6 steps that help in developing positive mental strength

The death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput came as a rude shock amidst the challenges of Corona Virus, Lockdown and it’s after effects. It has brought to fore other issues like mental health, nepotism, surviving the challenges, connecting with people, etc. Our social media timelines and WhatsApp groups are buzzing with the importance of mental health, dealing with emotionally weaker people and advice on communicating with someone going through a low phase in life.

These developments made me think of another group – mentally or emotionally strong people. When in doubt or faced with a problem we always call or speak to someone close to us. A friend, colleague, relative, acquaintance who listens to us, offers help, gives us some direction. These are the people who generally deal with a sensitive issue /problem with a balance and sometimes give us the much needed clarity. Then how do mentally strong people deal with their own problems, low emotional phases?

It’s been three months, people in Mumbai are confined to their houses.  It’s a long time to manage and survive this new life – working from home, housework, groceries, social distancing etc. Personally, this pandemic pressure was opening some cracks in my behaviour or emotional response. After listening to one of my seniors, I thought to myself; these people are taking care of so many lives, how are they managing their own – especially mental and emotional balance?

Are mentally strong people more vulnerable? This lingering thought on my mind became more dominant post Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.

I have a huge self-doubt, low self-confidence about so many times. At one point of time I use to be amused if someone complimented my mental strength. Today, looking back I have indeed developed some mechanism of facing challenges.

Me Time: My favourite mechanism to refuel positive vibes

Faith: Not a very religious person, over last few years I started following Nicherin Buddhism, which helped me believe in faith. Faith, I realized could be different for each individual – meditation, breathing exercises, etc. However regularly practicing your faith does have many visible and invisible benefits.

Accepting Challenges: One of the biggest life lessons in recent years has been to accept the challenge and tackle it firmly. Last 5 years were challenging at different levels. I learned that accepting challenge and preparing oneself to tackle it changes our perspective towards it. It helps one think rationally, imbibes in us a mechanism to distinguish between emotional and a rational response.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity: I have always tried to find one positive outcome from every challenges, sometimes result of wrong decisions. These opportunities or positive outcomes have been a good point of self-reflection, personal improvement, accepting some gaps and shaping future decisions. It has furthered strengthened my belief- whatever happens, happens for the best.

Me Time: I vociferously believe in Me Time – not only to tide over challenges but in generally. With our life pace, constant distractions, pressures, Me Time is like a fuel. We need to refill our lives – spend time with ourselves. One of the reason I have still dreaming of that one solo trip – to spend time with myself without any distractions. Me Time becomes a necessity when a lazy, leisurely day become a luxury for oneself. Like right now, I could instantly jump to reserve a stay vacation to get over the lockdown blues and other turmoil.

Feed Positive Thoughts to Your Mind: Me Time and Positive Thoughts complement each other. Me Time gives us space to think, reflect and energize positive vibes. Personal experience tells me positive thoughts may not lead to the desired result as you envisage it. On the other hand, it helps to seek clarity, understand what we really want. Setting daily intentions is my latest magic tool of positive thinking.

Gratitude and Empathy: Since childhood I felt conscious or some niggling un-comfort while expressing Thank You. Not that I was not grateful or accepted appreciation. Over the years I tried to understand the deeper reason of expressing gratitude. Life challenges pushed me hard to be grateful for every person, soul around us. Though a caring person I became more empathetic, reflecting upon my reactions and actions.

Have these mechanism made me void of low emotional phases. Certainly not. On the contrary it is teaching me the importance of expressing every emotion – happiness, sadness, doubt, anxious. When vulnerability peeps in, these same mechanism become a shield to fight weaker moments.

How do you tide over vulnerability or weaker moments?

How can baking a pizza help in achieving goals?

One of the favourite pass times this lockdown has been preparing delicious food. Is there anyone whose social media feed is not filled with pictures of banana bread, dalgona coffee, pastas, cakes, healthy smoothies, etc.?  One fine day I also decided to join the party.

I wanted to bake a pizza in a microwave. One my friend has just done a Facebook Live session on Pizza, I checked some 3-4 other recipes online, spoke to a couple of cousins on how they make a pizza at home. Mind you, this was not the first time I was doing my ‘research’ on baking a pizza at home. I have prepared myself bake a pizza so many times and each time I did not go ahead with my plan.

What is the big deal in baking a pizza? Nothing. It was my mind and self-doubt. I did not have confidence of microwave cooking. I was not sure if I can choose the correct ingredients, the right sauce, of making an ‘edible’ pizza. Over last couple of years I tried to win over this fear or doubt of microwave cooking – baking cookies, a cake and fish. Of course they were not perfect. But my wish of enjoying a homemade pizza still remained unfulfilled.

Relishing a homemade pizza was a first step towards learning to bake

Thanks to social distancing and a long wait at the super market I finally shopped for the ingredients – gingerly I picked the pizza bread, cheese, pizza sauce and paneer. I was bit nervous and anxious as I opened the door of my microwave. There it was – my first homemade pizza!

It was not just a Pizza. It was another example to show we can conquer our own fears / mental blocks. Some have fear of water, while others are afraid of darkness. Since childhood I have fear of heights. While I like the idea, I haven’t gone on a trek or enjoyed paragliding because of my fear.

Couple of years ago I managed to break my psychological barrier of fitness. I started looking forward to exercising, following a healthy diet and reading about simple ways to remain fit. Until a few months back I believed I could not make chapatis or rotis.

In 2020 I set some steep goals, one of them is to learning to bake. The first half of this year has shown it will indeed be a steep climb. But taking my lessons to become consistent, I am determined to take one step at a time to learn baking / microwave cooking.

My homemade pizza was again not perfect, had burned at the edges. But I improvised, changed combinations of the toppings and stopped thinking much about the burned edges. As I finished off the last bite I had already decided my next baking experiment!

It took me courage to take that first step to bake a pizza! Which is the most courageous activity you have recently undertaken?

5 Ways Caregiving Changed Me Personally

Recently I watched two movies that really touched my heart – Smile Please and The Sky Is Pink. Some stories resonate with you, making you think deeper, giving different perspective to a particular situation.

Nandini, the successful fashion photographer in Smile Please, struggles to come in terms with the diagnosis of early stage of dementia. She finds hope in Viraj, a stranger, who makes her believe in herself and continue to pursue her dreams.

The Sky is Pink is a rendering story of a couple who make it their mission to take care of their daughter diagnosed with a rare generic disorder. Daughter’s survival and happiness becomes a prime purpose of life for a mother, who is undergoing many personal struggles within.

  • Smile Please and The Sky Is Pink movies highlight the role of a caregivers during critical times of illness

Both the movies focus on another important aspect – role of family and friends during illness. Personal experiences have made me realize that it’s the immediate family and caregiver who many times need hope, direction and empathy.

The care givers go through a different journey – coming to terms with the diagnosis, doctors, taking sensitive and important decisions, finances, etc. Above all an emotional phase – dealing with the patient, people around, managing daily lives, so many of them. At this point it is hope and their courage that helps caregivers sail through this storm.

Perhaps it’s the reason why I connected so deeply with the story and emotions. Last three years I have discovered so many aspects of my own self while attending to my mother’s illness. Deep within you become empathetic, start valuing people in your lives, making you realize the importance of good health, finances and even your professional and personal goals.

How did this phase change me?

  1. I started taking care of my own health
  2. Becoming fit and eating health became more important
  3. Developed patience, empathy and more gratitude
  4. Overcame psychological barriers
  5. Learned to cook some more recipes

Hence, Smile Please, The Sky Is Pink have faith and hope, discover yourself during the darkest of the times!

Blogging: 3 lessons I learnt from my Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts in its new avatar turns two today. This new journey has taught me these three key lessons:

Cherish your personal thoughts: It was a wakeup call for me when I decided to renew my blog. In the race of time, professional and personal commitments we tend to forget our own thoughts. Things that matter, relations, memories you cherish. Random Thoughts became my place to stop, reflect and pen my opinion, experiences and observations.

Set Goals & Plan Ahead: This was a big takeaway while writing and developing Random Thoughts. Without planning, thinking ahead and putting down my blogging topics, time management, it would have been impossible to shape my Random Thoughts. I fumbled like how! It also made me think about goal setting and planning, not only for this blog but imbibing it in my daily life too.

Be Consistent: Often my mind is buzzing with so many ideas. I feel like exploring new things and experiences. My josh is high and I start doing a few things, but then it fizzles out. Random Thoughts was a rude reminder for me to become consistent in everything I do.

A deep Gratitude for everyone who encouraged my Random Thoughts. For your guidance, feedback, love and hand holding me.

2020: The year of micro resolutions and micro influencers

As the New Year dawned, two important words etched in my mind – Micro Resolutions and Micro Influencers. Unconsciously I have been thinking about it, making sense of the personal impact of these terms in 2020.

Micro Resolutions: With New Year comes New Year Resolutions – breaking some habits, embracing few, making personal and professional goals. I was never into making New Year Resolutions nor a person to plan things. While I always knew my area of interest, I did not really plan every career move. Instead I worked towards somethings, few happened along the way.

A believer of experience is the best teacher, deep somewhere they taught me to become conscious of my goals or to know what I really want. Importantly, a philosophical inclination made me aware of the need to take action to achieve my goals or my prayers.

A step further was to breakdown these big goals or ideas into small achievable goals. The universe was leading me to become more focused; some in-office trainings, my philosophical practice and even the circumstances. Hence when I read Ravi Kiran’s LinkedIn post about the need to make Micro Resolutions – it was a cue to win small victories for big experiences. Thus, began my journey towards making micro-resolutions, leading the way to big experiences through 2020.

Micro Influencers: Speak to any marketer or a media professional, a common denominator in the conversations will be micro influencers. Increasingly brands want to engage with these niche influencers, experts who will influence the opinion of their customers. Their social media profiles and presence is sought after to gain new customers and build equity.

Are these micro influencers only in the online world? The response to my post My Foodie Santa turns 93 validated that micro influencers are everywhere; they need to be tapped at the right time and in a correct manner. My memories about our uncle and his love for food resonated well with our friend circle. It became my most read post as uncle’s well wishers connected with the post. This experience took me back to my thesis while studying marketing communications. Then I had dwelled on the impact of word of mouth communications in choosing travel destinations and hotels.

Micro Influencers are nothing but a contemporary version of the word of mouth communication. Your product, service, offering or even a creative concept needs to connect with their passion and interests. These influencers, whether online or offline, will engage with you or influence your choice with open arms.

What comes to your mind when you think of micro resolutions or micro influencers?

Welcoming 2020 with Gratitude, Steep Goals

Personally, 2019 was extremely challenging. Looking back, I feel every month threw new challenges at me – professionally and personally. Someone recently told me ‘Life happens when we are busy planning’. As 2020 dawned my sense of Gratitude became even stronger and set steeper goals.

2019 was of self-reflection, self-discovery, edging me out of my comfort zone at so many levels. More importantly it taught me to develop a greater positive attitude towards life, with a deep sense of gratitude.

Every failure or a setback has a huge learning for us. My biggest test was in May 2019 when cancer yet again gripped my mother. Since then it has been a roller coaster – of emotions, understanding relationships, learning and unlearning. More importantly, at every stage it made me aware of immense gratitude towards every soul we touch in our lives. These times truly show us our life path. We were grateful we had blessings in abundance.

Taking care of my ailing mother was also a journey of self-discovery. Maybe it became a reason for personal reflection. It boosted my confidence in managing housework. I experimented and learned to cook many preparations that I was hesitant to make.

I renewed Random Thoughts yet again. Originally started in 2010, I had stopped blogging for long. In January 2018 yet again, I gave this blog a fresh outlook, but it was still not consistent. Last six months I started observing some many things some consciously some unconsciously.  It edged me to pen my Random Thoughts more often. This was another attempt at making this blog a platform for my Random Thoughts. This time my new role in content was indirectly helping me improve my thoughts, giving me confidence to explore new topics.

By now social media timeline was flooded with year-end reviews, opinions and personal resolutions. 2019 threw another challenge at me, elbowing me to be stronger and believing in myself. It gave me my 2020 objective and set steep goals for myself.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

What are you looking forward in 2020?

E – Exercise #AtoZChallenge

  • What have you done?
  • Your clothes are fitting loose now
  • You have lost weight
  • Are you dieting?

These are the common comments I hear from people I meet. Feels little weird for a person who is used to the other extreme comments – being called fatty, advised on how weight control is important, judging the food I eat because of my weight.. the best answer I developed for this was to Smile.

 Like every other obese or overweight person, I always thought of getting fit, exercising, following diet but could never do it. Having read blogs, social media posts of the struggles, the common factor for many like me was motivation and to stay motivation.

A simple ‘statement like be careful while standing on the chair /table, it will break’ is enough to lower your confidence. What is the best way to start? Gym, yoga, cross fit, walking, swimming, so many options and social advice we get…

For me, the shift happened in my mind – When I broke the psychological block of fitness. Most importantly when I got the right encouragement; positive encouragement. I started seeing some visible results; I slowly started believing that I can be fit.

Yet again there was an obstacle. Traffic, travel became an issue to manage to reach fitness center on time. One day of bunking the workout session becomes a bad example to take it lightly. Finally I again stopped exercising. But in this phase my mind had become stronger to pursue exercise whatever the case.

In next few months I found another fitness center. This time I again received the required encouragement. And this was the second shift in my thinking.  I met an encouraging trainer, patiently listening to me and my body. He shattered another psychological block –

“Weight Loss is not important, You being Fit is more important” 

With this he never allowed me to go near the weighing machine. He says , “the day people start commenting and noticing change in you, the results will be seen.” Playfully I started addressing him as a doctor and not a trainer. Every day he would ask if there is any body pain, few days later he will try to understand what difference I am noticing. I realized this was his way of studying if the workout is helping me. He helped me release the conscious and subconscious pressure of losing weight.

Most importantly I started enjoying workouts. Looked forward to my gym sessions, changed my other priorities, tried to accommodate my exercise more meaningfully in my daily routine.  I have surprised myself my hitting the gym at 10 pm.. even if it is for half an hour.  Started becoming restless if I missed it for more than 3-4 days..

4 months down I have not lost much weight, maintain low carb diet becomes difficult. The biggest change has been my attitude and perspective of looking at fitness. That’s when the external comments just become a part of this process.. not something to be bogged down with. Today also I Smile at the comments, but with a different attitude & I’m loving it !

How have you overcome psychological blocks?

D – Dadar #AtoZChallenge

Our birthplace is always close our heart. For me it’s Dadar – a central place for all Mumbai citizens to travel. Dadar in literal terms means steps. And indeed it has been a staircase for me to become the person I am.

Often we relate our behaviour or who we are to a particular country, city or a town. From the Indian context it would mean a Delhi vs Mumbai person, Mumbai vs Pune person. We unconsciously develop traits or identity of a particular place. On thinking deeply, I think it is our immediate neighbourhood or a place that plays a critical part in this process.

While I am a ‘Mumbai girl’ Dadar is a part of my personality. It is associated with connectivity, buzzing with people, socio-cultural developments, theatre and sports, markets thronged with shoppers. I find so many similarities and identify with many other.

  • Growing up in Dadar has been like a sponge. It offers ample opportunities to absorb and learn – from cultural events, sports, educational institutions to political developments. Probably my curious mind was developed because of this.
  • The Badaas attitude – The safety, security and cohesiveness of this place never made me think twice of making my own choices. Not to be afraid, discover new things, and meet people – providing a free and open environment.
  • Dadar has taught me to be inclusivity. To get along with people and be a team player. The old wadis, long last neighbours creates the community bonding. Teaches you to be caring, compassionate and makes one an empathetic person.
  • Enjoying culture – Festivals are an intrinsic part of Dadar from every angle. Traditionally People across the city and from outside throng Dadar market for festive shopping. It makes me wonder with so many shopping malls, new shopping places and hip places why is Dadar market always buzzing with people. Maybe the answer lies in its identity.
  • Food and its evolution – Dadar is known for famous Maharashtrian eateries, local seafood favourites and popular street food joints. In today’s scenario, it doesn’t offer many ‘cool’ options for pubs and clubbing. But it still has a distinct evolving food culture. Think of it, I am so much like that. I love to explore new restaurants but yet stick to my roots with a typical CKP fish preparations.

Last but not the least how can I forget Dadar chowpatty and my love for sea!

Have you ever wondered how your birthplace has shaped your personality?

C – Change #AtoZChallenge

Many years back while returning home from my classes my head was buzzing with thoughts. I came home, opened a diary and penned down my thoughts – Change is the only constant. In the pre-dotcom days, didn’t know I was actually writing a blog.

From maintaining diaries, to writing blogs, pen-friends to online friends, change is indeed constant in so many aspects of life. People, relationships, jobs, habbits, everything changes. The change is good. But on retrospect I think Change is becoming transformative. Look around us, even 2-3 years seem to be so different. Today I am using the internet from my mobile hotspot without any network problem. This itself is a small yet big change where mobile internet was seen expensive just 3 years back..

When I say Change is transformative, I think of positive change. A change that makes you learn new things, explore new places, and discover newer facets of your own self. Not because you have to, but because you want to. And that is a significant change.

Personally if I look at short span of last 3 years, so much has changed – my eating habbits, interpersonal skills, attitude towards looking at failures, ability to handle adverse situations, courage to be more responsible and enhancing professional capabilities.  These subtle and subconscious changes lead to a bigger trans-formative change.

Important to know if what did we learn from this change. How will we be lead the change that is waiting at the doorsteps? More so when this change is guided by technology – in our personal and professional lives, from toddlers to senior citizens.

I have decided to lead it this way –

  • Changing attitude towards health & fitness
  • Improving professional capabilities
  • Making some concrete goals
  • Becoming a compassionate person

Am sure when I look back at this blog, I will see the transformative change.

Your thoughts?