FEEL

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This poem encapsulates the way in which some of us deal with pain. There is often a tendency to suppress and suppress it in for years because we are afraid of facing our grotesque inner demons. In the poem we see a man trying to literally run away from his inner emotions, until it begins to start eating him from inside and even starts manifesting somatic-ally. Even then, he tries to avoid dealing with it, until he finally gives in to it and lets all the pain explode onto the sky.

The sky also is initially dark and brackish as it reflects his pessimistic world view. Unlike how he envisioned it, the darkness that is thrown out of him, becomes inlaid in the sky like shimmering diamonds. Even if it is excruciatingly hard to open up and deal with his dark emotions, he realises there is beauty in the pain. Not only does he get a release as the darkness is dealt with and externalized, but it acts like a beautiful memoir for everyone looking at the sky to connect with.

The universe is beautifully and infinitely connected and even if it seems like there are only dark skies, the stories of many strong men and women twinkle in the starlight, whispering that we are not alone.

PS: Each stanza of the poem is structured to to reflect one alphabet. (Do you see the four letter word? The first letter is F….). Next time you want to suppress, tell yourself to F. E. E. L.

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Picture Credits: Pexels

Penable Award 2020

Hello there!!

I am so delighted to be a part of this wonderful community that keeps on giving. I am really excited to be nominated for the Penable award 2020 by the one and only Ms. Mindful Modus. My heart brims with gratitude to have been considered for this award. She is one of those people who is intentional about uplifting other writers. She spreads her love all over various comment sections. Do check out her page if you need a desperate yet actionable dose of self care, positivity and comfort.

My Writing Talent

People often ask me why I write. And the answer is more complicated than a simple, “I have always liked to write”. I write because writing is my coping mechanism. When I fall from a place of grace in people’s eyes or life knocks me down, it is writing that rescues me. Writing helps me make sense of my over speeding thoughts and slows my mind down to the pace of my typing.

Writing keeps me sane and gives me hope that my mind is a place brewing with the uniquest of concoctions. It reminds me that I am not a photocopy machine but a mind that’s alive capable of producing new ideas. And whatever life throws my way, the one thing that it can’t take away from me is my ability to bleed words. When I write, I often write in colours, metaphors and imagery and that’s the kind of writing that makes me happy

My Answers to the Questions from the Mindful Modus

1. Which of your blog posts is your favorite?

That is a rather hard question because I have a few, either because of the emotions associated with it or the period of my life it reflected. But my favourite post has to be my first post ever posted on the wordpress platform. It was a leap of faith. I used the metaphor of spices to represent the coalition of different people with unique quirks, worldviews or personalities. And the post urged people to step out of their comfort zones and not be afraid to mix with people, especially those who were distinctly different from them. 

An excerpt: “Imagine brightly coloured turmeric powder fusing with the vibrant saffron strands. The cinnamon sticks, who preferred isolation forced to encounter the crackling feenugreek seeds. This rustic combining of divergent elements creates culinary magic.

I realise that many people come into your life and add flavour (a pinch of salt). There are also people who waltz in and out, leaving you empty and morose. But don’t EVER lose the opportunity to ever take the risk. To take the risk to blend in with spices (people) you are not comfortable with. Blend in with people who irk you, confuse you and contrast you. This is how beautiful synergies are forged”.

To read more click here

2. What does creativity mean to you?

Creativity to me is simply not holding back. Creativity is unreleased potential that flows out when there is passion, inner art and no fear of judgement. This can be in the form of splatters of colours on canvases, an arrangement of notes on the guitar or words on a blank page. 

3. What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?

Haha! That’s a good question that I am going to expertly evade. However, I had long dark hair for most of my life and one day, I just went and chopped it right above my shoulders. And now I don’t think I can ever go back. Does sneaking out and going on a bike ride and having one of the best nights yet count?

Questions for the Nominees:

  1. What would your perfect day look like? Go all out. No barriers. No insecurities. No resource constraints.
  1. What is one life lesson that you have learnt either from your favorite book, movie or song?
  1. What would be your advice to a writer who is just starting off?

The Nominees:

Inked8

The Innocent Brat

The Pathetic Reader

Congratulations to the nominees! I have been personally impacted by your work and keep inspiring others ❤

RULES:

1. Tag your post with the #penableaward

2. Display the Penable award logo (above) on your post and follow Penable if you haven’t already

3. Thank the person that nominated you

4. Tell us what your writing talent is

5. Answer three questions that you have been asked

6. Nominate three inspiring people for this award

7. Let them know of their nomination

8. Give them three new questions to answer!

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Picture Credits: Pexels

The end of a chapter (Blueberries #31)

For the first time in the history of the creative ninja’s life; she has written every day for 30 days. Every single day. She stuck at it when sometimes all she wanted to do was to jump into bed and shut the universe out. The posts weren’t always perfect but she wrote from a place of passion. She persevered on days when no one seemed to care. She preserved on days when she herself didn’t care. She persevered. And it was worth it. 

I am just taking a moment to soak it all in. I am a person who usually is hard on myself and can be very self-critical. But I have decided to celebrate my small victories. And being honest, this is kinda a big deal for me. I have this really warm feeling like the delightful crinkling of bubble wrap. My goal was simple, just finish what you started and add some sort of value to the world. And I think I have done that. 

I have learnt a lot from this process. I have learnt that writing should become an intrinsic process, and habitually writing will reinforce that. If I have one advice for myself, it would be to write like your voice matters. And it honestly does. Irrespective of follower count. Irrespective of traction. Irrespective of self-doubt. 

Saying all that, each like pushes me forward, knowing that I am making an impact in this big world out there. So to every single follower, my heart brims with gratitude. Because it helps me delve deep and produce content that truly makes a difference. You push me to believe in my writing. The WordPress community has been extremely kind to me. And for that, I will continue to give back and support other writers. 

To all the writers out there, write when you are happy. Write even when your heart is wracking with unstoppable sobs; because in this process, you will be able to connect with the collective pain in the world. And know that in the midst of it all, writing will give the world hope. Writing is hope.

Let’s celebrate our own quirks and glitches. Let’s own our mental health. Together.

Waiting to connect with you readers

Love,

The Blueberries girl 🙂

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Picture Credits

A Precarious Juggle: Balancing Work From Home and Mental Health while Distancing (Blueberries #30)

The workplace culture has tremendously shifted, and many employees have found themselves working from home for the first time. The sounds of the kettle have replaced the hustle and bustle of the office, and the only physical co-workers you can see are your curious toddlers or your pet. Team meetings have been taken online, and we have placed agarbatti sticks on our only hope to tide over this crisis; the wifi router. For some of us students, working from home has become working for home as we try to juggle between our home chores, online courses, social interactions and boredom. 

Whether you’re an employer, an employee or a student the rather distinct interface between work and home has blurred, possibly taking a toll on our mental health. Social distancing has caused overcrowding in our homes where we are both literally and metaphorically stepping on each other’s nerves.  On a more serious note, the uncertainty of the future along with market instability and mounting financial responsibilities has possibly left many of us anxious and emotionally depleted. Therefore it is of utmost urgency to take the time to make our homes a conducive environment that assists in maximising both our work productivity and our mental health. 

Let’s get practical. Here are  7 strategies to boost your mental health to ensure work productivity during this lockdown season. 

  1. Stick to a set routine

A drastic change in routine or lack thereof could be one of the biggest reasons for our anxiety levels to shoot up. The day to day motion of going to college or work or picking up a sandwich at your favourite snack bar unconsciously gives us an illusion of predictability, control and stability. Therefore it is important to ease ourselves into a structured routine so that we can get everything we need to get done, both on the work and home front.

The easiest way to jumpstart our day is to have a morning routine that helps us mentally prepare for the day ahead. Wake up early, as you would during a normal day. Make your bed. Grab some breakfast. Do something for your mental health. Squeeze in a 10-minute meditation session or a quick morning workout. Something that helps me is journaling in the morning, where I do a brain dump of all my fears, anxieties and barriers that are hindering me from being my productive self that day. Make sure to get some release first thing in the morning, whatever that looks like for you. 

The second important thing is to create distinct work and home schedules as if it were a normal day and you went to work.  If you are in the office from 9 am to 5 pm each day, make sure you are working the same hours even at home. At the same time, make sure to log off from all office work according to the same timings.  If you seem to keep getting distracted, turn on some focus music and keep a distraction journal, where you note down anything that comes to your mind. Once you are done working you can get to sorting out those nitty gritties. 

  1. Create a home office

Research has proved that ambience and ergonomics play an important role in sustaining motivation especially when it comes to working. You need to create a separate workspace exclusively for work and work alone. This, when religiously practised, helps your brain associate your workspace with focussed work. Make sure you are not cutting vegetables or aimlessly scrolling through social media at your work station because it completely defeats the purpose. 

Some practical advice would be to station your workspace next to multiple charging points, make sure it is in optimal wifi connectivity range and make sure it is definitely far away from your bed. It is advisable to ensure your UPS has enough battery life in case you have frequent power cuts. Put your phone on do not disturb or at least install some social media app blockers such as Freedom or offtime during work times. We all know how our phones can be the greatest vice, especially in a work from home situation because there is no supervision.

  1. Take digital breaks

Especially if you’re a working mom it is advisable to get most of the cooking and cleaning out of the way before work officially starts. Now that you have multiple helping hands, learn the art of delegating. Apart from that is advisable to take quick 5 to 10-minute digital breaks to give your eyes a rest. After an hour or two of work, step away from all screens, rest your eyes and give your shoulders a stretch. You can also use this time to do quick chores, such as turning on the washing machine, making a cup of chai or maybe even doing a few burpees.

  1. Time batching 

The easiest way to waste time is to attempt to multitask or do things as and when we remember it. When we multitask we are often not being as efficient as we think, we are just quickly shifting contexts and focus between tasks and that can be mentally draining. The best way to conserve mental and physical energy is by time batching. 

Time batching is a productivity strategy that aims at grouping tasks of a similar nature to get more done in less time. For example, instead of answering emails every time, a notification pops up; setting an hour every night to get through all the emails at once. This not only helps you focus and fuel past the task with maximum energy but also focus on the task at hand with minimal distractions. 

Shifting between varied tasks often results in a loss of energy as you have to mentally refocus on each task when you start afresh. This same technique can be applied to almost all tasks such as chores, phone calls or even social media scrolling etc.  Just remember to batch similar tasks and go at it with full vigour.

  1. Communicating and Socialisation

This is an important time to express your emotional commitment to your team and work circles. Many companies have started regular zoom huddles and online meetings to help increase accountability and get work done. Make the conscious step of spending more time with your team, pairing up and brainstorming with team members and even going the extra mile to help a colleague fix a roadblock. While some employees seem to hardly have the motivation, others seem to be working more than usual due to the blurring of work and home life. 

Managers and supervisors will greatly appreciate it if you are in constant touch with them, regularly updating them with your progress and exhibiting initiative to take on more tasks or roles. Additionally, once you’re done with work, make sure to be actually done with work. Sign off from all work-related groups. This time is also a precious opportunity to spend quality time with family members and reconnect with friends. Strive to make meaningful connections instead of aimless social media scrolling.

  1. Exercise. Nutrition. Sleep

The holy trinity of good mental health. There are finally no excuses for working out, cooking healthy meals and getting a good night’s sleep. If you consistently schedule these three elements, you will feel an overall increase in physical and psychological well being. You don’t have to strive for perfection, rather strive for progress in that positive direction. 

  1. Self-care

You might ask, “What about the kids?” Try to schedule their day with a mix of learning and fun as well. Use technology for your benefit and make sure to spend quality time with them daily. Also, pick one self-care activity every day as your winding down ritual. Pamper yourself with some skincare or watching your favourite show or spending time with your better half or even reading a book. Look at this as a hard-earned reward for being productive. Take weekends off.

On a positive note, this pandemic will prepare the workforce for a potential shift into telecommuting and the online sphere. We will be better equipped to plug into the gig economy and possibly try out new freelance options. We finally have the time to reposition ourselves and re-brand ourselves with multiple portfolios by upskilling ourselves. We can finally reclaim our time and enjoy this new flexibility to truly explore and embrace our full potential. 

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Picture Credits: Pexels

Practical tips to beat procrastination (Blueberries #29)

|Cue music|

I think we have come far along in this relationship. So let’s just chat about some real things.

We all want to do great things. We all want our names metaphorically etched in the canvas of the sky.  

|Bass drop|

We all have these crazy dreams, of things we want to do, of places we want to see and of lives we want to change. Sometimes we are so caught up in these moments of visualisation that we feel a little exciting engine roar in our tummy. 

|Music out|

But But But we are stuck. Starting feels so hard. The thought of finishing is akin to cognitive torture. It is too hard to even think about it. So we distract ourselves with blips of instant gratification or maybe even other tasks on your to-do list. We could do anything else right now. Babysit your daughter? Sure. Clean out the loft? Sure. Do your sister’s homework? Anytime.

When we think about a task that causes us anxiety, the pain receptors in our brain light up causing us to feel a sense of actual pain. Therefore, just like you would soothe a physical injury with maybe some ice, we are immediately flooded with the desire to alleviate the pain. And what is the fastest way to do that? We turn toward the distraction leech. We feed this sluggish leech with all kinds of fattening feasts; a 4-hour Netflix binge, a few hours of extra sleep, a 2 hour Instagram scroll. 

All the while we are starving the purpose butterfly, its wings barely flapping, devoid of the sweet nectar of happiness, self-efficacy and goal-oriented jubilation. You keep feeding the leech until it is so full and it bursts open, leaving a trail of dark black nothingness. The void of wasted time. But you know that the distraction leech always comes back for more and more. At the same time, when we reach the end of the road, we nudge and force the frail purpose butterfly to flap its wings and fly. We burn the midnight oil at the last minute and shoddily finish the project and collapse into ourselves. All of us can relate to this at some point in our life. 

Okay, let’s step back from the picture of doom and gloom for a moment, and think of practical things we can do to get out of this cycle (starve the leech).

  • If the whole task looks too daunting, break it down into the smallest mini chunks and hack away at only one mini-chunk.
  • Use the Pomodoro technique, where you set a quick timer for 25 minutes and work with uninterrupted focus and then take a break. Tell yourself that even if it seems hard, you will just work in quick bursts of time.
  • Focus on the process, not the product. As Barbara Oakley, a facilitator in the learning how to learn course explained. Don’t worry about the outcome, just focus on the flow of making progress. You no longer should focus on the final product, but in just immersing yourself in doing little things that get you to the final desired outcome.
  • Keep an anxiety journal. If you are demotivated to write a paper, take some time and do a brain dump of all the possible things holding you back. This could potentially give you some insight on the root of your problems so that you can start to devise specific strategies to fix the problem areas.

Reframe your mindset. Start bit by bit. It’s all about progress not perfection. 

|Cue music|

If you can relate with being a procrastination junkie say, Aye!

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Picture Credits: Pexels

Learning how to give criticism graciously (Blueberries #28)

We all know that one person who shrivels up like a cranky raisin dipped in sour vinegar when they hear some harsh criticism. Now look at the mirror and graciously say Hi to that little droopy raisin that is still feeling sour about that negative comment someone passed 2 weeks back. 

We have lessons in astrophysics, in optical isomerism and even in smooth ways to carry out embezzlement. But nobody is taught the right, accurate and most importantly, the gracious way to give feedback or even receive it. And if we are being honest, sometimes the critical feedback, when it is especially related to our work or personality, really affects our mental equilibrium. 

I was so happy to know that this question was addressed on the College Info Geek Podcast. This podcast essentially is an uncut conversation between two ridiculously productive friends who nonchalantly address the different tactics to build better habits. Now when it comes to giving feedback it is important to ask yourself 3 questions.

  1. Does the person really even want your feedback?

It is worth considering if this person wants to just share his work or express his ideas and gain a little appreciation. And if someone usually wants feedback they will usually say something along the lines of “What do you think about this?” or “Is there anything I can do to make this better”. Don’t offer feedback that is not sought.

  1. What is your relationship with the person seeking feedback? 

If you have a subordinate seeking feedback at work or you’re carrying out a performance appraisal it is advisable to be honest feedback while giving them actionable steps for improvement. But say if it is a friend or a family member there are more emotional layers to consider.

  1. And finally,  Is the feedback you are giving constructive or destructive?

Nobody wants to hear a concrete-slab-in-the-face list of all the things they have done bad. Martin from the podcast brought up the sandwich feedback technique that his girlfriend mentioned to him. Just as in a layered sandwich, it is advisable to give a layer of positive feedback and then pack in the meat of negative criticism in the middle, and round it up with another positive comment. This way the feedback, however true, doesn’t sting as much. This way the person walks away feeling completely defeated and is motivated to improve. At the same time you can be relieved that you didn’t have to lie but could give honest feedback.

Some other things to consider:

Another thing to self introspect is the intention behind why you are giving feedback. It is so easy to mix opinion and feedback. Are you giving feedback by virtue of your position in the hierarchy or are you giving feedback because you genuinely want your team to grow? Are you giving feedback to put someone or maybe help yourself feel better? Or you give feedback so that they can be better at what they do. If emotionality in terms of unhealthy competition, jealousy or bitterness is involved, it is better to not say anything. This is because it might turn into destructive feedback aimed to maim or belittle or hurt.

Another great technique while giving feedback that is slightly negative is to use the passive voice so it doesn’t hurt the person. If your better half has tried to cook you a delicious meatloaf, instead of saying, “You made the dish too salty”. Try using the passive voice and say, “The crust is really good. But it seems like the filling is a little too salty. But I’m so happy that I can taste something you made”

It is important to season our words with grace and use feedback as a tool to empower rather that blare our uncalled for opinions. I love how Stephen Covey rightly summed up why we should be mindful when giving any sort of feedback. It also captures why we shouldn’t be thrown off by destructive criticism. He beautifully encapsulated, “Feedback often tells you more about the person who is giving it than about you“.So next time you give feedback, know that it is a projection of yourself.

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Picture Credits: Pexels

Therapy 101 (Blueberries # 27)

For those of us who haven’t ever gone to therapy, it can be a daunting experience in our head. The uncertainty of the experience can cause us to feel inexpressible anxiety about even making the first move. This is why I have got a refresher guide that will help you be mentally prepared for what is to come your way. Trust me it isn’t as scary as you think.

A few things to remember while starting this journey

Paperwork

Just like with a normal hospital visit, you will need to fill an initial form with basic personal details, purpose for visit, any counselling goals, current medications, medical and mental health history and insurance details if applicable. 

Payment

Yes, counselling is just like any other profession requires for their services to be remunerated. If you are not able to afford the actual fee, you can ask if they offer discounts or payment slides. This fee helps protect the therapist-client relationship and helps both the parties to value the interaction by being completely invested in it.

Time 

A single session usually lasts for 50 mins, even if you paid for a 1 hour session. Don’t be alarmed if your therapist has to abruptly stop you or even has an alarm go off.  This is so that the therapist takes a small break and prepares for the next session. This also offers some buffer time in case a session takes longer. Therapy is often a long term investment if one wants to see true results. Most individuals depending on the problem might need over 1 or 2 sessions to witness an actual breakthrough. 

Questions and Notes

The first session isn’t usually too intrusive but be prepared for seemingly generic questions like, How do you feel today? Or what has brought you here? You have to remember that you can’t get away with formality based social non-committal answers. In therapy it’s all about being real, and know that you can be open, as anything you say will be kept completely confidential. 

Don’t be surprised if a therapist is taking notes during your conversations. This is just to note down some observations or links for their personal reference. A quick run through the notes before each session offers a refresher so that the therapist can continue the session appropriately. If you are ever uncomfortable, you can point it out to your therapist and some resolution can be eventually attained. 

Relationship formed with your therapist

It is important to find the right therapist with the right specialisation for your needs. It is okay if you do not click with your first therapist, you have the right to pursue other options. The success rate of your therapy is highly dependent on the relationship you have built with your therapist, therefore it’s worth investing in that process.

Even Though your therapist is completely there to help you, do not expect them to  become your best friend. This is because this will be crossing professional boundaries and also because the lack of emotional distance will dilute objectivity. Therefore, know that even though most therapists are friendly, do not expect them to be overly expressive or show signs of emotional attachment. There is also a possibility that you might get emotionally attached to your therapist but remember that they are here to guide you towards a goal and cannot be expected to act beyond that role. 

Rewirements

Be prepared to have some homework given to you, on areas that you need to work on. It is completely natural to have periods of stagnancy but the progress is the ultimate goal of the therapy. And this involves hard work and if you are consistent, it is the key to growth. 

There is a misconception that therapy is only for the ones who need desperate help. That is true but therapy can also be about helping you reach a specific goal, say you want to be able to be calmer when that boss of yours says nasty things. It can be about just wanting to be more mindful or wanting to learn to communicate better. It can be to deal with a specific trauma episode that has recently been bothering you or it can be about wanting to talk about some dark thoughts swirling in your mind. 

Therapists are professionals who have invested years of practice that makes them a much better option than just talking to a friend. They come with a completely neutral point of view and since they are emotionally distanced from the problem, they can make connections and see solutions quicker than you can. Their role is to be a guide that leads you through your own inner experience and process through all the incidents, thoughts, behaviours and emotions that are holding you back from reaching that level of desired actualisation.

There is something so strangely therapeutic of a stranger sitting opposite to you, listening wholeheartedly with the sole intention of helping you come out of this process stronger. With time, walls break and all that stored up anguish will melt away, making you take one step closer to the person you want to be. What you need to remember that there is no judgement. You might cry uncontrollably during some sessions or clam up completely during some. It is all okay because for the first time ever, it is all about you

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Picture Credits: Pexels