Farwa Naseer reflects on the significance of taking time out of the day to be present and practice gratitude.
With all of the expectations I had set up about the year 2020 being full of joy and achievement, including graduation and a celebratory summer trip away, I was definitely surprised when every plan I had came crumbling down before me.
In March, as it seemed like the world was shutting and slowing down, I felt myself go into overdrive. How would I cope with the challenges of completing my degree at home and being stuck indoors for months on end?
I felt as though everyone around me was responding to the challenge headstrong and resilient and that there was something wrong with me for struggling mentally with the uncertain road ahead. I finally came to the realisation that I wasn’t being kind to myself in such unsettling times.
While many of us have dealt with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, I found that it was important to not let these emotions manifest themselves into deeper issues of low self-esteem and confidence.
Self-talk can occupy a lot of space in your mind, which is why I recommend speaking to yourself compassionately. I have listed a few of the ways that help me to practice genuine self-love.
Before outlining some of the practices that help me to avoid a mental rut, I have a short disclaimer. It’s important to note, what works for me, might not work for you. I disagree with toxic positivity and more than anything, genuine kindness towards yourself is more valuable than anything I can suggest.
With that said, these are a few of the ways I have structured my day with the intent of mindfulness.
Exercise and Yoga
Move your body! I heard the quote recently “No one ever regrets a workout” and to be honest I have to agree. Whenever I have moved my body for a short workout, I’ve felt proud of myself for dedicating time to the body that I live in. Just remember to not fall into aesthetic pressures, do it because it makes you feel powerful! Dance is my favourite form which makes it enjoyable from start to finish.
Exercising is not only good for your body but can help in developing mental strength – when you see that you have developed physical strength these aspects bleed into the rest of your life. I try to start the day with Yoga which has been extremely helpful for me in shaping the rest of the day. I use this time to focus on a particular affirmation such as “I am calm and in control of my life” that are becoming the building blocks of self-assurance and awareness.
Talking to a friend
If you have someone in your life that can listen to you rant about life – reach out! You’ll most likely find out that you have so much to discuss about your feelings and that there is someone you can confide in. This was especially important for me as there are certain aspects of mental health I feel more comfortable discussing with friends than my family members. It took me a while but I began to reach out to friends from university and soon found they needed someone to talk to just as much as I did!
When I first came across this suggestion, I struggled. I had been so down that I couldn’t think of many things that I was grateful for. As I carried on with this practice, it seemed like magic! From writing about being grateful for a glass of water started to extend as I actively started looking for the good in situations I found myself in. Of course, while this is not always possible, I found it induced a small shift in perspective for me which helps me to look for the good in myself. By shifting the perspective from one of lack to one of abundance I have found an improvement in my general mood.
I would strongly encourage accepting help when and where it is possible. For a while, I felt alone but after advice from a close friend, I reached out to the university and I was received with guidance and support on how best to progress. If you can, accept or reach out an offer to go for a walk and be in nature. A small change in environment, especially in nature can make all the difference.
I hope that you are taking the time to be kind to yourself. It turns out, 2020 forced me to look inwards for all of the outward experiences I thought would bring me joy. I feel that I am slowly finding happiness in small moments and learning that everyone’s path is different. Graduating university at a later date or facing setbacks doesn’t make me feel like a failure, rather another opportunity to express all that I am.
Useful numbers and services
Samaritans 116 123, free to call (24 hours, 365 days a year)
The Sanctuary 0300 003 7029, support for young people and adults living with mental health difficulties
Mind: Lines are open 9am to 6pm, Monday – Friday (except bank holidays), call 0300 123 3393