This is an excerpt from Health Hour with Dr Aditi Govitrikar, renowned psychologist and wellness expert. For more advice from her about work/life balance and tips about handling stress, click on the YouTube video to watch the Q and A session.
The pandemic has deeply affected our lives and mental health. People now have to work from home. The lines between home life and work-life have blurred, and many of us have had to broaden the scope of our roles and adapt to a rapidly changing environment, and even connect with teams remotely. So here, I will focus on how one can thrive at work and achieve a sustainable work-life balance. Change is the only constant in life. So why not take the steering wheel in our own hands and lead a powerful and liberated life, instead of life leading us wherever it wants?
In our pre-pandemic everyday lives, we experienced disappointments, loss, and stress. Although we all desire a completely stress-free life, some stress is actually important for us to work optimally. This is called positive stress. For example, just before an exam, a student gets stressed, which is what pushes him or her to study. When you get promoted, or have to shift to a new place, or get married—all of these situations bring about some stress. While it does cause restlessness and anxiety, you know that when the factor is removed or the event is done, you go back to being your normal self, which means a zero-stress life is both undesirable and impossible. Our goal is thus being able to handle stress in an effective way so that our difficulties don’t take away the joy of life from us.
The Factors of Holistic Living
Have you ever noticed how happy people seem more relaxed, energetic and vibrant? No, it’s not your imagination: being happy actually makes you feel good in terms of your body and your mental well-being. Moreover, nowadays we talk about immunity and what we should eat for the immune system to function optimally. But happy people actually have stronger immune systems, and they cope with stress and pain better.
If you ask yourself what you really want in order to achieve happiness, then you will find that what you want is more or less to live a joyful, peaceful, purposeful, and fulfilling life in terms of relationships, money and health. So let’s take a look at various aspects of holistic living.
1. Physical Wellness: This involves eating a nutritious diet, exercising, doing yoga, proper rest and sleep. Sleep is a particular area that we all neglect: we need seven to eight hours of restful sleep every day. Avoid the blue light from phone screens at night in order to get good quality sleep.
2. Mental Wellness: The brain is an extremely vital organ of our body. We go to the gym to build our physical muscles, but we neglect the brain. One of the ways you can look after your brain health is through meditation. You must also always keep learning new things to use your brain adequately. Try a simple exercise like using your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth—this causes new neural connections in your brain. Do sudoku, solve puzzles or take up a hobby like knitting or crochet to keep your brain sharp.
3.Spiritual Wellness: This is born through love, compassion and kindness, not only towards others, but also to ourselves. We are often caught up in negative patterns of thinking, and choose to sweep our emotions under the carpet. Healthy processing of emotions is necessary for your spiritual well-being, and if you cannot do it alone, do not hesitate to seek help.
4.Social Wellness: We are social animals, and it is important for us to develop long-lasting, strong relationships to sustain ourselves. Make friends and make sure you are there for them, even when you are physically apart.
How to Achieve Peace and Happiness
In your path towards a blissful life, these are the nine things that you should implement.
- Accept that you do not have control over everything in life, or the actions of everyone around you.
- Try to understand your unwillingness to tolerate uncomfortable feelings.
- Choose monotasking over multitasking to reach your goals.
- Do not expect to always find happiness outside of yourself.
- Stop negative patterns of thinking—talk to yourself as you would to a loved one.
- Do not compare your successes and failures to others.
- Invest in yourself and your own well-being so that you can be there for others.
- Rather than holding grievances over your past, look at what lessons you learnt from those experiences.
- Do not ignore problems or try to suppress your emotions, for the good of your mental health.
Mindfulness and Breathing Exercises
Mindfulness is a way of life. That means that it is a way of working with attention that is focused on the present moment, in a non-judgmental way. It’s not about what we experience, but how we experience things, irrespective of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. What are the benefits of mindfulness? Mindfulness has a positive outcome on our overall well-being. It reduces anxiety, stress, increases concentration levels, and memory. It also helps us sleep better. It allows us to be in touch with our body, and manage our thoughts and emotions efficiently.
Meditation is a formal practice that you can use to become more mindful. What I would recommend is trying different kinds of meditation until you find one that you enjoy and which works for you. But not all of us can devote a lot of time to meditate. So today, I will teach you some breathing exercises that you can do anywhere and at any time, which will help to improve your concentration and ground you during times of stress.
Note: Choose a quiet corner of your home to do this exercise initially. I recommend going to the same spot every day in order to form positive associations in your brain.
- Sit on the ground and place your hands on your knees, with the palms facing up. Close your eyes.
- Take normal breaths, and observe the air as it enters your nostrils and as it goes out.
- Stay stationary, and pay attention to your thoughts as they come and go. Do not berate yourself if your mind wanders.
- After some time, gently rub your palms together to create warmth. Cover your eyes with your palms and slowly open them.
- Savour the calmness of the feeling.
- On the ground, sit with your legs crossed and palms resting on your knees. Close your eyes.
- Breathe in for 4 counts and hold the breath for 4 counts.
- Slowly exhale for 4 counts, and hold again for 4 counts.
- Repeat the process as many times as you want.
- Choose a quiet place to sit down with your eyes closed.
- Using your right hand, fold your middle and index fingers towards your palm.
- Place the ring finger of this hand on your left nostril in order to close it. Inhale deeply through your right nostril.
- Next, close your right nostril with the same finger. Exhale through your left nostril.
- Now do the process in reverse.
Another mindfulness technique that mental health experts advise you to use in order to ground yourself is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. In this, you have to mentally note five things that you can see around yourself. Next, note four things that you can touch and feel the texture of, and then three things that you can hear. Now, note two things that you can smell. Finally, try to sense one thing that you can taste. This technique makes anxiety temporarily take a backseat by making you feel calm.