air ever.
So, are we all bad researchers and bad doctors then? Do we really need to harden our hearts because the world has been mean to us or instead we seek help to heal our wounds and march forward with our hearts open? Do we live in fear or do we brave the cold and live fearlessly? Do we go back to courageously emanating love from our hearts like we used to when we were children or do we choose to secretly curl under the bed and call ourselves wounded? Whatever you decide, remember that your heart still beats just for you, waiting for you to tune in to the frequency of love.
Why do we love being in misery so much?❤️ Before my spiritual awakening, I used to think that my sole purpose of life is to be happy but I had not done anything to achieve that goal. We all say that we don’t want to be sad but subconsciously, many of us love being the object of pity and possessing a victim identity. I used to think that having friends, travelling to exotic locations and earning the educational degree of my choice would make me happy. I am sure many people would be able to relate to the wishful thinking that I had and that chase that never seemed to end. But in spite of reaching those destinations, getting those double taps on Instagram, having a “friend circle” and loved ones, I still felt unfulfilled and sad. Come to think of it, I have observed this in many people I have met. I wanted to understand this aspect further. So, I happened to do some journalling and turns out, I used to give excuses to stay unhappy because I thought my traumas made me who I am. Without that, I am not worthy of attention. As a positive person, I can say now that being one is like being a magnet. My pleasant energy and willingness to listen tend to attract many people towards me. But eventually, people find it boring because I can put a positive spin on anything and that’s not entertaining, that’s a buzzkill to many people. So, people naturally don’t want to be a buzzkill themselves. And, how did I transform from someone who needs pain to feel validated into someone who doesn’t need it? I simply realized that I had to change my intention. The sole purpose of my life is still to exist happily and peacefully, but this time, it is just for me. I want to be happy, for myself and not for the society. I can be a person, radiating positivity and still be interesting and this realisation changed my life for the better. I don’t consider my past valuable anymore, at least not to the extent that it becomes worthy of my attachment. . . Picture: Royalty-free, sourced from http://www.unsplash.com.
How would the world be if we all saw each other just as souls? An amorphous energy field constantly vibrating and constantly being created from cosmic forces. A body with no body but a hazy shining aura of infiniteness. A being with no purpose but to exist, thrive, create and experience virtual reality with so much love radiating from our core. How would it be? How would it be if people saw me with that image and not my external appearance? Imagine I said hello to you and all you could see was this insanely powerful and complicated electromagnetic field constantly exchanging information with the cosmos and energizing thoughts? No pretty eyes but my third eye. No cute smile except the kind and welcoming light. No dark hair except my crown pulsing in alignment with my energy flow. No words except my boundless spirit of one love for all genders, appearances and age. How would it be? Boring right? Yeah, I can understand you and this is exactly my point. I am a woman but I don’t identify with it anymore. The only identity I own is that I am a soul, just as divine as everyone of you. It is oxymoronic because identity dissolves when one realises that he/she is love and the higher power. However, for the sake of functioning and understanding, I am choosing to use it as an identity. So, what am I trying to say? I am trying to say that beauty is not permanent. It is an illusion. External appearance is an illusion. It’s an oversimplification of your spirit. When I understood this, I no longer see others as a guy or a girl. I see them as a person, a divine being and a fellow spirit, experiencing this wonderful journey of life. What was interesting to me is that the moment I started doing this, I felt so free and uninhibited. No drama, no politics, no games and only neutrality. Neutrality might be boring but it has definitely made my life a lot easier.❤️
Is optimism a privilege? There is this popular notion that being positive, motivated and indulging in self care are a privilege and only people who are considered privileged can afford to spend time for it. What does it mean to be privileged? I think that it means having a roof over your head, some money to comfortably support yourself and at least a hobby to keep you happy. But does privilege equal happiness? As a privileged person, I can assure you that it is not, at least for me. I would like to think that problems are always relative, always. That doesn’t undermine the suffering someone goes through. No one, literally no one alive now is exempted from the life lessons they are destined to learn. I would like to think that every soul has a customized cosmic plan, designed by themselves at a higher state of awareness (I can say that as a God-like state, to make it easier to understand). It is important to be grateful for everything that one has but that doesn’t mean that there is no justification for someone’s suffering inspite of them having food to eat and some money in the bank. What strikes my mind now is that regardless of how privileged you are, you need motivation, self care and any tools under the sky to live your best life possible. In fact, the more misery you are going through, the more you need those tools to keep up from crumbling under the pressure of life. When life offers you help, it is a sign of synchronicity. It means that the universe is listening to you and your higher self is trying to help you. If you are just a bit gracious enough to accept help, it would make your life just a little bit more tolerable and for many of us, that’s a lot! ❤️
❤️What makes a good human? Is that even a thing? And who are we to judge a person to be good or bad?..I have always wondered! Our society loves binary categories and only recently, things are changing. I have seen it in my own life. In my past, I have heard from others all sorts of binary labels for me..I can either wear a bindi(dot on my forehead) and chant mantras or I can wear a cute summer dress and drink cocktails..I can either be shy and quiet or be flamboyant and extroverted…I can either be popular or be a geek.. I can either be spontaneously creative or I can be a fraud.. People are so quick to put other people into boxes(even in their minds) and I have always wondered why. Come to think of it, I realized that I used to do the same thing too, just inside my head. Human beings are complicated, like, really complicated. We are constantly trying to figure out people, just the degree of effort we put in varies. I get it, it is what makes life interesting! Fun fact, I am a huge potterhead so I agree with Sirius when he implied that there are qualities in everyone they consider good and bad. Personally, I choose to see the brighter colours in others, the genuine smile, the strong warrior, the cute crying rabbit and the wise and patient turtle in others. What I mean by that is, being an empath is great if one chooses to use it and to use their intuitive abilities to see the beauty in others and appreciate them and to feel the pain in others and offer love and comfort to them. But in my opinion, you don’t have to be an empath for empathizing with others and choosing to see the beauty in people. ❤️
” But I do nothing upon myself, and yet I am my own executioner. ” – John Donne
Some people say that pain is good and it makes you stronger. They say pain makes you rise to the challenge and build tolerance. It deepens your character, tests your willpower and pushes you so hard that you create wonderful things with your life. While all of this is probably true for the pain that finds its way towards us from the outside, it is not true for the pain that resides in our minds. We all SAY that we want the best for us. We defend ourselves in front of others. We claim to do things to protect us and push us towards our idea of success. However, we fail to realize the powerful role of the constant presence of a critic, watching every move you make, every step you take and every pound you put on or off. The critic has immense attention to detail and is sometimes, nasty, inhumane and vile. The critic cannot be won over with arguments, justifications and compromises. When you sleep, the critic doesn’t sleep. That critic lives within you, relentlessly working to create and sustain emotional pain until it becomes a background noise in your mind that you teach yourself to put up with.
Self-criticism heavily influences the way we look at ourselves and the world. I believe some of the common behavioral quirks that might affect people around us such as unwarranted anger, jealousy, codependency, egotism and low self esteem often originate from a place of harsh judgement towards ourselves. We all have conditioned ourselves over the years on how to treat ourselves, how to view our actions, how to scrutinize them and how to punish ourselves. The kind of fears we make ourselves experience and hold on to in the form of insecurities end up being what we project onto others. People start to feel unappreciated, hurt and negative thereby forcing them to distance themselves from us. We often expect perfectionism from ourselves and while we claim to take it easy sometimes, whether we actually let go is a question. Over the years, we create a toxic environment within and around us. We slowly lose the ability to feel grateful, we fail to see the beauty in other people and for some of us, we might even constantly attract negative situations and people. It is a downward spiral that has the power to leave us in a state of depression, dissatisfaction and despair.
Why do we have to brew so much negativity within us? Often times we don’t realize that we all are supposed to be our own biggest supporters and caregivers. We all are supposed to be rooting for ourselves to be a wholesome person who shines from within while spreading love, joy and care towards all beings. Like charity, kindness starts at home. Healing from self-inflicted pain is aided by first removing the shame and guilt that we associate with caring for our well-being. It is not selfish to be self compassionate first so that we can be better humans and serve the rest of humanity to the fullest of our abilities. Although it might be surprising to hear, it is in human nature to love, care and provide support to those in need. To be a giver of kindness, you must first show kindness to yourself. Be your own advocate. Love your quirks, give yourself hi-fives and catch yourself when you stumble. Be patient with yourself like you would be with a friend. When you give attention to yourself and acknowledge the external and internal struggles you have been through, you begin to heal. You begin to embrace the beauty and humanness of your thoughts and actions. You begin to notice and appreciate the efforts you have made in order to cope with the challenges of every stage of life. You begin to build inner strength in a healthy way and give yourself a hug when needed. Gradually, the emptiness in you disappears and you feel complete, all by yourself. The world would become beautiful and no matter what obstacles come your way, you will have faith that you can hold your head high without blaming others or situations and see the other end of it. You will also become a happier person and people would begin to find you welcoming, comforting and refreshing to be around.
Hence, always prioritize showing compassion and understanding towards yourself so that you never let the sneaky little critic creep into your mind.