Also read part 1 and part 2 of self care.
Serotonin is our built-in stabilizer: a confidence chemical and neurotransmitter that boosts a sense of safety, self-esteem and wellbeing. But once it runs low, we’re in for a truckload of self-hate because it affects mood, motivation, cognition, memory, decision-making, appetite, sleep, pain sensation, stress levels, sex drive and so much more.
1. Mute the Negative Self-Talk
Don’t hate yourself. But that’s too easy to say. You’ll stop self-hating only when you’re ready. For decades, I would say, “bitch,” “idiot,” “moron,” to myself after reliving embarrassing moments on endless loops. And then there were the times when I wish I would’ve said something smart in a conversation or argument. My critical thinking cells bust their moves only a day later. Naturally, more self-cursing follows.
Then I found this gem: would you let a friend talk to you that way you talk to yourself?
A light bulb went on. Wouldn’t you fight with this mean-girl saboteur, tell them to shut up, or break off the relationship? Bingo. I don’t know if men trash-talk to themselves, but women internalise negative self-talk to a higher degree. So, ditch this frenemy. Tune her out.
2. Practice self-kindness
Stop sanskari-judging yourself! Yes, there are days when we feel inadequate as daughters, moms, wives, or daughters-in-law. Too often we struggle with the imposter syndrome at work or chide ourselves for not being good enough. Screw that. Instead, try an occasional self-pat on the back, a round of applause for a job well done, and it will make for good baby steps to half-wellness. But this too won’t happen overnight. Alison Ledgerwood, professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, has some great advice to help you unstick this debilitating pattern.
3. Get some sun (if you can bear it)
Vitamin D is a great serotonin booster. So are those fishy Omega-3 fatty acids, which make serotonin function better by reducing brain inflammation. Do consult your doctor, however.
4. Be Creative
I despise cooking. But listening to music helps me through it. Now, as I start cooking, I line up my playlists before assembling the ingredients. Some friends on the other hand, find cooking therapeutic and science proves them right. Studies show that daily bursts of creativity lead to satisfaction and joy.
Flex your creative muscles for that extra high. Find your voice and power in whatever helps you feel like a goddess. I lucked upon writing. But for the longest time, I found my artificial high in binge-watching TV, gardening, decorating, and shopping. Many over-stuffed closets and dead plants later, I’m trying to cut back on this addiction: downsizing and detoxing. Not exactly at the Marie Kondo level yet, but hope I can get half-way there some day.
Not enough time or energy? Try to claim your thin slices of joy for a few seconds.
5. Pamper yourself
Remember Donna Meagle from “Parks and Recreation”? Follow her lead and “treat yo’self!” A facial or a massage? If not monthly, try mani-pedis every 2-3 months. Try a nail colour or a hairstyle you wouldn’t be caught dead in ten years ago.
There may be something to that laughter therapy after all. If you can, laugh at your embarrassing moments. Or the time when your dad said that one thing? When you got that gag gift? Remember, when you laughed so hard you peed? Or when you couldn’t stop smiling? Laugh like Gabbar. Channel your inner Mugambo. Cackle.
There is so much stand-up comedy talent on the interwebz these days. I would highly recommend Aditi Mittal and similar artists who are doing amazing work to entertain, advocate, and empower.
Is there a film you’ve been wanting to see, but no one will go with you? Seriously, nourish yourself. Take yourself out on a date—lunch, and a movie after. Recharge yourself with mini vacations. Off to the terrace with a book, a quiet corner in a café or bookstore, or even the balcony.
8. Cuss, scream
Swearing is instant therapy. Can’t meditate even though everyone and their mother have been raving about its benefits? Try this instead: F*ck That: An Honest Meditation.
When alone in the house or the car, I’ll yell, “Not today, motherfuckers!” I laugh and feel as if I’ve gotten away with something; it’s exhilarating. I’ve invested in merchandise that cusses too: a “Goeth and Fucketh Thyself” coffee mug, and a “Zero Fox Given” pin for my purse.
Screaming out loud is deadass restorative too. In the car, into a pillow at home, in the shower. Do it. Or just sing out loud. Make some noise.
Get angry. Reach deep inside of you and find that wrath. Get angry at the sexist bull crap thrown your way in WhatsApp wife jokes (that’s how I got started), or toxic people who are weighing you down. Delete them from your contacts. Recognize triggers.
10. Walk away
Or stay, and speak up. Anger may make you say terrible things, but it is valuable in getting people around you to sit up and pay attention. The people who care, will stick around. And listen.
So they say (but tell that to my resistant ass). It helps clarify and burn the haze. “Meditation is a great way to de-fang” that inner nag, says Dan Harris—a guy who had a very public panic attack on American national TV.
12. Be vigilant
Don’t let anyone guilt or shame you into self-harm. This will be hard. Especially for Indian women who’ve been trained to never say no. Sometimes, for your own sanity, you have to own the NO. Occupy it. Practice saying it: Sorry, can’t come to your party. Nope, won’t be cooking today — dhaba’s closed. Get your own damn report — not doing your secretarial work.
Also read part 4.
Featured Image Credit: The Positive Psychology People
Came across a poignant article on trauma and reading as therapy, and thought I’d share (if you find good resources please share in the comments section):
“Living Through Death With Harry Potter”
Trauma and tragedy play a role in a lot of children’s literature. But it was J.K. Rowling’s series that helped me cope with almost dying.
This last part was particularly evocative:
“This moment with the thestrals, though a small one, captures what reading Harry Potter has felt like to me. The novels reminded me that I’m not going mad, or that if I am, someone else probably is, too. The pain in those middle books is so visceral and familiar, but as I keep reading I remember that the last moments we spend with Harry in those final books are all about fighting on and holding tightly to hope—together.”
I have such good news! Feminist and goddess, Mona Eltahawy, is writing an Op-Ed “on the need to teach little girls rage. Pure, unadulterated anger. I want to bottlefeed rage to every little baby girl so that it fortifies their bones and muscles.”
She goes on to say: “We leave girls wholly unprepared for the shitstorm to come as they grow up when we feed them ‘you can do anything’ lies while patriarchy remains intact. They can’t. And they have to know why. And they need rage to destroy patriarchy.”
Can’t wait for this! I’ll share a link here soon.
“Rage is the antidote for helplessness in the face of injustice. Rage gives you energy to keep fighting when it feels like the whole world is falling apart. Rage sustains hope when all hope is gone. Nurture your rage ✊?” says Shaheen Hashmat, Scottish-Pakistani writer and campaigner who incidentally also likes swearing!
“Anger gets shit done.”
-Anansi, American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
For those of us who struggle with imposter syndrome regulalry, here is a great way to re-frame how you look at yourself and your work.
Mary Robinette Kowal, an award-winning writer, has this advice to serotonin-ise and practice self-kindness:
Me, talking a writer down from imposter syndrome: How long have you been writing?
Them: Three years.
Me: And how old are you?
Me: Okay. So you’re a level 28 human and a level 3 writer. How good were you as a level 3 human?
Guys, I’m so happy to report that my daughter (just 20!) attended a 3-day class on meditation last weekend — voluntarily, with no pressure from her dad or me! She was inspired by Dan Harris’ story.
Sometimes, some things just click.
Me? I still haven’t committed to meditation. My father and husband are dedicated proponents but I’m not consistent. I do it when I think I have time. Or basically, when I want to. I haven’t made it a part of my routine yet.
But for now, my daughter is my inspiration. Maybe one day I’ll get there.
It’s here! Mona Eltahawy’s op-ed on volcanic RAGE.
“What the world would look like if we taught girls to rage”
She quotes Ursula Le Guin:
“We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains,” Le Guin said. “That’s what I want — to hear you erupting.”
“You young Mount St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you — I want to hear you,” Le Guin tells the all-female graduating class.
Eltahawy goes on to remind us why we are rage-depleted:
“We teach girls to capitulate, ostensibly for their own good, but drumming the concept of subservience into their heads comes with its own high price: Girls are twice as likely to experience depression by the age of 16, more likely to enter into marriage when they’re children, and HIV rates for women are higher than for men.”
Oh man, I wish I could quote her entire article here, tattoo her advice on my arms so I can see them every second.
“BOTTLE-FEED RAGE TO EVERY BABY GIRL SO THAT IT FORTIFIES HER BONES AND MUSCLES”
Finding more cool stuff!
How Gratitude Actually Changes Your Brain and is Good for Business:
“According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, regularly expressing gratitude (the quality of being thankful and readiness to show appreciation) literally changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier.”
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