"I think the greatest help you can get from anything is to find out that it doesn't work. Nothing in this human realm is meant to work. So once you can deeply appreciate that, for one thing the mind of compassion grows if you understand that everybody's up against it. I remember reading some works of Simon Veil, and she said there's only one question worth asking anybody and that question is 'What are you going through?'" - Leonard Cohen
It has been a while since I started an article with a famous-person quote. But a time such as this calls to borrow from the wisdom of poets and philosophers to help make some sense of things. By 4.0, our versions of the lockdown have come more swiftly than iOS updates, and we cannot even hit the ‘Remind me Later’ key. So what are you going through inside your homes, dear reader?
Since there is no boundary between work and family anymore, for many the lockdown has been a test of their management skills that no college prepared them for. Whether you have been organising online classes for your kids, watching Contagion (I would rather stick to Brooklyn 99), making your own sourdough starter (like my 25-year-old brother, but we got pizza from scratch so I am not complaining) or just numbing your brain for a few minutes with Yuki Kawae’s Zen sand art videos (maybe that’s just me) – this “new normal” has been confusing, and we have all had to make new routines for ourselves on the fly.
I moved back into my parents’ home for this period and have had to adjust to a new living environment, which added to the confusion. But a few days into this when it was clear that the lockdown would not be lifted in 14 days, I decided to create a new routine for myself. And the routine was carved around one priority – health and wellness. We are in a pandemic, the biggest health crisis we have ever been in, so really mute those people on your social media who tell you it’s OK to sit on the couch eating pasta and cookies while watching reruns of Friends for the 10th time. You must do that if you need to sometimes, but it is totally counter-intuitive to put the healthy aspects of your pre-lockdown routine last at this time of a health crisis.
There has never been a more important time to prioritise self-care, so we thought it would be good to put down a list of things that we have been doing, to keep physically and mentally well. It is OK if you are not able to do them all the time but aim for a certain level of consistency so that you can meet yourself at the other end of this crisis feeling as well as possible.
Exercise: You don’t really need gyms and studios to be open to have movement in your routine. Got a yoga mat? Or walking shoes? You are set. As lockdown began, my yoga teacher moved her classes online and doubled down on the practice of Pranayama (for healthy lungs, since Coronavirus attacks the lungs) and Yoga Nidra (for a calm mind). Exercise for the health benefits, not weight or shape. Even just a few Surya Namaskars a day followed by Pranayama, or a 30-minute walk in the morning sunlight (at a safe distance, of course) will help you ground and prepare for the rest of the day like nothing else can. The difference between those who exercise for vanity and those who do it for good health will be apparent in this lockdown. Follow @high.on.yoga and @ajinkyameheryoga on Instagram for inspiration and online classes.
Reduce screen time: Experiencing headaches, dizziness etc. during the lockdown? You could have what is being called a “digital concussion”. Yes, there is such a thing. All of those Zoom meetings, Netflix binges, non-stop Instagram scrolling or feverish watching of news on TV is not helping your physical or mental health. Set a strict limit to each of these activities, especially the news when it is so bad all the time.
Sleep: To be able to exercise, and tackle daily chores you will need good rest. When you have nowhere to rush to the next morning, it is tempting to wake up later and later in the day. But the most restorative sleep only happens between sunset and sunrise. So set yourself a routine as if you still have to wake up for work and ensure you sleep on time at night too. Follow @lukecoutinho for the best advice on sleep and other simple lifestyle changes for good health.
Meditation: We now live in a world where even Silicon Valley CEOs like Bill Gates have come out as meditators. Science agrees that meditation helps reduce anxiety and fear and if you are feeling any of these, or even just overwhelmed, take 20 minutes out of your day to meditate, 10 on waking and 10 on sleeping. My favourite saying about meditation is, ‘those who think they don’t have the time to do meditation, need to spend more time doing it’. People get intimidated with the idea of meditation but really, even washing dishes can be meditative, if you start observing your thoughts instead of running with them. And if none of this works, try taking a few minutes out of your day to write things you are grateful for. I promise you, a regular practice will change how you feel.
Homemade beauty rituals: Neena Gupta (bless her sweet quarantine updates on Instagram), in her recent video said, “mera wala bhool jao”. What she meant is, in times of lockdown you can’t have your favourite French Vitamin C serum or paraben-free conditioner bar as easily once it runs out so learn to be happy with basic products. When I ran out of my favourites, I started digging into the kitchen cabinets to tide me through. Now, I didn’t need to do it but I also found a certain pleasure in reconnecting with our age-old beauty rituals. And they can be as simple as you want them to be. Milk with honey and turmeric for glowing skin, or fresh aloe vera gel on your hair for a burst of moisture – try these for results that will make you feel good about yourself instantly. Follow @vasudharai and @suparnatrikha for traditional home remedies. I found this extremely simple video tutorial that I used to cut my own hair, and add layers in it too!
Fragrance: I have not seen my pot of eyeliner for two months now, and that’s saying a lot for a pro-cat-eye doer like me. The lockdown doesn’t really motivate anyone to wear make-up (although I will watch every @kevynaucoin Insta live tutorial that I can), but the one thing I continue to use is my fragrances. Just a small thing to do for myself, it immediately puts me in a better mood.
Use the power of beautiful smells to lift your spirits to your advantage – it can also just be lighting incense sticks in the morning or a fragrant candle with your evening cuppa. Or stick some rose water in the fridge to spray on your face when you need a pick-me-up in the middle of that office meeting that’s running into its fourth hour.
Food as medicine: There was a time when I could wax eloquent about the subtlety of the sauce in the scallops I had at Nobu or why the coffee at this tiny independent cafe is the only one worth drinking. But since I started looking at food more for its nutrition content than taste, I eat karela and padwal with as much gusto (OK maybe not as much). There has never been a more important time as a collective to use the power of food to our advantage. Get back to the basics, junk the processed food and eat the seasonal vegetables and fruit to get all the minerals and vitamins in your system. We live on a planet where we have a fruit like mango, and they are now in season! Follow @rujutadiwekar and @drmarkhyman for some very practical advice. Of course, bake all the banana bread you like too, but maybe replace the refined sugar with jaggery?