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Life Hacks For Every 20-Something Stressed Out Professional

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I had a very interesting train ride recently. Travelling is boring if we are into reading, listening to music or watching movies during the journey. What makes travel interesting, especially by public transport, is the diversity of people who are part of the journey. We can engage in conversations with people and experience their experiences, and we can also do non-verbal understanding of people by picking up cues from their behaviour.

A girl was sitting diagonally across me, and she was sitting beside an elderly couple. My initial impression was that she was travelling with them. But that changed quickly when I realised that she was never part of their conversation. They both seemed free-spirited and were chatting on animatedly, but this girl was keeping herself away from all of it. She looked very young, and it looked odd because young people, especially girls, get into conversations quickly with such elderly people.

When they tried to strike up a conversation with her, she spoke a bit, then took out a book to read and eventually went off to sleep. Years of observing and understanding cues from people told me that something about her was not right. Even the way she was sleeping didn’t feel right. After she woke up, I started talking to the elderly couple and slowly dragged her into the conversation. After they left, I continued the conversation with her. That’s when it all came out.

She is employed in a multinational company and was going on a short vacation to her parents’ home. A bit more soul searching and it turned out that she was stressed from work and was running away. To add to this, she was 23 years old. I was astounded. Stressed at 23? That is an age when we adapt to life in a jiffy even if it is on a remote island. We don’t even know what stress is at that age. That’s when I realised there is something different about her.

She realised that she is stressed and she decided to do something about it. 99% of people at her age wouldn’t have managed to do both. I have been through all of this, and I am well aware of what was bothering her. She was not stressed due to work, she was stressed due to the urban life.

They say to become successful if you can do something, do it yesterday. This is how the corporate world works and is reflected in every aspect of urban life. In the morning, everyone wants to reach office faster, and in the evening, everyone wants to reach home faster. Even travelling by public transport is stressful because everyone in the bus or train is stressed about reaching their destination faster and the effect spreads to everyone. Then there is stress from work, stress about household chores, taking care of kids, the list is endless. Cities have become huge stress engines. There is something else going on, apart from this, that we are conveniently choosing to ignore.

Normal working time is nine hours which can extend to 10 or sometimes longer. What people don’t do is to add their travel time to working hours. The travel time means the time taken for them to go to their workplace and back so that time has to be added to their working hours.

From the time we wake up in the morning, everything we do is oriented in such a way so as to make sure that we start travelling to the office at a particular time. We even wake up at a set time to accomplish this. Our goal from the moment we wake up is to reach office. After we finish work, we get back home, get our household chores done and go to sleep, only to repeat the same thing next week. So what is our agenda for the week? Reach the office.

Week after week, month after month, year after year, ‘reach the office’ is our agenda for five days a week. When life becomes this monotonous and when the stress of life in the city gets to us, who wouldn’t burn out after some time? People who force themselves to carry this for longer duration often end up with diseases, especially cardiovascular ones.

The question is, how do we pull ourselves out of this hole? Our focus has been oriented towards the same agenda through years of following its schedule. It’s time we tamper with it. Form a habit of doing some activity we look forward to doing in the morning or evening, before or after office. Going into nature is the best way to beat stress, but in the urban world, there is not much nature left to savour.

In physical activities, dancing is a great idea or a good game of badminton or table tennis. Dancing releases our good hormones which keeps us happy and confident throughout the day. Nature walks and bird photography is another great way to increase patience and focus which can help us significantly in our professional life. Such activities also help us to reduce stress.

Another idea to reduce stress from this mundane urban life is to go on trips away from the bustle of the cities. But there is a little twist here. Do the planning in the preceding weekend for the trip in the next weekend. That way, you have something exciting to look forward to, and this excitement would drown out the stress of working and travelling in the city for the entire week. There will be a countdown, and with each passing day, we will be preparing for the trip. Our mind is now not focused on the ‘reach the office’ agenda, but it keeps on working because it has become a mechanical aspect of our lives.

The most important thing to remember here is to not run without a plan. We can only run for so long and so far before we have to return to our regular lives. Running away without doing anything and returning will make life even more arduous and painful and the stress will accumulate even more. So run with a plan. Do whatever your heart desires, expend all the pent-up energy, go to the mountains and rivers, the blue and the green colours. They can absorb our negative energies and replenish us with fresh energy.

The worst thing happening to us now is that the urban life we are leading is limiting us from exploring ourselves and pushing our boundaries. Our daily lifecycle is being controlled by money based on time. Long hours in the office chairs exhaust our minds which is slowly culling our other abilities. We are falling sick because we are not listening to voices from within us and we are not giving the rejuvenation our mind and body is desperately asking for.

Finally what we need to realise is that we are all going through phases of life. This corporate phase will run its course with time, so will the time to raise our children which runs in parallel. If we exhaust ourselves in this phase of life and do not figure out our abilities and passions, we wouldn’t know what to do with our lives when this phase of life ends, and we are out of work and our kids have left us. The older generation is already suffering this fate. Ours will be disenchantment to much higher levels.

There was a Malayalam movie released two years back called “Charlie”. There are very interesting and important takeaways from the movie. The female protagonist in the movie called Tessa becomes disenchanted with work and urban life and quits both. When she returns to her ancestral home, she gets hounded for marriage and a life in the US.

She bolts, and that’s when she comes across the free-spirited Charlie. He keeps delaying having a conversation with her and when his father asks him why he replies that it’s not yet time to meet her. The reason is he wants her to first understand what she is looking for in life and why she is interested in meeting him. Without clarity in our thoughts and actions, our lives become meaningless.

I told the girl from the train that she is half Tessa now. Unless she understands herself and stops the urban life from bothering her, she will never find her Charlie. If she runs with a clouded mind, she may not even recognise her Charlie if she comes across him. Hopefully, this will motivate her to find herself and figure out her life.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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