Events that have unfolded since March 2020, mostly involving the Covid-19 pandemic as well as other social and political issues, have given rise to another problem that’s affecting millions of people all over the world. Burnout. From executives down to the ranks and files of large corporations, professionals in the academia, parents, students, and everyone else in between, the emotional rollercoaster ride that we’ve all been forced to face over the last year has finally given way for a more profound form of exhaustion to set in–one that can’t be shaken by one night of eight to nine hours of sleep (although that helps too).
In fact, it’s gotten so bad that a survey conducted in January this year showed that four out of 10 adults in the U.S. say that they are experiencing symptoms of either anxiety or depressive disorder. To show just how significant this number is, in 2019, only one in every 10 adults reported experiencing these conditions.
Protecting our well-being has become a major subject these days, which is why many turn to experts on various disciplines that promise to do just this for help. Thara Prashad is one such expert. Considered as one of the most promising singers of her time, she left the music industry to become a full time yoga and meditation teacher as well as the owner of her very own studio. She has been teaching yoga for 12 years now. She is also a health coach and a Karuna Reiki healer.
I recently had the chance to talk to Thara about preserving one’s well-being. Below, you can read some of her answers to questions that I’m pretty sure many of us have been asking ourselves for the last 12 months.
Put very simply, how would you describe the effects of the pandemic on people’s psychological and physiological well-being? What are some of the biggest shifts that you’ve observed?
This pandemic has had so many effects on our well-being. I think one of the biggest difficulties is people living in fear. There is already so much unknown in our world and this really just exacerbated that. I’ve also noticed a dramatic increase in people experiencing anxiety. A big part of anxiety comes from wanting to control things in life, and we really lost that battle over the last year. And I believe isolation has become a large issue. Even now as the world reopens, some people are so fearful and filled with anxiety that the idea of being back in a room of people could induce a panic attack. It is just so much to manage for everyone.
How exactly can yoga and meditation help people better manage their anxiety or depression? For individuals out there who are suffering from these conditions due to the pandemic, do you have any specific advice as to how they can start incorporating these practices to their routine?
Yoga and meditation can definitely help with managing anxiety and depression. That is precisely why I became so connected to the practice and exactly why I wanted to share it with others. Increased oxygen, decreased cortisol levels and release of hormones like oxytocin and dopamine scientifically help to improve mood.
My advice is pretty simple – start! There will never be an exact right time, you will never be exactly ready, but just start! Start with 5 minutes of meditation. That’s it. Start with a breathing exercise for 5 minutes. Start by stretching your body for 5 minutes the moment you wake up. Just start! And every week, add a little more time. We get so caught up in the all or nothing mentality when so often the beauty is actually in creating these little shifts that when added together will create lasting change.
For someone who has no experience doing yoga or meditation, where do they begin? Is there a specific type of yoga practice that you’d recommend? Who can they get in touch with?
I think that the beauty of meditation and yoga practices is that there are so many different types to suit all the different people in this world. So I wouldn’t say that there is an exact answer to this question. I would say, find a local studio and take a class. If you vibe there great and if you don’t find another studio. Keep looking until you find a space and a teacher that feels right for you. Or you can even connect with me on www.SpiritWarriorNation.com and we can set up virtual privates. I have lots of videos on my IG, Youtube and spotify that will take you through guided meditations and yoga practices as well. Over the years, I have tried many different practices and depending on what cycle of life I am in, they each serve me differently. So my biggest piece of advice here is to be open; open to the possibilities, open to trying new things, open to the shifts that are available to you. We don’t have to be controlled by fear or anxiety or depression. I am not saying yoga and meditation remove these things or take the place of medical care but I am saying they can be incredible tools in your wellness kit. And we all know we need that!
You are also a nutritionist, can you tell us about the importance of nutrition in relation to mental health?
I was so lucky to understand the connection between what I was eating and how it would make me feel, in my late teens. Once I understood this, I immediately wanted to dig deeper. I felt like we were being so poorly guided when it came to nutrition 20 years ago. I grew up eating frosted flakes and pop tarts for breakfast and cookies and milk for my after school snack! I had no understanding of how much sugar I was consuming on a daily basis and how much that could be affecting my moods. When I hired my own health coach, I was introduced to the subtle shifts that I could make in my eating habits that could yield great results. Simple things like only having fruit first thing in the morning; good use of the natural sugars as an energy source and also good for your gut. Getting more greens into each meal to help nourish your body with vitamins and minerals. So often we are lacking nutrition which makes our bodies feel off and sluggish. When I have too much sugar or caffeine, my anxiety level spike! Then when I crash, feelings of depression set in. And for someone who has these tendencies, this is not a good thing. I got really clear that a moment of satisfaction wasn’t always worth the long-term effects on my mood. I love finding healthy alternatives to flavors that I love, like cookie dough made with all clean and good for you ingredients. It’s still super yummy but without the negative effects on how I feel afterwards. Our bodies are meant to be energetic and thriving machines, if we fuel them the right way. So I try to focus on making sure the foods I eat are nourishing my body and my spirit so that I can feel my best for my day.
As a mother of two, a wife, teacher, an entrepreneur, you obviously have a lot on your plate. How do you stop yourself from getting overwhelmed and experiencing burnout? What key lessons would you tell people who are also trying to juggle multiple things and are–whether they recognize it or not–on the brink of burning out?
You are 100% right, I have a lot on my plate! Juggling everything is not always easy no matter how much l love my job or my kids or my husband. It can get busy, and I can get tired both mentally and physically. I have had a few moments come up over the course of the pandemic but slowing down and just allowing myself to pause always helps. And no self-judgment. Ease back on yourself and the to do list and do a little more resting as needed. A little pause will always serve you well.
There are also a few things that I do to make sure I’m taking care of me on a daily basis.
- Set phone boundaries. – Not everything or everyone is an emergency. I feel like our phones have made us so accessible. And when you’re running multiple businesses, that can become very overwhelming. I don’t always pick up and I don’t always reply right away, and that has nothing to do with you but everything to do with me. I have to set my parameters for when I can speak and when I can reply and it shouldn’t take away from me being present for what I’m doing at that moment.
- Take movement breaks. – I try to only take one day off from exercise because I know that my mental health is better when I’m active. I have lots of different things I do from yoga to strength training, to trampolining to body weight boot camps, depending on my mood. I work out at the studio, gym or at home. Or I go for a solid walk, but I always try to move daily. It makes a huge difference in how I feel. And I don’t let the kids stop me. If they’re home with me, I pull out mats for them and let them do their thing while I do mine. Or I put them in the wagon and pull them on my walk. I just know that I have to get it in, because that’s what makes me feel my best.
- Meditate daily. – Our world is so busy and so noisy. We have to make time to be with ourselves, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, I do it. It keeps me calmer. And it allows me to check in with myself. See how I’m doing. Do I feel energized or do I just want to lay down for 10 minutes? Am I feeling anxious or am I at ease? Is my mind racing with random thoughts? Funny enough, most of my best ideas come to me during meditation. I’m finally quiet enough to hear them. So I always have a journal handy to jot down ideas that pop up. And I always feel better after I’ve made that time for myself, because ultimately I’ve made myself a priority. As women, I know we often feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, but we can’t pour from an empty cup so I like to refill mine often.
To learn more about Thara and how she can help you go deeper and make shifts in the body, mind, and spirit, you may visit her website, www.SpiritWarriorNation.com, or follow her Instagram and Facebook accounts (@TharaNatalie).
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