Happy New Year to all! Last year was indeed rough for all. This year, as you embrace our new normal and find innovative ways to reinvent our personal and professional lives, I would like to offer some suggestions for you to consider which have/are helping me face my adversities over the almost last four years. My goal is not to preach any particular view, practice, or belief. It is just to relate my experiences about the many practical things I have done in my journey and sincerely hope that these are beneficial to you.
1. Start doing Yoga
For my emotional and physical healing, I started doing some basic yoga exercises such as Pranayama, Brahmari, Shavasana etc. I had never done yoga before and didn’t think I could do it now. I always had thought yoga was just tough physical exercises and poses. But found out that yoga was an entire system of practices that also included breathing exercises. There are many yoga exercises for general wellness and well-being. You may hear from different people about how long to do yoga and how much you should do. Being a practical person, I believe you should do as much as you can and not worry about how much others say you should do. There are many online tutorials and teachers who can teach you the proper techniques. The best part is that yoga does not cost you anything. You don’t have to get a gym membership or buy training equipment, and you can do it in the privacy and comfort of your home. Yoga exercises improved my sense of well being.
Another thing which improved my sense of well being was practicing meditation. Like yoga, it was new to me. When you meditate, you focus your attention on an object or a thought or an activity, like music or your breath, thus bringing you mental calm and peace. I do guided meditation, with one of the many YouTube videos offering guided meditation, or with music. (It can be any music: classical, instrumental, Eastern or Western, or other relaxing types of music, just not rock, pop, or rap.) Also, there are many apps and sites which offer guided meditation. One I like is Headspace. Meditation is not easy. Also, there are different types of meditation. The one I practice is mindfulness meditation. It was a breakthrough for me to hear my yoga teacher say “ if other thoughts come into your mind (and they will), it’s perfectly okay, don’t get mad. Let them come. But don’t dwell on them, and focus your attention to your breathing”
3. Create a Will and an medical directive.
My medical crisis made me think “What if something happens to me?” I created both, a will and an medical directive. A will documents your wishes regarding what you want to do with your assets and liabilities after you pass away. An medical directive provides instructions for what medical procedures you want in case you are incapacitated. I assigned primary and secondary executors and told them where the documents were. I also created a spreadsheet called “Post SBB”(my initials) on my laptop with my financial information on the various accounts I had. I told the appropriate people how to access my laptop and the spreadsheet.
4. Write a Journal
I started keeping a daily journal along with writing down three things I was proud of and grateful for every day. Before I started doing this, I had been a big to-do list person but never documented my feelings on paper. I was surprised by how cathartic this simple practice was.
I started to volunteer my time to one of the councils of Inova Fairfax Hospital (Who I owe my life to) where ex-patients advise on how they can improve their services. In-spite of my health condition, I go to these meetings without fail.Since the covid pandemic, hospitals and care givers are working day and night to help us. What I found in my visits that there are so many volunteers at the hospital helping in different departments - its quite amazing. So consider volunteering your time during at a nearby hospital - you don’t need specialized medical skills etc - they need all kind of volunteers: patient facing - transport patients, escort visitors, staffing the Information booth, socializing with patients/visitors, cleaning etc and non-patient: clerical duties, manage inventory etc. I found it extremely cathartic and I can guarantee folks will find it that way too.
6. Listen to more Music
I started to listen to more music in general as healing. I listened to all kinds of music as therapy such raga music therapy and wholetones – frequency based music therapy. According to Wikipedia, “A raga is a melodic framework for improvisation akin to a melodic mode in Indian classical music. While the raga is a remarkable and central feature of the classical music tradition, it has no direct translation to concepts in the classical European music tradition.” I had listened to this kind of traditional Indian music before, but only for fun, as my father was a huge fan. Here, I sat for half an hour or so, listening to raga on headphones as therapy. It was quite relaxing and made me calmer.
7. Read/Listen to more books
I got into a habit of reading more books (audiobooks). Before my strokeI barely read a book in 2 years, now I read (listen) to many more books in a year.
8. Talk to a clinical psychologist
I started to talk to a psychologist to help with my emotional healing. Before, I was not comfortable talking to a third party about what I was going through. Being an analytical and data-driven person, I had never thought that this kind of “touchy-feely” stuff was essential. But now I know how valuable this kind of interaction could be. Whatever you are facing - big or small, physical oremotional, personal or professional, I highly recommend talking to a professional psychologist.
9. Eat down the Pantry
I challenge myself every couple of months to eat only what I have in the fridge and the pantry. It is amazing how much stuff we all have. It felt good to not waste food and save money.
10. Use more technology to connect, collaborate and communicate
I have used so many tools and practices to make my life easier: video calls using Facetime, Zoom, or WhatsApp; remote meditation sessions via Skype or WhatsApp; text messages on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger; larger fonts and speech recognition programs on my laptop; and much more. Through these platforms and apps, I could stay connected with friends, family members, and the outside world in general. Technology allows all people especially folks with ongoing medical or physical issues to fit in and integrate with the rest of society; otherwise they can feel very isolated.