asha international mental health

We Give Hope

2020 has been a hard year for me personally – and even more importantly, less than ideal globally. When people ask me how I’m doing, my boiler plate answer is: “I’m surviving not thriving.”

Those that know me best (or even not all that well) know that my spirt animal is undoubtedly a cat. Cats sleep up to 70% of their life, and honestly that seems like the dream to me!

(I also happen to own two and they are my best friends; though I’m never sure if the feeling is mutual).

All that to say that as an introvert who has a dedicated section in her closet for jammies and ‘sleep socks,’ – yes, they are their own classification – I entered Stay at Home thinking that perhaps this was the life I was always destined to lead.

In theory, I knew the importance of ‘wellness;’ of routine and human interaction. But the truth is I didn’t truly realize its importance in my life until life as we knew it was abruptly taken away from us all.                                                                                           

By week two of working in pajamas and throwing all semblance of routine and normalcy out the window (something I had initially thought of as the ultimate sign of liberation and freedom), my skin was crawling and I was spiraling out big time with regards to my anxiety.

Things needed to course correct, and do so quickly. Glass half full interpretation here is that my spiraling brought my values and what mattered most into sharp focus.

At home, I realized just how much my family and friends give me life – and how even for this introvert, I needed them for me to be able to recharges my batteries.

At work it became even more evident that people are my purpose and motivation to keep going.  And, as someone who initially felt like my prayers around working from home had finally been answered, I realized how important the proverbial separation of church and state was to me. Not having clearly delineated physical spaces and environments for work and play was getting to me mentally big time.

1: Routine is the Name of My Game: At the risk of sounding boring, I’m still going to put in writing how important routine has been for me. By building in the seemingly mundane structure of washing my face, brushing my teeth, wearing a real outfit, making coffee and holding myself to a logout time at the end of the day, what felt like a never ending ‘lather rinse repeat’ cycle was replaced by calm and clarity. I am having an easier time remembering the day of the week – even if I’m still have difficulty with knowing what month / year we are on here …  

2: Working Out Is Non-Negotiable: in the words of Elle Woods: “endorphins make you happy, and happy people don’t kill their husbands.” I’m paraphrasing, but the difference between Active Deepa and Static Deepa is drastic – and trust me you don’t want to be around the latter. I’ve been using Nike Training Club & Barre3 Online, and they’ve been game changers.

3: Progress Not Perfection: One of my favorite bosses of all time – an idol really – taught me this early on in my career; at the time it was in the context of my needing to learn to chill out and not take things so seriously – something especially difficult for a person like me where dramatic is the default setting. But especially now, being okay with ‘just okay’ is so important – And more profoundly, in doing so, it allows people around you to feel empowered and safe in being ‘just okay’ too.

4: Some Human Interaction is Better Than None: I’m admittedly a late adopter to technology. To put this in perspective, my mom has AirPods and I’m still using an adapter that hooks to wired headphones that plug in to my phone. So, when things like HouseParty started making its way through the social circuit, not only was I not on board – I was vehemently against it. While I won’t say that these platforms are a replacement to the real deal (I’m a self-proclaimed touch-me-not and even I cannot wait to give me family and friends hugs ASAP), it makes such a difference.

Important: it’s also 100% okay to be more comfortable with FaceTime Audio versus Video. And it’s also more than acceptable to still need personal time. My point here is that there are options and while they aren’t replacements, I’ve found them to be hugely helpful and mood boosting.

5: Serenity Prayer on Repeat: As I mentioned at the start, this year has been a challenging one for me personally. The Serenity Prayer had been on repeat since January, and has never been truer and grounding for me than now: “Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

And Bonus Round: keep a journal. Letting it out periodically is not only cathartic, but ending your written vent session with things you are grateful for allows you to unlock the powerful gift of “And.” You get to acknowledge that things are both hard AF and you have things you’re grateful for.

This will double not only as a great perspective builder if you revisit these entries years later, and also can serve as an awesome contribution to a time capsule or start to a Quarantine Memoir that may just help you realize your childhood dream of being a famous writer!

– Written by Deepa Ramprasad. Deepa is the daughter of ASHA International’s Founder Gayathri Ramprasad and a lover of all thing’s cats.

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