You must worry, but not too much



A little worry is a good thing if used effectively, but the same habit could lead to disastrous consequences

We are all told not to worry. And yet in many ways, it is when someone worries about us that we know how much we are loved. Every time we travelled to Chandigarh from Delhi, my father, despite knowing the Shatabdi timings, would call several times to ask if all was well and checking what the children and I were up to. He worried and drove mom up the wall with his worry as well. She would advise him to wait patiently, but I guess it was anticipation as well as excitement that kept him hyper. And that made us feel special as well.


Now nobody calls, and I really miss it. Worrying may be bad for the worrier, but it is so very reassuring to the object of worry, the one being worried about. If my husband shows concern when I utter an ‘Ouch’ it makes me happy; if he were to ignore it, I would seriously question his feelings for me! Much more than hearing words of love, being worried about or reassured genuinely — when I am upset — reassures me of being loved. I like it when my mom fusses around me even when she doesn’t really know what is upsetting me. Why does a child run to the mother rather than father when hurt? Because the mother is the one who will show the maximum concern and worry, which reassures the child.



Worrying reassures the object of worry that they are loved and cared for. It helps bind people closer together. And while worrying excessively and all the time is a mental illness, in small doses and at the right time worrying can be a great friend so long as we use it to tip us off to find solutions. Studies have proved that a little anxiety is healthy; it helps us to be better planners, better prepared, to anticipate problems and to think through these. In fact the studies also say that worrying helps people recover from trauma and to even overcome depression.



However, as with everything else in life, balance is the key. How good or bad worrying can be for us, depends on how we use it. If we use it excessively without any positive direction, it will overwhelm us and tip us over the edge. However, if we worry just enough to stay alert to danger, sensitive to relationship issues, better planned by seeking and getting help for foreseeable problems – then worrying can be really good.

For instance, some people who tend to shrug off any health issue, while others worry and get it checked out. Who do you think is better off in the long run? The worrier, of course! Similarly, with your career – being anxious about your goals, competition, and future growth can help keep you alert and open to opportunities, rather than going along without a worry in the world. If you are intelligent, you are bound to worry – how can you not?



You must also worry about safety. It is only when you get anxious that you explore dangers and threats and then think about fixing those vulnerable areas that expose you. You must worry about family and loved ones, about the air you breathe, the food you eat and your fitness. All these are areas that matter to us and as such cannot be taken for granted. And unless we worry about these, we will never be able to keep them shipshape because it is worry that helps call for action.



However, we must be aware of the dangers of excessive worry. Too much worry leads to anxiety and even panic attacks. It can make you ill and impact all aspects of life, leading to bad lifestyle habits in an attempt to counteract feelings of low self-worth and excessive anxiety. So, where does one draw the line that keeps good worry from becoming a dangerous habit?



Worrying without acting is what causes the problem, because it will then get you in a spin. Just worrying will never lead to any good. You must allow that worry to lead to resolution through action, planning or seeking help. Else, all it will lead to is greater trouble, more anxiety and obsession, interfering with your judgment and creating more issues to worry about.

Is it okay to discuss your relationship problems with friends or family?

Where do you cross the line of over-sharing? This is one question every person who’s ever been in a relationship asks – who to go to when something is not right? Is there even a correct person for such a situation?

First, it depends entirely on the type of relationship issue you are discussing. You classify arguments like who doesn’t put the toilet seat down into the ‘trivial’ category and no matter how much it irritates you, it’s something that should stay within the confines of a relationship. Here’s why.



When you start complaining about every tiny mistake or fight that your partner has committed, you add to the ‘unhappy in marriage’ impression for yourself and the person you’re talking to – be it your closest friend or your elder sister.

For bigger issues, like abuse — physical, mental, psychological or cheating — discuss the red flags with others. These are issues that require a second opinion, especially if you aren’t sure how to deal with it. It’s best not to bottle up your thoughts, no matter how problematic your partner seems to come across. You could choose to do this before or after you’ve had a thorough discussion with your partner to understand what his viewpoint on the issue is.



For example, does he habitually threaten violence? Do you believe his action was a momentary loss of control, it won’t happen again, and his apology is sincere? In cases like this, ask for professional counselling if you feel that it will help you talk to your partner.

They say that everyone deserves a second chance but that is really your call. When your partner pushes against your limits consistently, there’s a huge problem.

When it comes to trust issues, it’s always better to take a beat, listen to your partner with a cool head, and examine where your own feelings lie. Follow your own script, not what is ‘expected’ and don’t worry about ‘what will people say’. It’s your life.


What are the biggest triggers for wedding stress?


Even the best-laid plans can fall apart. That’s the nature of weddings, much like life.Whether you are going for a traditional ceremony or a modern one, tempers will flare, tears will be shed. Is there a way to reduce this inevitable stress?



Weddings are a stressful affair. Wedding between families (and extended families) with more than one culture, can drive couples up the wall faster, sooner. Sometimes, to an extent that the whole wedding is called off. Wedding stress is prevalent all over the world – that we knew, but now there’s also a survey to prove it.

Zola, a blog for all things wedding and newly-weds, surveyed 500 recently-engaged-or-newlywed-couples across the US. Hear this out. A whopping 96% of couples admitted wedding planning is stressful, with almost half of them using “very stressful” or “extremely stressful” to describe their feelings.



Sulakshana Sinha, an entrepreneur, had thought she’d gotten rid of most of what comprises wedding stress by opting for a registered one, followed by a reception for close friends and family. “We (her husband and both families) eventually started banging heads over what or specifically ‘who’ constituted as close. There’s no escaping the wedding stress, whatever kind of wedding you are going for,” she says.

Psychologist and counsellor Rachna K Singh believes it’s the weight of expectation that’s to blame as the biggest trigger for stress. She categorises ‘expectations’ into three categories: “First, there’s the bride’s expectation of the perfect day she has always dreamt about. It never turns out exactly according to plan, at least not without some hiccups on the way. Second is the organisation part – the different vendors, the coordination, arrangements. Last, but certainly not the least, is the budget overshooting. There’s no stopping that no matter how well you’ve planned,” she explains.



Prachi Acharya, a marketing executive at an FMCG brand, cites Mr Big getting cold feet and leaving Carrie Bradshaw at the altar in the movie Sex and the City. “Remember that? We all abused him at that time. But when I was getting married, the planning pressure got to me so bad, I thought of running away. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and everything around me was falling apart. I saw, people who I thought I knew very well, act out of character. I don’t think it's just the bride and groom, wedding stress is contagious, and affects everyone around the couple; even friends.”



The study by Zola further stated these facts...
86% of respondents suffered on an average more than three stressinduced symptoms – including skin breakouts, hair loss, loss of sex drive, insomnia, headaches

47% of couples considered eloping or getting married at a city hall
71% of those surveyed said wedding planning was more stressful than major life events, like buying a home or finding a job
On average, couples use three or more resources to plan their wedding, like spreadsheets, Google Docs, apps, services, binders and more.



Image consultant Konkana Bakshi believes brides take too much pressure over shopping for trousseau as every designer tries to sell her the most expensive wedding wear. “Brides need to know that it’s not the label but she who has to shine,” she says.

Another very important negotiation is to know your in-laws a little in advance. If there is a clash of culture, this helps anticipate it. The couple should ideally give the elders some leeway but remain firm on the parts that they wish to keep private.


THE STRESSORS

The biggest stress is planning, taking everyone’s views into account. Traditional and modern views often clash, making everyone feel exhausted, angry. Family politics doesn’t help.

The budget always shoots up – small or big weddings, which is a stress factor for the bride, groom, and their families. Expectation of a big, fat wedding makes people fall into the trap of going the whole hog (priest, pheras, huge guestlist, exquisite decor, expensive clothes et al) even if they don’t want to.



In a diverse country like ours, with varying cultures, traditions, and languages, the middle point is almost impossible to achieve, which is why the euphoria of the couple after deciding to get married is short-lived.

When last-minute fittings go wrong and gives the bride jitters – ‘have you put on weight’ isn’t something she wants to hear!

Thinking about the big transition of living with someone else, leaving home, and your comfort zone.

Too many people around when your mind wants to be still.

Last-minute jitters.

HOW TO AVOID IT

First, accept the fact that some stress will come your way. Being prepared is half the stress taken care of.

You will have to smile through some ridiculous demands and catty comments from extended families. It’s irritating, but the best way to ignore the kind of stress that you shouldn’t even be thinking about.

There are several wedding planning apps and blogs from which you can get practical advice – about problems people have faced and shared.



While it may be difficult to get a single vendor for all arrangements – it’s wise to minimise.

Treat your body more carefully than usual in the days leading up to the wedding. Eat light. Breathe deep. Keep some basic medicines handy. Acidity, indigestion, headaches, exhaustion and anxiety are the major mood dampeners.

Complete all pre-wedding formalities, shopping etc at least a week or 10 days before the wedding.


Exercise – the best antidepressant

Being chronically anxious and stressed, to a point where it starts affecting your health is not healthy. And being anxious or depressed and sedentary at the same time makes the whole situation all the more complicated. Not only does it lead to weight gain, it also slows down metabolism and causes stress eating... you end up having a lot of unused energy that should ideally be spent exercising or walking.



Depression and anxiety are becoming a huge problem for human health because it upsets the entire hormonal balance. One of the best ways out of this mess is exercise.

THE MAGIC OF ENDORPHINS



Physical movement stimulates the production of happy hormones called endorphins. Heard of “runners high”? It’s exactly that. And mind you, exercise doesn’t have to be a gym session or heavy functional training. Something as simple as a 10-15 minute walk amid nature can give you all the benefits. Endorphins are also natural pain killers.

WHAT A BREATHER!



The first thing that goes out of balance when we are stressed is our breath. It becomes quick and shallow. We either exhibit short breathing patterns or are hyperventilating. This means less oxygen going in and more carbon dioxide storage, which is why it can make us feel dizzy and nauseous. Some may even undergo an anxiety attack and pass out.
So, bringing our breath back to balance is the first step towards managing stress. Breathing is one of the quickest ways to bring our bodies from a state of “fight and flight” to a state of “rest and digest”. When you break into exercise, you start breathing better which means you start taking in more oxygen. The more oxygen you inhale, the more balanced are your levels of cortisol, progesterone, testosterone, estrogen, and androgens.

GOOD DISTRACTION



Generally, when you are depressed, you tend to focus on all the negatives. You form a shell around yourself and start to move deeper and deeper into that shell. Hence, distraction can be very useful. It could be going out, speaking to a friend, listening to music, reading a book or even exercising. If you start engaging in walking or yoga or even mild stretching, you immediately create a distraction. If you are lucky and live in a place where there is contact with nature, even better. It brings instant calmness that is going to lessen your anxiety immediately.
At the same time, it is necessary to practice balance and moderation even with exercise, especially if you are using it as a tool to manage your stress levels.
There are some people who end up burning out through exercise. This is not a good thing because over-exercising can only add up to more stress. Listen to your body, know when to stop and focus on adequate rest and recovery.

BREATHE EASY

Bringing our breath back to balance is the first step towards managing stress. Breathing is one of the quickest ways to bring our bodies from a state of “fight and flight” to “rest and digest”.



HOW TO PREP FOR MEDITATION

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to starting a meditation practice is setting the bar too high for themselves. It’s not really anybody’s fault. We don’t have too much information about what meditation truly is, and how to do it right. Most of us confuse meditation with being able to silence the mind, but that’s the aim of this practice, not the practice itself. What this means is that you will not be able to sit in silence, both externally and mentally, unless you work your way to it. And how does one do that? By meditating, of course.



Before you start your meditation practice, it is important to understand what it is.

In simple terms, meditation means a one-point focus. You may be focusing on your breath, one single thought, a mantra, a body movement, or the flame of a candle. As long you maintain that focus, you are in a meditative state. Many people think that if they are unable to stop the thoughts in their mind, they are failing at meditation. But this is not the case. The point is to learn to let the thoughts pass without engaging with them.

You have to work your way up when it comes to meditation. This means that you can’t go straight to a 45-minute meditation session, and expect to be able to sit through it. Progress slowly. Start with shorter meditations, and add a minute or two every week.

Explore different kinds of meditation to discover what your style is. Are you someone who enjoys chanting? Maybe focus on breathing?

Maybe you like music that helps you concentrate, or you prefer silence? Guided meditations?

You won’t know what your meditation style is unless you try different things.

Exercise!

Meditation requires staying still for extended periods of time. You will not be able to do this if your posture is off, or you have weak muscles. In Ashtanga yoga, one doesn’t start meditating unless they have mastered the asana practice. This is because it is believed that the body needs to be cleansed and prepared for meditation, or for the extended periods of stillness.

Maintain a meditation journal.The main purpose of any spiritual practice is to cultivate self-awareness. Meditation brings your awareness to a deeper level, and has the potential to connect you with your inner self. But it’s not magic. It won’t just happen on its own. You have to make it happen, and one of the ways to do this is to maintain a meditation journal where you track your inner journey as it progresses with your practice.

Two minutes to lift your mood

You don’t need big changes to lift your mood. Turn around your hectic day in a jiffy with a few quick tricks…

FLIP THROUGH PHOTOS
When you are feeling down, pick your childhood albums or take out your kids’ baby albums. It may actually make you feel happier than a square of chocolate. Researchers at UK’s Open University found this after they examined how much people’s moods rose after looking at personal photos. The study says viewing your old or new happy pictures makes people feel 11% better.

INHALE CALMING SCENTS
Fill your indoor space with vanilla or lavender essence. In an Austrian study, researchers wafted the smell of lavender for people. The group felt less anxious, more positive, and calmer when compared with participants not exposed to any fragrance.

OPEN THE WINDOWS
To feel happy in seconds, let sunlight stream in. One study of more than 450 women found that those who got the most light, particularly in the morning, reported better mood. Combine exercise with morning light. The exposure amplifies light’s beneficial effects on mood, sleep, and alertness.

WATCH A FUNNY VIDEO
A hearty laugh produces a chemical reaction that instantly elevates your mood. When stress builds up or you feel you may snap, make yourself giggle: Watch a funny video clip online.

CHOP VEGETABLES
Yes, this is therapy. According to Andrew Weil, MD, an integrative medicine expert, after a particularly emotional and stressful day, the act of chopping vegetables creates something wonderful – this process neutralises the negative mental state in no time.

MASSAGE YOUR HANDS
The act of massaging your hands with oil or cream and rubbing them instantly lifts your mood. Hands and wrists have your pulse points. Happiness is just a tight squeeze away. According to Matt Hertenstein, associate professor of psychology, DePauw University (Indiana, US), even 10 minutes with a massage therapist (or a generous friend) will light up your brain’s reward centre, get the oxytocin flowing, and have a big effect on your mood, not to mention help relieve aches and pains. Most scientists think that even self-massage, like rubbing your own feet, can rid you of negative emotions.

Pursuing happiness leaves you stressed

Everyone has goals in life – from career to fitness to personal life. Hashtags with goals are a hit on Instagram, like, #couplegoals, #fitnessgoals, #lifegoals… the list is endless. But all these goals have one thing in common. We pursue them in the hope of achieving happiness.

HAPPINESS vs PLEASURE



The first mistake we make — which leaves us feeling low — is that we often confuse happiness with pleasure. Our addiction to social media, and its constant affirmations, read ‘like’, retweets, compliments etc., have made us believe that the pleasure derived out of being complimented is happiness. So, any deviation from that makes us feel low.

We have all read enough to know that happiness cannot be a constant in anyone’s life. While pursuing pleasure can be a daily exercise, happiness is a long-term goal.



Now, let’s try and understand this difference from the perspective of our brains. Our brains process these two distinctly different feelings in different ways.

Pursuing pleasure activates the centres of our brain that control the production of dopamine (a chemical directly linked to addiction). For example, getting likes on a social media post pumps dopamine through our system. It also activates our “fight or flight” centre, so adrenaline is coursing through you as well. Sounds great, right? The problem is, to achieve the same high the next time, you will need a higher dose of dopamine.



The end result? If you don’t have enough dopamine (read likes, shares, retweets), you start feeling low.

Happiness, however, is caused by serotonin, not dopamine. Serotonin is regulated by different parts of the brain altogether. Unlike dopamine, serotonin is more constant. You don’t need higher doses of it to feel happy.

ADDICTIONS TRUMPS



As far as our brain function goes, serotonin, which gives you a feeling of long-term happiness and contentment, is always overshadowed by dopamine – the hits. More so, these ‘hits’ of pleasure simultaneously reduce our serotonin levels, thereby decreasing our sense of well-being. Basically, the more you seek pleasure, the less happy you eventually become.

This is why studies have shown that people who spend lots of time on social media platforms are more likely to be clinically depressed as compared to those who spend less time on it.

JUST ANOTHER EMOTION



In our relentless pursuit of happiness, we forget that it’s just like any other emotion – sadness, fear, disgust, anger... Just like they come and go, happiness too cannot be a constant. We deceive ourselves chasing constant happiness. Human beings aren’t designed to be happy all the time. And it’s normal.

LEARN TO BE CONTENT

  • Disconnect from social media every day
  • Put your phone away for a designated amount of time each day
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Think beyond yourself and your own desires. Do things that bring happiness to people you care for
  • Find a way to contribute to a social cause or volunteer work
  • Help your neighbour water her plants… do anything that will bring a smile to faces other than your own
  • Build a sense of community around you. As social animals we fare much better when we are surrounded by well-meaning people. And this involves talking and interacting with people in the real world

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