A close call

Today has been adventurous to another level. I travelled all the way to my office in the morning hoping to have a normal work day today. When I reached office, I had to go through the normal workplace protocol of showing my identity proof and the status on a government based mobile app (Aarogya Setu) which tracks the coronavirus infection of users who have downloaded the app on their phone. This app collects details of infection of everyone who uses it makes it easy to conduct contact tracing process. When I checked the status today, it showed I had a “high risk” of infection as I had come in contact with an infected person about a week back. I was surprisingly calm throughout as I had experienced no symptoms till then. I was asked to go back home and check with the helpline on the app for further process.

Once I reached home and told my parents about it, they freaked out. My parents are complete opposites of each other and their reaction to this news was also poles apart. My mother was very scared but kept it within herself and showed a brave front. My father called a friend, brought me medicines which I had no clue about and asked me 10000 questions within a span of 10 seconds. Mind you, they went through all this stress only with the news of me coming in contact with an infected person. I hadn’t even tested positive by this time. After talking to my friends and contemplating on the situation for a long time, I decided to get myself tested. I went to a diagnostic center near my house and my swabs samples were taken for the tests. Let me give a heads up here, the process of taking the nasal swab samples is extremely creepy and weird. The swab is inserted deep inside the nose and for a moment I felt that it had reached my brain!!

Then came the somewhat long wait. The antigen test results are quiet rapid and come out within a span of 15 mins. The results for the antigen test are inaccurate at times and hence I got myself swabbed for the RT-PCR test as well which is the most accurately used testing method. Within few minutes of taking my swab samples, my antigen test results were out. Fortunately it was “Negative“. The RT-PCR test results will be out tomorrow. My life changed within a span of few minutes after I came to know about the status on my Aarogya Setu app. Most of the times the stress of the actual situation is more troublesome and frustrating than the situation itself.

I’m glad I decided to take test after all and find out about my condition today itself. My initial plan was to self quarantine for a week or so before getting tested. I am extremely grateful for my meditation habit which helped me be calm in this situation. I’m really glad that I worked on making it a habit and spent 20 mins everyday on healing my mental health. It came a lot handy in today’s situation.

Fingers crossed for my RT-PCR test results tomorrow!

Small wins

Do you have a bad habit which you’ve been trying to quit since a long time without any success? For me, it has been my addiction to sugar. I’ve been heavily dependent on sugar for my constant source of happiness ever since I was a kid. I didn’t understand the repercussions of having such a dangerous addiction back then. More than the health hazards, I wanted to quit sugar to gain more control over my decisions. I have a tendency to indulge in sugar and sugary foods whenever I am sad or low in life. The cravings I get during such phases are massive and I have absolutely no control over the amount of sugary food I dump inside my body. I ate (rather gobbled up) sweet food for the sake of it, sometimes to feel better, many a times to punish myself for not working hard enough.

I spent many months and years into controlling my sugar cravings. Initially I restricted myself which backfired as I ended consuming double the quantity later on. As restricting completely didn’t work I decided to allow myself a cheat day. This also was counter productive as I consumed large portions even during my cheat days. Then I started learning about the ill effects of sugar consumption. The facts connected to this topic blew my mind yet it wasn’t enough to gain control back from sugar which wholly controlled my cravings. What I didn’t know was that all my efforts were getting counted even if the visible progress seemed slow. I would call “meditation” a breakthrough in my struggle to quit my sugar addiction. I gained more clarity and have been feeling a slight decrease in my sugar cravings.

26 days of continued mediation streak later, I finally had my eureka moment today. I ordered a bunch of sugary foods as I was feeling a bit dejected due to my office work. I picked up one pastry with the intention of eating another one after it. Halfway through eating the cake I realized I found it too sweet for my liking and couldn’t finish. This has never happened before. I could never control my mind when it comes to sugary food but I did it today and it felt extremely empowering. I will test few more times to be completely sure of it. As of now I am celebrating as this incident made me extremely happy!

If you believe something, you can make it happen. That’s all you need.  

Franklin A. Ohiozebau

Be Fit : Milestone 3

The third milestone is here and I feel pretty happy with my efforts made for fitness in October. I managed to stick to a daily meditation and gratitude journaling routine which is something I had been struggling with a long time. I’m not focusing on the results from this routine at the moment. I am focusing on doing it consistently to make it a habit so that I can reap it’s benefits in the long term. My running schedule took a hit this month, I was pretty lazy. I have slept through the alarms each week and was pretty disappointed with myself. I tried to make up for it last weekend and was extremely happy to push my limits for a 7.7 km run on Saturday followed up by a 10 km run on Sunday. My goal is to be consistent with my running schedule in November.

Here are my achievements for this month :-

Weight :-

Starting weight (10th August) : 62.9 kgs

Milestone 1 (31st August) : 62.5 kgs (Lost 0.4 kgs)

Milestone 2 (1st October) : 61.4 kgs (Lost 1.1 kgs)

Milestone 3 (2nd November) : 60.5 kgs (Lost 0.9 kgs)

Workouts :-

I have been regular with my HIIT workouts/skipping routine during the weekdays however slacked off during the weekends.

Meditation :-

I tweaked up my meditation routine to do it first thing after I wake up in the morning. This has worked wonders for me as I haven’t skipped it even once for the past 25 days. I currently have a 25 day streak on Headspace and that makes me very happy.

Food :-

Although I ordered takeaways on many occasions, I am pretty satisfied with my food habits this month. Ever since I started meditation, I’ve noticed a slight decline in my food cravings and mindless eating habits which is great! My water intake has been up to the mark as well.

Key achievements :

  • Ran twice outdoors, 7.68 kms in 52.38 mins on 31st October and 10.14 kms in 1.11.46 hrs on 1st November.

Goals for Milestone 4 (30th November):-

  • Workout everyday
  • No refined sugar
  • Limited cheat meals (Fried, processed food)
  • Rope skip every evening at least 200 times
  • Attempt 10 push ups
  • Run 5 kms on Saturday, 10 kms on Sunday every week
  • Improve my running pace, 5 kms under 30 mins and 10 kms under 65 mins

See you until the next milestone!!

Just breathe it out

#89/100

“Life is short. We can live it lost in thought or we can choose to be present as life unfolds around us.”

-Headspace

Meditation! I must have ignored this important and extremely powerful habit for a happy mind all my life. I just couldn’t bring myself to stay still at one place and concentrate on my breathing. It made absolutely no sense to me. The biggest misconception that I had in my mind was that meditation was supposed to immediately calm me down and clear my anxious thoughts. That’s not how it works. About 4 years back I encountered a difficult situation at work. I had made a huge error and was petrified of the consequences. I was constantly anxious and my mind didn’t leave any stone upturned to churn out one negative thought after another. There was no respite even at home as my mind continued the negative thought pattern. That’s when I decided to give meditation a shot at calming down my mind. I could see a positive result from barely few days of consistent practice. While the thoughts continued to disrupt my mind, I was slowly learning to acknowledge them and let it go. I didn’t even realize when I did it. My anxiousness subsided eventually when everything got sorted out at work and not one of my negative thoughts manifested into reality.

I stopped practicing meditation the moment situations got better in my life and I technically didn’t ‘need’ it anymore. That’s where I went terribly wrong. Meditation helps in improving our overall physical and emotional well being if practiced daily. I have tried making it a habit few times in the past and failed terribly. In the past, I scheduled my meditation session at a time during the day which made it easier for me to delay it indefinitely. I made a small change in my daily routine to incorporate my meditation session, first thing in the morning. I start my day with a 20 min meditation session every morning and carry on with my daily activities after that. This schedule has worked pretty well for me in the last 12 days and I feel great. I’ve noticed a decrease in my junk food cravings as I am able to not dwell on those thoughts for long. I’m pretty excited to experience the long term benefits of this powerful new habit in my life.

There are various ways to meditate, I personally use a guided mediation application called ‘Headspace’. The techniques shared in the application are easy to follow and the video animations are catchy enough to sustain my attention. In the initial days I had to force myself to sit at once place quietly and meditate. It sure has gotten easier over time and scheduling it first thing in the morning has been extremely beneficial in being consistent at it.

Apart from reducing anxiety, stress and calming the mind, the long term benefits of meditation include better emotional health, an increased sense of self awareness, improved attention span, helps in fighting addictions as well as improved sleep. This habit seems like a long term investment with no immediate rewards but I surely want to continue long enough to reap it’s benefits in the future. Making it a daily habit surely helps in being consistent.

Importance of mental health

#78/100

“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”

John Green

It’s “World Mental Health Day” today and I couldn’t find a better day to talk about this topic. My parents belonged to a generation where talking about mental health or any of the illnesses and disorders related to it was considered a huge stigma. It is considered an untouchable topic by many even today. But am glad the present generation has made continued efforts in breaking the barriers surrounding the most important aspect of human life. People of our generation are open about their feelings, do not shy away from discussing their mental health issues and seek out help when they realize that something is wrong.

I woke up today to the news of a young boy who chose to commit suicide due to depression. He was just 13-14 years old. I’m unable to comprehend the pain that the boy had to go through before he chose to end the misery altogether. He couldn’t talk about it with his parents and they are left with innumerable unanswerable questions in their mind.

For the longest time, I did not talk about my feelings with my parents as well. My relationship with my mother changed after I had a heart to heart discussion with her about everything I had in mind. This step is a lost cause as far as my father is concerned. But I’m glad my mother understands the importance of mental health and lends a patient ear whenever I vent out my frustrations to her.

Many of us might feel that this topic is overrated and we can overcome anything if we wish to. When we experience mental health disorders like panic attacks, anxiety, OCD or depression, our brain undergoes changes that are definitely not under our control. Many a times, we just don’t feel in the mood to do anything in life. We lose all hope for the future and are unable to experience happiness. These feelings are real. The first step to deal with a mental health disorder is “acceptance“. We need to accept that something is wrong with our thought patterns. The next step is to “seek help“. I’ve tried talking to various counsellors with the sole reason to get me out of the negative pattern my brain has gone into. I always wanted a quick and permanent solution to the problem. But it doesn’t work that way. Mental health disorders can be caused due to genes and family history, environmental stress, a traumatic experience, childhood trauma, life experiences or a combination of these factors. These causes accumulate over a period of time and take a long time to show red flags. By the time we realize it, we might not be in a condition to come out of it on our own.

There are few effective ways in which we can maintain a stable mental health if we are willing to work on it every single day. These are techniques that each one of us is aware of yet we are unwilling to take time out to work on ourselves till the situation gets out of hand. I’m trying my level best to create a routine and habit out of these techniques so that I follow them every single day on an “auto-pilot mode“.

  • Workouts : Exercise in any form is a proven way to release endorphins in our brain which makes us happy and healthy. This one has dual effects in maintaining our physical as well as mental health.
  • Meditation : I can’t stress enough about the benefits of meditation in our life. It is incredibly difficult to make this one a habit. We need to push ourselves very hard in the beginning. Yet, the benefits are incredible and almost instantaneous. I have started a practice of meditating right after I wake up. This has proven very effective in maintaining a good routine so far. Meditation has powerful benefits in the long term if practiced daily. It helps us become aware of our thoughts and teaches us not not dwell on every thought in our mind.
  • Journaling : It’s the best way to let out our emotions and understand the pattern of our thoughts. Journaling and writing has helped me find answers to the questions I never had. It helps me in self introspection and understanding myself better. Sometimes, when we are unable to find people to talk to, our journals help us deal with our loneliness. It also helps us to focus on the present moment and live each day as it comes.
  • Gratitude : I wrote an article about this a few days ago. The most powerful practice suggested by my counsellor was to write 3 things I am grateful for every morning and 3 great things that happened during the day in the evening. This is an incredible practice to count our blessings in life and more reasons to be happy.

I wish and pray for your mental health and happiness.

Be fit 2.0 : Milestone 2

#69/100

And it’s time for the second milestone already. I had a fairly disciplined fitness and healthy eating regime during the first half of this month. In the second half, my mother had an injury at home and the doctor had to put a cast on her hand for 6 weeks. Since my routine went for a toss, I had a difficult time adjusting to the new one which involved managing house and office work together. I ended up missing few days of my workouts, couldn’t manage a consistent running schedule and had a multiple stress eating incidents. I’m slowly adjusting myself to the new routine and planning to bounce back on track, stronger than ever.

Here are my achievements for this month :-

Weight :-

Starting weight (10th August) : 62.9 kgs

Milestone 1 (31st August) : 62.5 kgs (Lost 0.4 kgs)

Milestone 2 (1st October) : 61.4 kgs (Lost 1.1 kgs)

Workouts :-

I was regular on most days. On the days I had to go to office, I made sure to wake up early and rope skip. I started with 500 rounds and gradually increased it to 1000 by the end of the month. It helped me clear my mind and gave a great endorphin boost at the start of the day. However, I did miss 4/5 days of workouts after my mother’s injury. Overall, I’m pretty happy with my workout progress.

Meditation :-

I haven’t meditated even once in the past month. I plan on meditating for at least 10 mins right after I wake up so that I don’t procrastinate it throughout the day. This is my goal for October.

Food :-

This month has been tumultuous when it comes to my food habits. I stress ate on many occasions and indulged in a lot of junk food. My water intake hasn’t been up to the mark. I plan on improving it in October

Key achievements :

  • Ran twice outdoors, 6 kms in 44 mins on 6th September and 10 kms in 1.14.06 hrs on 13th September.

Goals for Milestone 3 (31st October):-

  • Workout 6 days a week
  • No refined sugar
  • No cheat meals (Fried, processed food)
  • Rope skip every evening at least 500 times
  • Attempt 10 push ups
  • Run at 10 kms every Sunday
  • Meditate for 10 mins every morning right after waking up

See you until the next milestone!!

Inner peace

#4/100

What is your idea of inner peace? Lately, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. The other day I just wanted to lie down, close my eyes and experience the feeling of not having my mind blast out thoughts at the speed of light. It’s this constant chatter in my mind that I want an escape from.

I’ve started meditating and let me tell you, the feeling is incredible. Of course, my mind won’t stop churning out thoughts while I’m trying to concentrate on my breathing. That’s not the concept of meditation. The whole idea is to attain a higher level of awareness of your thoughts to help you not dwell on it for long.

I remember being a very happy, optimistic kid. I seldom experienced the emotions of boredom, anger or sadness. I guess all kids are like that. As we grow older and experience life better, our collection of memories grows bigger. It’s our memories, rather bad experiences from our past that makes us experience anxiety, sadness, nervousness, anger for the future. I’m sure no one on this earth has led a life without any struggle. Everyone deals with some or the other discomforting situation in their lives, some people just end up dealing with it better.

In the end, I’m well aware that everything is in my mind. The situations I’m fearing or dreading haven’t taken place yet. Many a time, the reality unfolds in a diabolically different manner than my thoughts. Yet, every new uncertainty makes me anxious. It makes me anxious to the extent that my present and future seem blurry.

When our mind, body and heart are in complete tandem, we experience inner peace, the feeling of true happiness. 30 years of life experiences have forced me to become an anxious person. Anxiety is no one’s friend and I don’t wish for anyone to experience it. For now, I’ll try to meditate my way out of my life’s uncertainties, at least the ones that my mind has creatively scripted. It’s my 20 minute escape from the world. As I continue to actively practice the art of meditation, I want to become a more calm, settled version of myself, more at peace with life, the way I was as a kid.