Being “Man Enough”

It took me a couple years to dissect the phrase “be a man” because it was always subtly thrown around at my brother or to some other man in my life. Now that I have understood the true message behind this phrase, I realize that it is complete bullshit. Being and feeling “enough” should not be gendered. Everyone is entitled to having emotions AND displaying those emotions. A man should not be primed to believe that he does not have the right to show those emotions.

A big thing that I’ve tried to incorporate into my relationship with my younger brother (who is currently 13 years old!), along with the help of my amazing cousin, is demolishing the gender divide when it comes to being who we are as humans.

Arya, my brother, has big emotions. We’re similar in that way, however, I express my emotions slightly more than he does and that has to do with the way we were both raised. We were raised to suppress all emotions, except for happiness. Little did we know that we can not portray happiness without portraying all the other emotions. In the world that we’re living in, unlearning this phenomenon and learning how to feel everything is somewhat easier for women than it is for men. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that Arya was not going to enter adulthood feeling numb to all his emotions and succumbing to the ridiculous patriarchal rules attributed to “what it means to be a man.”

I felt like I had truly succeeded when one day I got a text from him saying that he just had a sob session after watching some Anime show. When I tell you I was jumping for joy, I was jumping for joy. This was a huge breakthrough because he had never expressed his feelings after watching something because again he was subtly trained to believe that “men don’t cry.” So for him to allow himself to unlearn and learn that it is completely valid, okay, and human for him to cry during an emotional time made me feel like I was on top of the freaking world.

Justin Baldoni’s podcast, The Man Enough Podcast, has been revolutionary for me and I’m in love with it. It’s making me cry, unlearn, relearn, and be compassionate. It’s making me feel and see things from a different light and I think we can also use this as we navigate through life and hopefully one day get rid of this gendered idea of our personalities.

“The Freshman 15”

The 4 years of undergraduate years are when us adolescents do the most growing – socially, academically, internally. Thus, many of us go through a phase of fat-phobia thanks to our societal norms. We’re so deadly afraid of gaining a few pounds that we start counting calories, starving ourselves, eat a bar of ice cream the whole day, workout way too much, and the most harmful – compare our beautiful bodies to other people’s and think that we are not enough.

I took the time I had at home during 2020 to try to heal my relationship with food and my body. I wouldn’t say I’m completely healed, but I do realize that the relationship is so much better than what it was a couple years ago. However, now that I’m in college, I keep getting triggered by the things that people around me continue to say or do. It feels like everyone I meet only cares about the amount of calories in a particular food or how they don’t eat Peanut Butter like I do because they’ll get fat if they do or how they’re going to workout extra tomorrow for all the “bad” stuff they ate today. Can we just get over it? Can we just realize that it does not freaking matter how fat or how skinny you are?

Of course the phase “The Freshman 15” does not help matters AT ALL. Who ever coined this phrase and embedded it into college students’ and their parents’ minds is ridiculous. It is inevitable to put on a few pounds in college. You don’t sleep as much. You can’t always have total control over the food you eat. You may consume alcohol on a weekly basis. It’s inevitable. What this phrase essentially implies is that students should aim to stay skinny in college – no matter what. #bullshit

College is so much freaking pressure y’all. And the way you look should NOT be adding onto that pressure because it doesn’t matter. Clearly, we all need to do some HARD work to heal our relationships with our bodies and foods.

Falling Off Track in College

Back home I was super disciplined and lowkey had my life figured out. My mornings were something that I took immense pleasure in because they were structured and gave me clarity. I enjoyed waking up to the loud chirping of the birds and the beam of sunlight on my forehead that escaped between the curtains. I adored the moments leading up to drinking my morning cup of coffee as I got ready to journal, meditate, and workout.

Now, as a full-time college student, my mornings have been anything but structured. I really did try to maintain them the first week of college: I woke up at 5:00am every day, got a meditation and a workout in, didn’t skip breakfast – I was doing great at being an adult. However, starting from the second week of college, I just completely lost my structured morning routines – no longer sleeping enough, working out, eating. This has to do with the fact that I am now staying up WAY later than I’m used to because college is not just about academics. It’s also about our social lives and unfortunately for me, social interactions tend to be a lot more fun only post 10:00pm 😉.

I now wake up feeling burnt tf out – not just because I sleep later, but because college is so much work ya’ll. We have to study hard, make our own food, be social creatures, attend club meetings, keep up with extracurriculars, talk to our families, take care of ourselves physically AND mentally. It’s exhausting.

I catch myself feeling so freaking guilty and anxious when I have to skip meditating or working out because time does not allow for it or because my body is just so tired. I started hating on myself for failing to take care of myself. Meditation and exercise were my sources of therapy every day. It was during these allotted periods of time that I could let go of the world and just tap into myself. Therefore, no longer having those moments to myself is anxiety-provoking.

To cope with these newfound emotions due to the sudden change of routine and lifestyle I had to constantly remind myself of the following:

  1. Not everything can be planned for. Life is unpredictable and I cannot control every single situation.
  2. Sleep is just as important as meditation/exercise, so it’s okay if I skip a day or two if that means I get some extra hours of sleep in.
  3. I do not work out to look a certain way. I work out because of the way it makes me feel – internally. Don’t get caught up in this superficial BS that most college students are hung up on.
  4. The days I stayed up late to go party or meet up with people are filled with good memories! So don’t feel guilty for wanting to make the most of college and create amazing memories.

For any of you folks who may also be feeling something similar, just know that we’ll get through it. We’ll reflect back on our undergrad years and think “Damn, we squeezed the living life out of every opportunity that came our way and we worked our butts off, and we also had an immense amount of fun while doing so.”

6 Months of Using the Five Minute Journal

I completed my first Five Minute Journal recently and I can’t help but feel a bit proud of myself. I’ve never been able to make a consistent habit of journaling up until this point.

The fact that the Five Minute Journal only takes five minutes or less to complete made it so much easier for me to incorporate into my morning/night routines. There were, of course, still days when I forgot to journal, but I still kept up with the practice for 6 months!

Here are 2 examples of my early entries that brought a smile to my face 🙂

As I reflected on my entries, I noticed some common themes.

  1. I’ve started to love my body a lot more. One of my biggest insecurities has always been my body, so reading the entries and seeing how my self-body image has been improving brought me so much joy.
  2. I am the happiest and least anxious when I am with family, friends, and nature. I never realized that this was such a big deal for me until I re-read the entries. I can now intentionally carve out time to be with my closest people and go out in nature as often as I can so that I can have some mental peace.
  3. My job makes me so anxious. I should write and state affirmations to myself to enable me to think past the negativity and focus on the things that I can control.

I think the important part about journalling, which I only recently understood, is that it doesn’t really help (at least for me) in the moment. Sometimes it may feel like a burden or a hassle to sit down and write. Journaling is so much more effective when we take that minute or two to go back and read our entries because we literally see our evolution on the pages. I saw how I changed my perception of my body, for example, as I kept reading through the entries. Journalling provides subtle, yet drastic effects and I think that’s why so many people are always stressing the importance of it.

Reflecting on My First Week of College

It has been nearly a week since college started, which means it has been a week since I left home and moved into my own apartment (I share it with 3 other girls, so it’s not like I’m entirely alone). I wanted to take the time to be vulnerable and share some of the ups and downs that I’ve had this week as a result of this change. 

First off, my college is only 20 minutes away from my home (thank God!), so it’s easy for me to go back home regularly and meet my family (homesickness is real ya’ll!). However, it’s the whole idea of transitioning into adulthood and learning to live on my own that has been scary. 

My high school calculus teacher actually sent me this article a couple days ago and I think it perfectly encapsulates everything that I’ve been feeling recently. 

College is drastically different from high school. There isn’t a set schedule everyday. You don’t meet the same people everyday. And if you live on your own, you have to make sure you feed yourself because your parents are no longer hounding you to take care of yourself. 

I’ve always been independent, but at the same time, I’m a HUGE homebody. Therefore, this week has been extremely stressful, anxiety-provoking, and very lonely. However, there were also moments of joy, laughter, and fulfillment. 

It’s hard being an adolescent. It’s hard trying to flutter through our daily lives and constantly wonder what is going to happen next. Will we be loved by our friends? Will we do well academically? Are we being validated? It’s hard, but that’s the point. There’s beauty in trying to find our way through both the internal and external struggles. Some days were so freaking hard when I was alone and didn’t have my brother nagging me to watch Netflix or my Mom yelling at me for something or my family eagerly waiting for me to play Catan with them. But it’s important to remember that we are social creatures and we need nurturing relationships with people (aside from our family). These relationships will be found in college. We just have to be patient and be willing to accept the change. 

I’m going to end this post by repeating what Lisa Sugarman said: 

“So, I’ll say the exact same thing to you that I said to my own daughters when they went off to school. Give it some time, be patient, and remember that putting yourself out there and taking risks can be the one thing that changes everything.”

Update on Catapult #4

I made the decision to catapult into the world of meditation on July 5th, 2021.

Here’s what I wrote on that day:

“So, I am going to TRY to do the Isha Kriya meditation at least once every day and we’ll see if I am able to keep this up for 3 months. 

My goal in catapulting myself into the world of meditation is to learn to think and feel broader than the boundaries set by my mind and body. I don’t think meditation will “cure” my anxious thoughts, but I do think it will help me become more aware and better at coping with them.”


Oh boy, I most definitely did not meditate once every day. Some days I straight up just forgot. Other days I got incredibly anxious that I’d have to sit down for 15 minutes and possibly fall off schedule, so I prioritized work over meditation (which is so terribly wrong because mental health comes before anything else!). There was also a week in July where I went to Florida for vacation and so, I did not make the time to meditate even though I had more than enough time to do so!

However, I have been a lot more regular with my meditation since the last couple of weeks (though I still have missed a few days).

Here are some of the things that I’ve discovered during the course of my super early meditative practice:

  1. My most effective meditations have been during the mornings. One day last week, I meditated at 5:30am and it was so freaking beautiful. Nature was in the phase of transforming to the daylight, but it was still trying to hide away from the light for as long as possible. And I just felt all of that energy as I sat down to meditate. Most days, I’ve been meditating at anywhere between 6:00-8:00am. I found that when I try to meditate at night, it is still a nice feeling, but I zone out a lot more easily compared to when I do it in the morning.
  2. The meditation that I practice is Sadhguru’s Isha Kriya (linked below). This is broken up into 3 stages: breath work, sound, and music. During the breath work stage, you have to inhale when Sadhguru repeats “I am not the body” and exhale when he says “I am not even the mind.” This keeps tripping me up because at times I catch myself thinking “If I’m neither the body or mind, then what the hell am I?” I’d appreciate any answers for this question!!
  3. I do think that I notice my anxious periods a lot more quickly after having done this meditation for a couple weeks now. However, I don’t know how to detach or stop myself from continuing to have those anxiety symptoms once I notice them. So, I guess I’m still working on that.

All in all, I am so far away from even tapping into a glimpse of what regular practice of meditation offers. However, the fact that I’m able to wake my ass up and take 15 minutes to sit in stillness in this fast-paced world already feels like a huge accomplished feat, so I’m going to cherish that.

I will continue to catapult into meditation and hopefully, one day will reach that point of ultimate enlightenment (will obviously keep ya’ll updated) 🙂

Chewing Gum and Anxiety

I hear my heartbeat in my ears and feel as though I’m not getting enough air to breathe in and out. My chest tightens and my throat closes. Sweat develops in my armpits, forming embarrassing sweat stains on my tshirts. Repeating: You’re okay. Just breathe. does nothing to alleviate my symptoms. 

This is when I remember to open up my backpack and grab a piece of EXTRA peppermint gum. I start chewing, and almost immediately my chest and throat open up. I no longer feel like I’m fighting to simply breathe. My heart is still rapidly beating, but it’s no longer pulsing in my ears and preventing me from focusing on the task at hand. 

Chewing gum is my go-to method for ensuring my anxiety does not spiral out of control. When I began to notice how my habit of chewing gum and anxiety were linked together, I did some quick research and found that there’s actually science that backs up this idea:

  • “A study out of Swinburne University found that people who chew gum while multitasking under stress had lower cortisol levels, reduced levels of stress and anxiety, and increased levels of alertness and performance. Another found that chewing gum can improve a negative mood, and increase levels of peace and calm.” – Inc.com
  • “The ancient Greeks and Mayans chewed on tree resin, while the first “chewing gum” was made in the 1800s from a type of rubber known as chicle (yup, the same stuff Chiclets were named after!). While today’s gum tastes a lot better, the ancient Greeks and Mayans may have been on to something— studies suggest the ancient chewers may have felt less stress than their non-gum-chewing counterparts” – Greatist

Keeping this evidence and my own personal experience in mind, it’s crucial to understand that gum does NOT cure anxiety – it only provides temporary relief. Additionally, just because this works for me and for some others, does NOT mean that it will have the same effects on you. 

Identifying a mechanism to help yourself bounce out of the anxious period – whether that be chewing gum, cold showers, running, etc. – can greatly improve your work ethic, mood, and enable you to attempt to remain in the present moment. 

Other mechanisms that help my anxiety (but are not as immediately accessible as chewing gum):

  • Walks in nature
  • Long showers
  • Driving with music or a podcast
  • Working out and sweating A LOT
  • Watching a movie with my family 
  • Writing/Blogging

Why the Physician Mental Health Questionnaire is Ineffective for Adolescents

Whether it be for a sick visit or an annual check-up, my doctor’s office always has me fill out a “Mental Health Questionnaire.” The questionnaire essentially consists of numerous statements with a scoring criteria. For example, one statement could be written as “feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge” and the right hand columns will have a 0 for “not at all,” 1 for “several days,” 2 for “more than half the days,” and 3 for “nearly every day.” As I circle a number for each statement, I arrive at the end where I am required to tally up the numbers and give myself a score. 

This questionnaire has been a recent requirement, which I appreciate as it shows that mental health is becoming more of a priority in medicine. However, there are a couple drawbacks to this that I feel defeats the whole purpose of having pediatric patients fill this out. 

For starters, minors are accompanied by their parents for these doctor visits. Therefore, parents are sitting next to them when children fill out these questionnaires. It can sometimes be uncomfortable and hard to honestly answer the questions because there’s a high probability that our parents are looking over our shoulders to see what we’re writing down. This automatically skews the answers and deems the questionnaire ineffective. 

The other major con of this questionnaire is that most doctors don’t even look at it or mention it during the visit. Out of all the years I’ve been required to fill this out, only one doctor took the time to send my mom out of the room and talk to me about my answers. The rest of the physicians didn’t even look at my responses.

What does this convey to pediatric patients? 

When the physicians didn’t even bother to take a few minutes to check in with how I was doing mentally, it conveyed to me that getting my ears, eyes, heart, and the rest of my body was more important to them than understanding the way I was feeling mentally. 

It also showed me that physicians may not be taught medicine from a holistic standpoint. Especially in the U.S, medicine is more about analyzing a patient’s somatic symptoms and arriving at a diagnosis for further treatment. Therefore, physicians are likely to overlook symptoms of depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, bipolar disorder, etc. because they are so focused on the issues of the physical body.  

The questionnaire was a great starting point to prioritize mental health in medicine. However, it is now time to step it up a notch. This could be done by requiring doctors to take time out of the visit to have conversations about mental health. This, not only will help children who recognize that they are mentally struggling, but will also raise awareness for the children who are not aware of mental health and mental illnesses. 

Sleep is a Waste of Time

Note: This post is also published on happy2thrive.org

“I sleep only 4 hours a day,” one says. 

Someone replies, “Wow, that’s impressive! You must be so productive and hardworking.”

“Yeah, I am. Sleep is a waste of time. Every second you’re sleeping, you’re missing out on a chance to accomplish all your life goals.” 

Since when has our productivity become linked with our physical and mental health? Although incorrect, society continues to teach the growing generation that hard work trumps everything. Known as the “Hustle Culture,” it has been ingrained in children early on that if they are not constantly at their maximum productivity, they’re falling behind in life.

But on whose standards has that person fallen behind? Who deems how hard someone must work to achieve their own life goals? Who says that you can’t achieve all your goals in life while also making room for sleep, food, exercise, family, and friends? 

The modern education system thrives on “Hustle Culture”. Students are provided a motive to put their health on the backburner simply for grades and the “pride” of making it onto the Honor Roll or Dean’s List. Many social media influencers glorify “Hustle Culture” and toxic productivity by posting content of themselves up at 4:00 am and working until 11:59 pm. Parents support “Hustle Culture” by comparing other children to their own. 

This is nonsense. 

There is no point in staying up to work if the work you do is of bad quality! It is not necessary to sacrifice your health for your dreams and aspirations. In fact, there is no way you will attain those aspirations if you sacrifice yourself in the process. 

Hustle culture inevitably leads to burnout, which is defined as a “state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”

According to Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola in the 1900s:  

“Imagine life as a game in which you’re juggling 5 balls in the air. You can name them work, family, health, friends, and spirit. And you’re keeping all of these things in the air. You will soon understand that work is like a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls are made of glass. If you drop them, they’ll be scuffed, damaged, and potentially even shattered. They will never be the same again.” 

With the constant stimulation from the outside world, we become our worst enemies. We feel guilty if we take a day to just relax because all of the celebrities and “successful” people supposedly never stop “hustling.” But do not forget, social media shows us only the best of people, rarely the worst.

Don’t compare yourself to others’ standards. Compare yourself to the holistic standards of your mind and body combined. Productivity should not come at the price of your health, family, friends, and ultimately, yourself. 

Be present. Be mindful. And be “productive,” in your own way. 

Sources:

Less Anxious in Warmer Weather

This may sound trivial, but I’ve recently (meaning two days ago) realized how dependent my mood is on the weather. For the past couple of months, weather in NJ has been shitty to say the least. Spontaneous snow storms, cold nights, frosty mornings.

I remember when quarantine first started in March 2020, I was heavily dependent on my morning walks/jogs, afternoon bike rides, driveway workouts because these were the only ways for me to get out of my anxious head and focus on something else. I even slept with my windows open because feeling the energy of Nature made me feel less suffocated and more liberated. As November and December came rolling around, I was no longer able to continue those activities nor was I able to leave the windows open because the weather was not allowing me to. That’s when, I realized, my anxiety started spiraling.

I am in awe with the fact that my anxiety is far better when I am in contact with Nature. This explains why the winter months are sometimes exhausting to get through because I have no damn escape route.

These last 2 days, Mother Nature turned around and the weather has been absolutely beautiful. I’ve gone on hour long walks and absorbed all the energy radiating not only from Nature itself (the sun, trees, wind), but also from the other families I see and their kids running around chaotically. It’s remarkable and makes me feel so wholesome. I feel so much more connected to myself and the rest of the world.

After spending simply an hour outside, I find myself more ready to attend classes and do the same amount of mentally draining work without feeling so deeply anxious all the time.

Let me know if any of you feel the same way!