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. Things have 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.
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 few months.
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?
We live at a time when there’s so much uncertainty and recent events really just exacerbated that. Stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high, and one of the biggest difficulties many face is the fact that they are constantly afraid. A big part of this comes from wanting to control things in life, and we really lost that battle over the last year. Isolation, of course, played a major role. And even now as the world reopens, many still fear the idea of being stuck inside their rooms again for weeks–so much so that it even induces panic attacks. 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 into 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 a 5-minute 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.
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. 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.
You are also a nutritionist, can you tell us about the importance of nutrition in relation to mental health?
I love that more people are finding out about the relationship between the two these days. Yes, what you eat affects your mental health. For one, your gut health heavily influences your mood, ability to concentrate, etc. So when it’s not in good shape, chances are, your mood and ability to perform tasks will also be affected. Then there’s your sugar levels and all the other enzymes that your body produces depending on your activities and the food you ingest. My general advice, try to always go for whole foods and avoid processed sugar. Our bodies are meant to be energetic and thriving machines. They can be if we fuel them the right way. So try to focus on making sure the foods I eat are nourishing your body and your spirit so that you can feel your best.
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. 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. 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.
- 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. Believe me when I say it will keep you calmer and allow you to really see how you’re 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?
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).