Corona and Me: Conversations with women around the world

“I’ve had days where I would not get out of bed or bother doing my hair because it all felt so bleak”

Shalini Bhalla Lucas is an award winning author, entrepreneur, speaker, Mindfulness teacher and the founder of Just Jhoom!

Shalini hosts an inspiring Insta Live series every day at 7 PM, Kenya Time on her channel @JustJhoom where she talks to women from all round the world about how they are coping with the COVID 19 crisis.

Starting 27 Apr 2020, Shalini has handpicked women from the UK, India, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Sweden, Dubai and all over Africa including Kenya where she is currently based, to feature on the show.

The focus of these conversations is emotional wellness and mental health.

Shalini kindly invited me to join her on this wonderful journey. We had a deep conversation where we delved into these topics joined by a fantastic audience.

I’ve had a number of people from my tribe of friends asking me to upload a transcript of the conversation we had as they could not attend the live stream.

As promised, here is an excerpt!

(I’ve formatted the questions in bold and the answers in italicized font)

Shalini: Hello Archana, welcome to the show! Do you mind telling us where you are in the world and what restrictions there are where you live?

Archana: Thank you for having me Shalini! I am based in Bangalore, India. We’ve got a full lockdown here and we’re only allowed to go out for groceries, medicine and other essentials. India has been in lockdown for a while now, we’re currently at Day 36 and there’s a chance the lockdown will be extended for a couple more weeks to further flatten the curve. For a country of 1.3 billion people, coming together like this is a massive feat and I think we’ve managed to keep the incidence of infection fairly low thus far.

Shalini: How are you coping with the lockdown?

Archana: Initially, I suffered a lot of personal anxiety through the lockdown — I’ve had days where I would not get out of bed, or bother to do my hair or make my bed because everything seemed very bleak. Over time, I’ve built up the fortitude so that I don’t get swept up in the anxiety. I think choosing to focus only on what I can control and limiting my news consumption has helped a great deal.

Shalini: Thank you for being so open about this! How are your friends and family coping with the lockdown?

Archana: My family is taking this a lot better than I am, if I’m honest! My parents remind me that having a job and being able to have relatively easy access to food and clear water is something a lot of people are struggling with at the moment. And it is so important to be grateful for these things. My friends are coping in their own ways; we’ve discovered we miss little things like eating lunch together or stepping out on a Friday after work or simply sitting together in meeting rooms. Now we have video conferences and Zoom coffee meets, so we’re slowly adjusting to the new normal.

Shalini: What are your fears of the virus?

Archana: I think the magnitude of infection rates is what scares me the most. The realization that being careless could have far reaching implications not just for me but for my family and for the whole world is overwhelming. Also the fact that this is an unprecedented situation — I don’t think anything has necessarily prepared us for this scenario and it is alarming to know that while lockdown is a good way to control the spread of the disease, a protracted lockdown can mean people dying of hunger/lack of access to essentials rather than from the virus.

Shalini: What are your hopes of how this situation will turn out?

Archana: I take comfort in something that I read recently — ‘virus strains living in China/US can’t talk to virus strains living in India, but people living in these countries can talk to each other and work together to find a solution to the problem’. I think coming together may well be the thing that gets us through this situation. I believe in this very strongly. This news report of vaccines being mass-produced in India is testament to how humanity can rise to the occasion and show their best side. Additionally, I have a few friends who have volunteered to aid the government’s efforts in combating this pandemic over and above their day jobs — acts like these really restore my faith in humanity and give me hope!

Shalini: We’ve got some questions from the audience here, ‘The extra time we now have under the lockdown due to WFH has enabled me to focus on so many goals which I never had the time for. In a way I am dreading going back to work and losing all the free time and discipline I’ve built up. How would you recommend dealing with this?’

Archana: That is a great question. I recommend moving these newly formed habits/the keystone habits to the start of the day and ‘putting it in the bank’ before heading off for work once lockdown is lifted. I think the WFH set up has also helped me personally prioritize my habits and more willing to drop the ones that do not serve me. Additionally, a little bit of fluidity around making sure the highest priority habits are completed before a specific time of the day rather than being rigid about when these ought to be done also helps keep a consistent practice. Shalini, what are your views?

Shalini: I think with habits there needs to be that investment of 21 days for it to really stick. Taking time to make sure that you’re consistent for 21 days really helps cement the habit for a lifetime.

Shalini: We’ve got another question, ‘I keep having panic attacks because I am down with a slight cough. I’d like to manage this better as this makes me feel anxious all day’

Archana: Focusing on the present moment, being mindful has helped me greatly with my own struggle with anxious thoughts. Shalini, since you’re a mindfulness teacher, I think your insights on this would be fantastic.

Shalini: One of the things I do when I am feeling anxious is I put a hand on my heart and a hand on my belly to feel my racing heartbeat. When you’re anxious you’re breathing is shallow and quick and your heart’s going a mile a minute. Now, feeling my heartbeat like this, taking deep breaths and telling myself, ‘all is well’ is very effective in toning down the anxiety a few notches so I can get from thinking, “This is the end”, to “Okay, I am freaking out, but do I really need to worry this much about what is happening?” I think this really helps gain perspective of the situation when we deliberately calm our breaths and our racing heart.

Shalini: Do you have any mental health tips, or a message of encouragement for our viewers?

Archana: Above all, it is important to remember that we’re all in this together. I think this applies to more than just the COVID 19 situation. No matter what we are going through, even though it feels like a very isolated experience of the world, believe me, someone out there is feeling the exact same thing and it’s important to remember that and not be afraid.

It helps to be vulnerable and share what you’re feeling and show us exactly as you are, even if you’re a little ‘rough around the edges’ to feel united with the people around you. Remember not to hold out on yourself and to do your best.

Shalini: Thank you for that lovely message, Archana. To wrap this up, do you also mind telling us about your book?

Archana: Thanks Shalini! I’ve recently self-published my first book, “How to be a Lighthouse”. Growing up, I have noticed that there is a staggering number of voices out there in the world that inform our most important life choices — what career to choose, who to marry, when to marry, what sort of friends we should have, what field of study we ought to chose. We wade through a sea of popular opinion, and societal pressure and this tends to subdue our intuitive inner voice. My book helps you drown out these distortions to uncover what is right for you. It also helps you find the courage to see these conscious decisions through to fruition while being prepared for adversity along the way.

Shalini: I think one of our viewers just wrote on the chat that they bought your book on Kindle just now! Fantastic, thanks Archana! Please tune in to Corona and Me, every day at 7 PM Kenya Time to hear more interesting conversations with women all over the world as they brave through this pandemic.

Stay in touch!

To know more about Shalini, please visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram. ‘Corona and me’ streams LIVE on Instagram on this channel, every day 7 PM Kenya time, which is 9:30 PM India time and 5 PM UK time.

My book, ‘How to be a Lighthouse’ is available on Kindle, Kobo and Google Play. I publish 2 articles per week on Medium on topics related to self-actualization, personal growth and productivity. Feel free to drop me a line on LinkedIN, Facebook or Instagram to chat about these topics or if you need a solid pep talk!

Stay safe and be well!

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

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