Read part one here: Chasing Happily Ever After On My Own With Dopamine – Part 1

Oxytocin is a powerful neurotransmitter that controls everything from our reproductory system to human interaction. To jump-start it, try some of the following:

1. For starters, hug someone. Pet an animal. Belong.
Touch and warmth stimulate oxytocin, which helps in reducing fear and isolation. Release this cuddle chemical that makes you trust and feel cherished. Hold someone, and feel the stress seep away. Feel your breathing become even.

2. Kiss

3. Have sex

4. Don’t feel like doing any of the above? Get a massage.

Touch is healing (although not for someone with sensory processing, or trauma issues). Apply lotion on your face and body in soothing, gentle circles. Take your time. Feels too self-indulgent? So what? Get someone to give you a hair massage.

My daughter is not a hugger and can be touch-averse. But she loves a good head massage with coconut oil—that is the only time when she’ll let me touch her long enough, and we’ve both come to secretly relish this contact.

Soak in a hot tub.

5. Text someone. Reach out.

No kidding – oxytocin is also called the love and empathy hormone. There’s a reason why women secrete this during pregnancy, childbirth and lactation.

Hold someone, and feel the stress seep away.

6. Sharing is caring

Remember Irrfan Khan saying this in Hindi Medium? We laughed but there’s some truth to it. Sharing is also a means of self-caring. Share not just things, but ideas, knowledge, resources, hopes, fears, and anxieties too. Crowdsource.

One, it’s empowering. You’ll realize that others are facing their own crises even as you gain insight as a trustworthy listener and collaborator. Two, verbalizing the head stuff, putting it out there in the universe, reduces its power over us.

7. If you feel up to it, volunteer

Even at a library if you want quiet time. An animal shelter? Give someone a gift. A random gift or a small gift. It doesn’t matter. What matters, is the smile you’ll put on their face and the joy you’ll radiate.

8. Talk to whomever you trust.

Eventually, let people around you know about your off days or when you need a time-out. When you’re able to, be more open about your struggles. There is no need to pretend you’re superhuman. None of us are. Even the smartest, prettiest, strongest women are dealing with complex issues of self-worth.

9. Cry

Ironic (I haven’t cried in 30 years). But crying is powerful therapy, experts say. It washes away rancour, guilt, self-pity, anguish, and so much more. Who knew it regulated your mood, blood pressure and body temperature? Try it and let me know how it goes.

Also Read: Self-Care, Mental Health And Feminist Warriors

10. Mine your Memories

Old photos or albums make us smile. Look closely at yourself in these photos. You look pretty good (even though you avoided taking photographs for a decade), right? And you had a good time too, as you connected with favourite family members and friends.

Surround yourself with these memories. Switch out and rotate pictures in your frames if you have the energy for it. Even one is OK. Digital frames are a great investment in random smiles as you walk by to raid the kitchen for chakli or chips.

11. Self-Compassion Matters

There are some excellent therapists on social media. Thanks to Twitter, I stumbled upon Martha Crawford (@shrinkthinks) and Guilaine Kinouani (@KGuilaine). Their blogs and Twitter feeds are immensely empathetic resources for women of colour as they advocate for diversity in therapy.

You might have your own go-to people. Find your mentors and godmothers, real or virtual. Follow strong and powerful women on social media. Don’t fall for the patriarchal bullshit that taught us to mistrust women. We are our best allies.

Having a shitty day? Here’s Beth McColl, an advice columnist, walking us through a particularly low-functioning time. Gurprriet Singh’s Twitter thread on depression is especially compassionate. Here’s a crowdsourced list of trusted mental professionals, and a counselling service run by the School of Human Ecology, Tata Institute of Social Sciences: iCallHelpline.

Not comfortable with Savarna Hindu and/or White counsellors? Check out @DivyaKandukuri_ and @avipshadas who are launching a mental health wellness network for marginalised groups. Persons from vulnerable communities face a different kind of day-to-day trauma navigating bigotry, discrimination, and gaslighting.

Then there’s the shame associated with mental health within our communities: “Stop airing your dirty laundry!” is one common shushing strategy that ransoms women’s rights. But there is hope. And help. Mental health is key to human development and must be a part of any civil rights manifesto.

12. Orgasm

Ah yes. You owe yourself multiple orgasms. If you have a loving and attentive partner, great. If not, you really don’t need anyone else. Find your position, safe spot, props, toys, lube—any oil will do in a pinch—and explore what pleases you. Check out Agents of Ishq and Feministing for the hows, whys and must-dos.

Screw the stigma and shame—that’s all made up. Take charge: our bodies, ourselves, remember! Smash the patriarchy one orgasm at a time.

You owe yourself multiple orgasms.

13. Write

Try writing about a happy memory, or even a beloved photograph. Forget about grammar and spelling—this is for your eyes only. Journal the clutter and clamour out of your system—writing still remains one of the best ways to organize thoughts and emotions.

Feeling fierce? Try the Bullet Journal—for free. I like this idea a lot, but can’t find the energy to commit—my stock pattern of “starting with a bang and quitting with a whimper” makes me wary.

But is my reluctance really due to some super self-awareness, or am I just buying into the conventional wisdom that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Because behavioural experts say that you can indeed learn new things no matter your age or personality. Users do attest that the Bullet Journal system is a simple and productive way to stay organized. We’ll see.

Take the next step when you’re ready: There is power in articulating gratitude. Thank whatever, whoever. On the other hand, if you can’t seem to get past negative thoughts, then write those down too. Burn, shred or rip this piece of paper once you’re done. No one else has to see this.

But transferring the thoughts from mind to paper does reduce their intensity—some of the toxicity is flushed away with the mental litter. This leaves more room in your brain to think clearly and more room in your lungs to breathe deeply.

Also read part 3 and part 4.


Featured Image Credit: Pinterest

9 COMMENTS

  1. Here is some more information on how “Marginalized People Face A Unique Mental Health Struggle.”

    Although this piece addresses racism in Canada, the issue of mental health and its context within discrimination is particularly relevant to India when viewed through a DBA lens:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jeewan-chanicka-/marginalized-people-face-a-unique-mental-health-struggle_a_23345523/

    The daily trauma of being marginalized, exploited, socially and culturally harassed, having to prove one’s humanity, affects early brain development in children. It continues to corrode one’s sense of safety and belonging.

    “The burden of the oppressed is to name oppression, prove it exists, teach about it, do it in a way that is not offensive to the people listening and potentially causing the harm, and to find and propose solutions.”—says the writer of this article, Jeewan Chanicka.

    And think, if one of our happy chemicals (oxytocin) is released through touch, what millennia-long psychological warfare the caste system has waged by enshrining “untouchability.”

    As we practice self-care and wellness, I hope it opens us up to more compassion and empathy for those who do not share our privilege or status.

    Chanicka goes on to conclude: “The truth is that there are stigmas about mental health; [but] as a society there is a greater stigma about raising those issues that expose the truth that we are not serving all people equally well.”

  2. I want to thank @annaverbee for passing along the crowdsourced list of trusted mental professionals, and counselling service run by the School of Human Ecology, Tata Institute of Social Sciences: iCallHelpline. I also found the article on how “Marginalized People Face A Unique Mental Health Struggle” through her tweet.

  3. “Not comfortable with White counsellors…?” But luckily you became comfortable with White inventions like the Internet, computers and electricity… !!! Small steps!!

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