We’re almost at the end of the semester, and if you’re anything like me with a propensity for staying up too late, overthinking those 4 AM thoughts till they lead you into a spiral of the Celtic Knot variety, and a penchant for curiously prodding at your feelings in an attempt towards better self-awareness, then you’re probably experiencing a case of the blues. You may disagree with me. “O Exalted One,” you may say, “it is not the blues; I simply enjoy the comfort of my cloud-like bed and the cocoon of breeze manufactured by my cooler.” Or even, “Exalted One, I’m a high-functioning sociopath with a tendency to find humans irritable for no fault of their own.” Or my favourite, “It’s too hot to be around people.”
To all of this I say, “You’re probably right.” I cannot assume to know you better than you know yourself. But when you, of the percentage that feels like they’re having an out-of-body experience because they don’t know themselves anymore, are willing to lay down your arms and make it through this unnecessarily long article, we can move towards snapping out of it – because the blues are not here to stay. As succinctly stated by the age-old adage: this too shall pass.
We all have demons that can’t be silenced no matter how hard we try; only muzzled for a little while. But what’s so wrong with that? There is a theory that happiness is a state of mind and not a state of being. That it’s not the default option of humankind. I absolutely agree. We’re stuffed with a cacophony of emotions that show themselves based on our circumstances, and when joy decides to step out from under all that crappy sadness and angst, we can’t we savour it and just be? And if it is indeed true that happiness arrives in ebbs and flows and is always well within our mind’s reach, then the questions to be answered are: how do we maximize happiness? How do we bring happiness (read: sexy) back?
Sometimes the answer is as simple as making environmental and outwardly changes. I tried this the other day because I was done wallowing on my supremely comfortable three-layered mattress while my attendance was doing its own form of wallowing. Brief Google searches showed that maybe tidying up my room, checking things off my mental to-do list and taking a long overdue bath would help shove me out of the metaphorical womb of sadness. And much like premature births, I found myself pleasantly surprised at the end-result. It worked. It may not be perfect, but I’ll take it.
- Grab a broom and (if it’s not in the category of the Nimbus 2000™) start tidying up, you Muggle.
Cleaning provides relief and freedom from clutter. Clutter, more often than not, can become a projection of the mangled mess plaguing our minds. Tidying your room, arranging your cupboard, exorcising the stale air with lavender-scented room freshener helps make a visceral difference and when we see a positive change brought to life by a tad bit of effort, it motivates us to push ourselves further for positive mental change. And hey, if the Exalted One couldn’t sway you, maybe neuroscientists from Princeton University might. Research from their January 2011 issue of the The Journal of Neuroscience shows that physical clutter has the tendency to compete for your attention, overloads your senses and hampers your ability to process information, thus leading to decreased performance and higher stress levels. Even thinking about clutter has my blood pressure rising! So get to it, Cinderella; chop, chop.
- Take a bath.
Not a shower, not a quick jump-in-jump-out-before-I’m-singed-by-this-evil-concoction-called-soap. A proper bath. Wash your hair, perform some karaoke for an imaginary audience, breathe in the steady rhythm of flowing water, relieve some stress (if you know what I mean), and voila! You’ve taken the first step towards embracing hygiene. Furthermore, keeping in mind Delhi summers and the lack of hot water in the hostels, it needs to be pointed out that cold water baths can increase tolerance to stress by drastically decreasing uric acid levels and increasing glutathione, the mother of all antioxidants which ensures that other antioxidants are functioning at optimal levels. If you’re not sold on the idea of cold showers yet, then here’s another tidbit – Cold showers produce an anti-depressive effect as the impact received by cold receptors in the skin sends a flurry of electrical impulses from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain, as studied by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine Research. Nuhlud hostel’s version of hydrotherapy for the win!
- Chip away at that to-do list.
Create a to-do list of all the work you have piled up if you haven’t already. As you reach serial number 54, brace yourself for the breathless panic that will set in. It’s okay. Ash Ketchum would have failed miserably in his quest to catch ‘em all had he not been armed with the Pokédex. A detailed outline of every task that needs to be tackled will only help you plan out your day and time in order to start checking things off with a great sense of satisfaction. The aim is not to attack and obliterate the entire list in one go, but to steadily eliminate serial number by serial number (if I was a better comedian, I would crack a serial killer joke). I take the saying ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ quite seriously. It may not earn you any medals in sprints, but even completing a paltry 5 on that list will fill you with a sense of accomplishment. There may be those who find to-do lists counter-productive. To them I say, pretending that there is no work helps only when you absolutely believe that there is no work. I find that not laying out what needs to be done facilitates the clutter in my mind because even if I can’t see a list of tasks, I’m aware that there is A LOT to be done without being able to quantify this abundance of work. Once it’s quantified, our hero can begin the journey of catching ‘em all (with Charmander as the starter Pokémon, of course).
- Sleep on time, children.
The circadian rhythm is the scientific name for your internal body clock which regulates the sleep-cycle and other biochemical, physiological and behavioural processes. It is affected by environmental cues like sunlight and temperature, and disruption of this rhythm adds to neurological problems like depression. The circadian clock determines the peaking and ebbing of cortisol and melatonin which allows our cells to establish what time it is so they can set their internal clocks to the brain’s clock. We’re the product of evolutionary development, folks, and the circadian clock is set by important external cues like light during the day and darkness at night. Basically, unbeknownst to your parents, they have always had scientific backing for their go-to-sleep-it’s-9-PM diktats. So employ some discipline, fling that laptop away from you (yes, even Macs), lock your phone (stop Instagramming!), pour water in your cooler, dim the lights and sleep. It may be difficult at first to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, but our body is a sucker for a regimented routine. And before you know it, you’ll find yourself sending your roommates to bed at 9 PM with a storybook in their hands and murder in their hearts.
- Exercise. Eggsercise. Eggs are sides.
No, but seriously. It would be completely understandable if you experience the sudden need to close this tab. I understand that even accumulating enough energy to get out of bed is a struggle, and here I am, asking you to hit the gym (or the park next to campus for those who hate those blasted treadmills). But you and I both know that the exercise improves oxygen and blood flow to the brain and facilitates the release of neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids (in short: the good stuff). This version of exercise doesn’t even have to involve strenuous weight-lifting and stamina building. Heck, even mimicking the Anaconda music video would qualify! But if you’d rather protect everyone’s delicate sensibilities, there’s always the basketball court/makeshift football field that’s packed with activity post 6:45 PM. Immerse yourself in a sport and take advantage of the budding evening sports culture that’s manifesting itself in the form of inter-batch tournaments for cricket and football. Or you could always take a walk (accompanied by Passion Pit’s upbeat track Take a Walk) from the hostel, past the parking area, past the cafeteria to the Amul store…and now that you’re out here, you might as well keep walking past the Acad block, the Library, the auditorium, the generators… Oh wow, you’ve taken one round of the campus? How about another? And of course, it’s going to be hard – our minds can create barriers that bricks and walls cannot fathom; those blues really know how to hijack the brain. But it’s only a matter of 20 odd minutes, and the probability of a positive end-result far outweighs the improbability. So give it a tiny shot? One small push? I know you can do it.
- Eat chocolate.
That made you perk up, didn’t it? Research shows that chocolate contains chemicals like magnesium, anandamide (A.K.A. chocolate amphetamine) and phenylethylamine which aids in beating the blues. Chocolate also raises levels of serotonin in the brain – as do certain antidepressants along with boosting energy through blood-sugar levels. However, you know what they say about too much of a good thing. A chocolate rush is often followed by a crash which may worsen the blues. So exercise control, chocoholics; nibble, don’t binge.
And with that last bit of advice, I’d like to end the first part of a two part article on beating these dastardly blues. As this segment covered the more external and physical nature of escaping the blues, the next segment will focus on the mental – it will be a test of the mind. In parting, here’s a haiku by the Haiku Comic:
When I want to stop
feeling blue, here’s what I do:
Stop holding my breath.
(Read Part II of the series here.)