Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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Mind Love Life Stories Advice Wellness

How I finally started taking responsibility for my own choices

I have always found it difficult to deal with change. When I was younger, I hated it when teachers would switch up the seating chart a few weeks into the school year. I didn’t really understand the concept of a raincheck, and I found a lot of comfort in the fact that my family chose the same Chinese restaurant whenever we went out for dinner.

Recently, the changes in my life have become more frequent and more drastic, and a lot of said changes now have that tricky added element of autonomy. But ever since I started to have some say in how things panned out, it dawned on me that I could alter the entire trajectory of my life with a single choice, a single misstep in the right or wrong direction. I developed a damning tendency to get emotionally overwhelmed and find myself trapped in these unhealthy “what if?” loops that only really led to acute anxiety and emotional disconnect.

The first real wave of this hit when I started university. I had moved abroad to study (an opportunity I worked my ass off for) and had been looking forward to for a long time. But all I could think about was whether or not I was doing the right degree or if I should have convinced my father to let me go to one of the other schools I got into. Would I really have been better off if he had agreed? You get the picture. 

In an attempt at finding some semblance of peace amongst the pandemonium, I started going to these Buddhist meditation sessions that were held at the student union on Wednesday afternoons. One day, the organizers had invited a guest speaker to share his experience of an extreme retreat that he took part in that previous summer. For the life of me, I can’t even recall the man’s name. But, I’ll never forget one thing he said. 

After he finished telling the story, he opened the floor for questions. I tentatively raised my hand, and he nodded in my direction. “What was the hardest part?”

He looked at me thoughtfully for a few seconds before answering, “learning to trust the process.”

He paused, and I remember feeling the words hovering in the air.

Learning to trust the process.

He went on to say that despite how difficult it had been to grasp, it was by far the most rewarding part of the whole experience. In a way, it gave him his life back. He stopped agonizing over every waking moment, wondering what he was doing, asking himself why he was doing it or thinking about how it could be different. He was no longer diminishing moments or feelings or choices down to “good” or “bad” ones. Instead, he had made a conscious decision to trust the process.

No one had put it that way before. It wasn’t about putting my faith in a God who may or may not exist. It wasn’t about “going with the flow” or leaving things up to fate. This was about taking responsibility for the choices I made and choosing to trust what came with them. 

It has stuck with me ever since.

It’s safe to say that I’m still learning. The inherent discomfort with life’s inevitable variance has held on tight for the (nearly) 23-year-ride and found a home for itself in some hard-to-get-to place in my adult psyche. But I’m working with it. 

I’m learning that trust is not my strong-suit, and that I’ll probably be working on it for a long, long time. I’m learning to look at changes in pace or plans as serendipitous rather than scary. And most importantly, I’m learning that its okay to let go of the stories I’ve written for myself in my head.

Health Care Mind Love Life Stories Wellness

I’m Muslim – and we struggle with mental illness, too.

“But you seem so confident!”

“You seem to always come to congregational prayers.”

“Just be positive and put your trust in God – you’ll be fine!”

Yes, my Muslim friends, aunties, and uncles in my community have said these to me.

Mental health and Muslims do not always mix, unfortunately. This is true for religious communities too who believe that a healthy mental outlook comes from a “proper” relationship with God. As a practicing Muslim who loves her faith and finds solace in it, my religious practices were not enough for me to go about my daily routine with depression and anxiety – I needed help from trained mental health professionals.

Indeed, in a time of Islamophobia as the norm and Muslims suffering from mental health disorders, many mental health professionals may tell Muslims to abandon their faith and use only medication (which I am not against) or engage in practices that may be incongruous with a Muslim person’s values. 

What’s more, stigma prevents many Muslims from going to mental health care practitioners because they fear judgment about their faith.

And if a woman wears a hijab, she may feel even more judged and not willing to open up honestly about her suffering and struggles.

As someone who had struggled with my own mental health, I sought professional help while in graduate school from someone who did not share my faith but she was great, nevertheless. I did find myself not saying everything on my mind and instead of explaining things happening in my life from a religious perspective, I used other terminology to explain myself.

Recognizing that having someone to speak with who would not judge me for how I use religion to see the world, I was grateful that I found The Khalil Center based in Chicago, with additional locations in California and New York. They address mental health from trained Muslim mental health professionals who take Islam seriously and use religion as a tool for mental wholeness.

These professionals are psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed social workers who are trained in cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, psychiatric evaluations, religious consultations, pre-marital evaluations, and the Islamic religion in all its nuanced interpretation. The Khalil Center also has web therapy services so if you do not reside in any of the physical locations, this is a great option in the age of so many technological options.

As I researched more into mental health wellness with an Islamic perspective, I found valuable learning materials that were connected to an Islamic heritage.

For example, Dr. Malik Badri published a translated primary book in Arabic by a ninth-century Muslim physician, Abū Zayd al-Balkhī’s Sustenance of the Soul: The Cognitive Behavior Therapy of a Ninth Century Physician. This author has insights on human psychopathology as well as diagnoses of psychological ailments including stress, depression, fear and anxiety, phobic and obsessive-compulsive disorders, together with their treatment by cognitive behavior therapy with a reflection on the human relationship with God.

Just take that in for a second – a ninth-century person’s mental health diagnoses is what many 20th-century professionals were suggesting.

In addition to the Khalil Center, the Institute of Muslim Mental Health is also working to destigmatize Muslims from seeking mental health.  The institute publishes a peer-reviewed journal, has a thorough search bar for finding therapists, and has several resources for educating Muslims and professionals on the importance of encouraging and learning about mental health from an Islamic perspective.

The Yaqeen Institute is based out of Texas and has publications not only on Islam and mental health but many other questions that Muslims may have about Islam and the modern world. This website has great informational videos, animations, and published articles, including Islamic spirituality and mental wellbeing, how to be a mindful Muslim with an exercise in meditation and an infographic on mindfulness. 

Muslims are humans like anyone else, and we can struggle with mental health. 

While Muslims’ level of practice to their faith is on a spectrum like other groups, they want to be able to go to a therapist and not be judged since telling a stranger your struggles is about vulnerability. Many Muslim communities are doing an amazing job on recognizing that belief in God and commitment to one’s religion is not enough for a peaceful inner world.

Organizations like the ones listed are being supported by the Muslim community and more of them are opening up. Muslims should also educate other therapists, to the extent possible, with what they need from therapists.

And, hopefully, mental health professionals can learn to be intersectional in their approaches as clients are becoming more diversified with the growing diversity of Americans and mental health struggles that do not discriminate by race or religion.

Love Life

5 things I’ve learned from being a dog mom

Last week my puppy, Shiloh, turned one year old. That meant two things: one, he’s reached his full form and two, the hardest puppy months are finally over. I got Shiloh from an old high school friend who has his mom, Suzie. We knew his dad was smaller than Suzie, but how big Shiloh was going to get was still a mystery.

Fast forward 12 months: we now know he’s huge! He’s also potty-trained to go outside, he picks up commands pretty fast, and he’s stopped chewing on things. These things make it so much easier to care for him, although his puppy energy is still on a thousand from the moment he wakes up to right before I decide we’re going to bed.

Shiloh is an emotional support dog. I spend a lot of time working from home and he helps with making me feel less alone. When my anxiety is bad he helps me be more present. When I don’t feel like getting out of bed, he forces me to get up by either barking at me or nibbling at my hands suggesting that he needs us to go “outside.” The coolest part about having Shiloh has been getting to know his personality. He gets very excited about anything, loves every food but lettuce, fetch and tag are his favorite games, babies confuse him, he has trust issues with new people, and is very protective of his/our space.  

Before I got a dog, Mariah – my little brother’s girlfriend, who’s more like my younger sister – tried explaining just how much of responsibility a dog is, but it wasn’t until I found myself needing to put his needs before mine that I realized what she meant. It’s been fun though and I’ve learned a lot about what being a mom mean.

Being a mom to Shiloh has taught me:

1. Time management is crucial in the mornings

[Image Description: Woman pouring morning fruit shake doing a little happy dance.] Via GIPHY
I love having a thorough morning before leaving my house. I like to shower, make coffee, have breakfast, prep my food, and leave looking my best. With Shiloh, I’ve had to add time to cuddle with him, walk him, feed him, and make sure he feels comfortable staying home alone before I leave. After a while “needing” to walk your dog becomes a chore. Especially for me because Shiloh loves to take his sweet time going. If I mess up with the time, sleep in, and don’t get a chance to walk him (which has happened about full of time) a guilty feeling follows me the rest of my morning. I imagine him being in pain from needing to hold it and it makes me feel horrible. With this being said, I wake up earlier than I would if I wasn’t a mom.

2. Patience in the presence of anger goes a long way

A GIF of someone taking a deep breath as if to calm herself down.
[Image description: A GIF of someone taking a deep breath as if to calm herself down.] via GIPHY
I can not stress how important patience is when raising a puppy. When Shiloh wasn’t potty trained and chewed on just about everything, I was sure I was going to lose my goddamn mind. I found myself repeating things to him over and over again only to have him look at me with a cute gaze and without control still pee on our hardwood floor. Last week Wiz Khalifa posted a video of him talking to his son, Sebastian, on Instagram that shows exactly what I’m talking about.  I have to stay conscious enough to not give into anger. Yelling can easily become a habit because to me it feels natural. My family and I talk to each other by screaming. However, dogs — very much like little kids–  learn better through calm assertiveness and repetitiveness. Hence, patience.

3. Disciplining with intentional compassion is better than disciplining by instinct

A GIF of a dog licking a woman's chin.
[Image description: A GIF of Cookie, Rosanna Pansino’s dog, licking her chin.] via GIPHY
Compassion is the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and/or misfortunes of others. To me disciplining Shiloh with a hint of compassion means that I have learned to remember that he’s in his puppy phase. Unlike older dogs, puppies have a lot of energy and are extremely curious. Moreover, it is in every dog’s natural instinct to be scavengers so naturally, he’s going to eat what he finds. Some dog species are also more protective than others. Even at four months, new people in our house made him extremely anxious and he feels a strong need to protect. He is still this way. Instead of yelling at him, I remove him from the situation until he calms down. I slowly introduce the person to him with treats. Is it annoying and embarrassing when he won’t stop barking at new people who come over, yes? Do I still feel more concern for how he’s feeling than those of others, most definitely?

4. Being responsible for another being’s upbringing is hard work

A GIF of someone asking, "When can I take a break?"
[Image description: A GIF of someone asking, “When can I take a break?”] via GIPHY
Y’all, this is the biggest one. Being a dog mom has taught me that being responsible for another being’s upbringing is hard work. It is exactly what it sounds like. I use to be really hard on my parents until I realized just how hard it is to actively try not to mess up your kid. I think a lot about what’s in his food, how I discipline him, the things I let him get away with, and how safe I make him feel, amongst a bunch of other things. I question the things I’m doing right or wrong. I might be dramatic to take the time to think about these things, but if so it just means I’m going to be an extremely thoughtful mom to my human children.

5. I am most definitely not ready to have human kids

A GIF of someone making a nonchalant shrug.
[Image description: A GIF of someone making a nonchalant shrug.] via Genius
I love my dog, and he has taught me that I am going to make a great and loving mother. With that being said, I am still not ready for real kids. He has shown me how my mornings need to change for real kids, how annoying it feels to have to go to work and leave him alone, the struggle that is disciplining another being, and how hard it is to care for someone who depends on you for their survival. In short, I’m good love.

Gift Guides Lookbook

10 projects you can do if you are trying to limit screen time

When my doctor put me on disability to recover from a concussion, I had two thoughts:

  1. I can finally sleep in!


  1. What will I do with all my time?

The thing about concussion recovery is that it comes with a lot of rules. The rules sound great, until you realize you have a lot of time on your hands, and no way to fill it. In my case, my concussion got worse when I was overstimulated visually – so my doctor said I needed a lot of physical and cognitive rest.

I was looking at 2 weeks with no screens and no reading. That meant no computer, no TV, no phone, and no books.

Now you see why I was so worried about how I’d fill my time.

After a while, I got used to the rules, I learned to like them. I also found that this list is not just good for people suffering with concussions staring at an abyss of recovery that looks like boredom – but also for anyone who wants to cut down on their screen time. That’s why I created this list of 10 great activities that can help you cut down on screen time (or recover from a concussion.)

1. This adorable kitten paint-by-number

Via Etsy
Image description: A cat’s face in multiple colors. Via Etsy

My stepmom has a small obsession with paint by numbers, so she mailed me a ton that I’d ferreted away, not sure when I’d do them, but sure I would. Paint by numbers have come a long way since when I was a kid, and feature funny or dramatic pictures, like this dramatic kitten painting.

Via Etsy $12.90

2. This model of a golden snitch to remind you to believe in magic

Via Etsy
Image description: A golden snitch, a gold ball with silver wings. Via Etsy

I feel a sense of achievement when I finish a model. It’s a tangible thing that I can hold that shows the effort I put into it. Whether it’s a plane, a car, or this fabulous Golden Snitch, it’s a great way to get me away from a screen, and fixated on something else.

Via Etsy $17.72

3. A knitting kit to keep you warm

Via Etsy
Image description: A grey and yellow scarf hangs on a wood hanger in front of a grey wall. Via Etsy

If you’re a knitting beginner, knitting kits are a great way to start out. Usually they come with needles, yarn, and instructions that can get you right on your way to creating a piece of clothing that you made! A scarf is a great first project to get used to knitting and manipulating yarn.

Via Etsy $30.30

4. This journal to document your thoughts

Via Etsy
Image descriptions: Several brown leather-bound and covered journals. Via Etsy

Journaling can be a great way to get out your frustrations or track your mood. While I’m recovering from my concussion, I use my journal to track my good and bad days, which is really helpful in noticing my trends, and how to get better.

Via Etsy $16.00

5. This cross stitch kit to remind you you’re a badass

Via Etsy
Image description: White fabric in a round frame, stitched on the fabric are the words “You badass you.” Via Etsy

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but cross stitch is kind of having a moment right now. People are finding the act of repeatedly stabbing a piece of cloth, and ending with a beautiful piece of art, a very rewarding task. I have to agree!

Via Etsy $20.00

6. This Puzzle of your Favorite Things

Via Etsy
Image description: A puzzle with an image of two people doing handstands in the snow in front of a snowy mountain vista. Via Etsy

Puzzles are essentially flat models right? When I was a kid, my grandma would do huge, 1000 piece puzzles of things like a field of daisies. I remember my eyes crossing just trying to denote one piece from the next. However, this puzzle can be whatever you want – and that makes it fabulous!

Via Etsy $50.00

7. This Hand Lettering kit to teach you a new skill

Via Etsy
Image description: Notebooks, a pencil, pens and an eraser. Overlaid is the text ” Hand Letter and Calligraphy Starter Kit.” Via Etsy

One of my favorite things to watch are beautiful hand lettering projects on Instagram. This full set includes pens, a workbook, and instructions on how to improve your penmanship. Soon, you’ll be saving money by making beautiful cards, and maybe finding a new side hustle!

Via Etsy $45.00

8.Make these adorable Unicorn Cookies – to remind you to be majestic and awesome.

Via Etsy
Image description: Cookies with unicorn faces on them in icing. Via Etsy

Cooking is regularly one of my “I don’t want to look at screens anymore” tasks – but usually, I’m meal prepping for the next week. I’d love to take some free time to bake and ice these adorable unicorn cookies! Imagine your friends as you share them!

Via Etsy $16.99

9.Make your showers more relaxing with these shower bombs

Via Etsy
Image description: A bag containing ridged shaped bath bombs in several colors. Via Etsy

Sometimes I don’t have enough spoons to clean the bathtub and fill it – a shower is often so much easier. Sometimes, I’ll just sit at the bottom of the shower and enjoy the warm rain while I let my worries wash away. These shower bombs are like bath bombs – but the mist from your shower brings the smell up, and helps you unwind when it’s just hard to adult.

Via Etsy $4.99+

10. Meditate while designing in this adorable zen garden

Via Etsy
Image description: A rectangular box filled with purple sand, with a pink rock, several small succulanrs and a wood wand decorated with silver. Via Etsy

Meditating can be hard – even setting your mind for a little bit can seem like an insurmountable task. Doing something peaceful, like designing in a little tabletop sand zen garden can be repetitive and quiet enough to help you feel grounded, and give you just what you need to start your practice.

Via Etsy $22.00

Recovering from a concussion, or even a migraine can be a difficult task. However, with the activities listed above, you might find yourself quickly on the mend, so you can get back to living your life the way you want!

Love + Sex Tech Love Advice Now + Beyond

This app is becoming a personal trainer for the broken-hearted

The way we meet, interact, and fall in love occurs so often on the Internet that it almost feels as if we exist in a simulation similar to Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. A show filled with viewers and actors watching, cheering, and guiding us through our relationship milestones and woes.

So, it comes as no surprise that our breakups would also be on display. Our profiles dissected for signs of rifts or misconduct, while your ex erases all evidence of your existence from their profiles and seemingly move on with ease.  The deterioration of a relationship can be so public, and yet so alienating that the process of moving on seems impossible.

That’s where Mend comes along.

The Mend app claims to be your “personal trainer for heartbreak” by providing users with the tools and wisdom of dealing with a breakup. This means anything from advice on “detoxing” from your ex that revolves around not social media stalking them to insights on how to redefine yourself as an individual after the uncoupling.

Created by former Google employee Ellen Huerta after struggling one night to find breakup advice online that was constructive and resonated with her, according to The New York Times.  So Huerta tapped into her Silicon Valley expertise to develop an app that would create a network of support for individuals during one of their most vulnerable periods.

Huerta acts more than just the founder, she is also Elle, the calming voice within the app that guides you through your breakup.

The app aims to be gender neutral by not assuming your partners gender identity and refers to the previous partner as “your ex” when needed. They also give user’s the option to be anonymous.

Upon downloading the app, users are introduced to the motives of others users who downloaded Mend. Like ‘Sarah’ who, after experiencing her first breakup, turned to Mend to help reflect on the breakup but to also find solace by connecting with other people’s stories. Or ‘Jessica’  who uses Mend for advice when her main support network is unavailable.

There’s also a feature on the app labeled “Is this an emergency?” that expands on the fact that apps like Mend aren’t substitutes for professional help, medical treatment, and mental health services. It encourages those who feel like the emotions and trauma they are experiencing are detrimental to their health to seek professional help and to drive in the point that not everything you read on a website or is endorsed by a celebrity is the golden rule.

It’s refreshing to see an app like Mend pick up the burden left by matchmaking sites and apps like Tinder and eHarmony that glamorize the beauty of love and making a connection. It reminds us that love is messy and we really aren’t talking about the aftermath like we should be. In not doing so, we don’t allow people the proper channels to digest and process their breakups in a healthy and productive manner.

When we fail to manage the aftermath of a breakup, not only does that old relationship baggage creep into your new relationship and risk tainting the dynamic but the effects can mimic the same symptoms seen in the death of loved ones. Research has shown that the deterioration of a romantic relationship can lead to insomnia, intrusive thoughts, and even a compromised immune function. So to dismiss heartache as just another unavoidable circumstance of love is irresponsible, especially if your unwilling to be a beacon of light for those that are struggling to cope.

To label Mend as a breakup app would be misguided, as it’s more than your breakup personal trainer. It acts as your friend and therapist too. So expect deep reflections of your actions, reminders, and checklists that keep you on track and active, but also reassurance that you’re not alone through all of this and that you’re worthy of love.

Gender & Identity Life

Becoming a yoga teacher was the best form of expressing love for my body and myself

I first laid my eyes on yoga when I tried it in graduate school. It was my way of dealing with stress and controlling the millions of thoughts in my head. For my first few years, I focused on gaining the strength to get into that basic chaturanga or gracefully hold a balance pose. In the beginning, I looked something like this:

comedy fail GIF
[Image Description: A gif of a girl trying to hold her foot straight in front of her and balance on one foot.] via Giphy

From that point, I practiced yoga off and on. It was not until after graduate school that I became serious about it. I was happy when I could stretch further and hold poses for much longer. As I moved at the same pace as the teacher, I was slowly finding my way into the intermediate level. I started to look something like this, and it was amazing!

yoga GIF
[Image Description: A woman coming into a low lunge asana in yoga with a cat climbing her back] via Giphy

I began to flirt with the idea of doing teacher training, but could not seem to find the time. After life happened, I stopped making excuses. I chose my teacher training program based on authenticity and a connection to the actual roots of yoga. Because I did not want a particular school of thought where people tried to contort their students into a position, I was careful in what I selected.

Hence, I chose a program in which I learned the basics beyond simply asanas (postures) and pranayamas (breathing techniques). I especially enjoyed learning about the physiology of different human bodies when they are in asanas. In plain English, this meant understanding that everyone’s body would never look the same in a posture. Bodies are built differently, and to force anyone to look like the skinny, bendy individual in popular media was ludicrous.

However, after I left the beautiful comfort of yoga teacher training space, the self-sabotaging questions began. Was I good enough to teach a faster flow of power or vinyasa if I was struggling to get into my own headstand or handstand? The teachers in a funky arm balance, with their colorfully printed yoga pants, perfect makeup, and obscenely expensive Lululemon tops were probably more credible than me. In addition, the internet images dominated by skinny women on top of big rocks in their string bikinis or midriffs made me wonder if I had any chance. I never tried to sport a string bikini, and probably would never feel comfortable doing so, anyway.

At that point, I realized it was time to let this negative self-talk go.

I had to practice and teach yoga with steadfast love for my own body. I had to accept that not everyone would resonate with me as a teacher or love me the same way. After all, not every teacher resonated with me and still does not (yes, yoga teachers really enjoy being students too). I was confident in what I knew and that I had something to offer others. I got into it because it was by principle the least competitive mode of physical fitness. It was only me against myself.

In this process, I developed an unwavering confidence in my own strong practice rather than let anyone or social media tell me I was not good enough. The world is a big place with different types of people, and I refused to embrace a practice that did not encourage the principles of the body positivity.  Do not get me wrong though, I adore colorful yoga pants and tops. I catch myself looking them up more than any other type of clothing nowadays. I have learned so much about the best poses for yoga photography, and even add some sarcasm taglines to my photos at times. Check me out Instagram and Facebook (self-promotion for the win)! But, seriously, enjoy yoga for what it is, a space for reflection, meditation, and self-love. Enjoy your own version of yoga.

Movies Pop Culture

9 times Bollywood movies taught us incredibly valuable lessons

When I hear the word Bollywood, I automatically think of love, romance, dancing, singing, gorgeous outfits, and the like. One reason this industry is so successful is that each of its movies evokes a rainbow of feelings.

Sure, there are some pretty trashy and cringe-worthy movies, but on the flip side, there are also tons of amazing ones.

Here are just a handful of Bollywood movies that teach life-changing lessons:

1. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara


If you want to look as relaxed as Hrithik Roshan over here, then watch this movie so you can gain some valuable reminders. It makes you want to pause and realize how good your life is despite the hardships. It makes you appreciate your true friends.

But the biggest thing I took from this movie was to push yourself out of your comfort zone and face your fears.

2. Jab We Met


The biggest lesson Geet taught me was to not take life too seriously.

She is so spontaneous, adventurous, and authentic in the way she interacts with the world. She also inspires us to love ourselves and be independent – refusing to take crap from anyone.

Pretty sure that’s the sort of self-confidence that attracts people (especially Shahid Kapoor) towards her!

3. Kapoor and Sons


This movie gives me the chills every time. So damn good. It shows how no family is perfect and reminds us that we are all flawed creatures who need to accept and forgive one another.

[bctt tweet=”We are all flawed creatures who need to accept and forgive.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Kapoor and Sons also portrays how important it is to communicate honestly with our loved ones, whether it is expressing positive or negative feelings. It’s the only way to get through life because conflict is inevitable.

4. Dear Zindagi


Who wouldn’t want Shah Rukh Khan to be their psychologist? This movie takes us on a journey to see what it may be like to experience therapy. I love seeing mental health being promoted and destigmatized! For anyone who hasn’t watched it, good news: it’s on Netflix!

My favorite line from the movie is: “khul kar ro nahi sakogi to khul kar hass kaise pao gee?” Translation: “If you don’t know how to cry openly, how will you learn how to laugh wholeheartedly?”

5. Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani


Bunny teaches Naina to realize that she is good enough just the way she is. She doesn’t have to try to change herself to fit in with the people around her, and through that, she learns to embrace her true self unapologetically. Naina teaches us that no matter where we go in life we will always be missing out on something.

So we might as well enjoy and appreciate where we are.

6. Baar Baar Dekho


Not only does this movie have an amazing soundtrack, but it also gives us a huge reminder to live in the present moment and appreciate the people in our lives.

[bctt tweet=”We can never get our time back, so we should spend it wisely.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Not going to give any spoilers, but I will say it’s a feel good movie that will make you want to enjoy where you are right now, rather than living for the future. And in our day and age of constantly being connected to our gadgets, it’s a great wake-up call to disconnect every once in a while and fully experience life.

Because no matter what we do, we can never get our time back, so we should spend it wisely.

7. Dangal


I love Bollywood movies that empower women! Dangal is a must-watch film – it shows these two young women breaking stereotypes and gender roles. It also teaches us not to be too cocky or full of ourselves when we do become successful.

It shows that women can do anything men can do if they just drown out society’s messages telling them they can’t.

8. Kal Ho Na Ho


In this movie, Aman teaches Naina how to open up and be vulnerable, which allows her to address the emotions she had repressed. Sometimes we need that reminder to share our struggles with someone who is trustworthy.

The overall life lesson I took away from this was to remember that every single day we are alive is a gift and life should not be taken for granted. As Shah Rukh Khan famously states, “Hanso, jeeyo, muskaro…kya pata, kal ho na ho,” which translates to “laugh, live, and smile, because who knows –  tomorrow may not exist.”

9. My Name is Khan


I loved every minute of this movie because it addresses extremely important issues that we are facing in the world today, including Islamophobia. My name Is Khan reminds us to judge others based on their actions, rather than their religion. This film is an emotional roller coaster and the actors did an amazing job.

There are way more Bollywood movies that have meaningful lessons for us. In fact, most things in life have lessons if we just look deeply enough. So sit back, relax, and indulge in a Bollywood movie! You won’t regret it.

Love Wellness

I couldn’t escape my depression, until I discovered something incredible that saved me

I’ve had chronic depression for the past four years.

I like to tell people that it’s because of my PCOS, but that’s not exactly true. Yes, the imbalance in my hormones has made me more prone to depression. Even taking The Pill for regulating my periods has given me pretty severe depression.

Go figure, right?

But it’s also other things. Experiences I’ve had in the past have made depression a recurring shadow in my life. Just when I feel like I’ve made progress, like maybe I can move past it, it comes back even harder than before.

And yeah, it sucks. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and tell you that I’m brave and strong, capable of dealing with anything that comes my way. There are days when I can’t leave the bed. There are days when I consider hurting myself. That’s as real as it gets here, folks.

But of course, I want to deal with it. I want to feel in control and healthy, I don’t just want to pretend like I’m fine, or give up completely. I believe that my life is worth fighting for.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that bullet journaling, of all things, was helping me cope with my mental health. Of course, there are many ways I deal with my depression, bullet journaling is just one of them.

It all started when I watched this video by Lucie Fink for Refinery 29:

The cutesy way that Lucie presented the bullet journal caught my eye. As a self-professed holographic colors fanatic, all I wanted out of the journal was something fun and bright that I could basically procrastinate on every day.

Of course, I wanted to be productive too.

So I went out and bought a beautiful pink, Instagram-cute journal. I planned on filling it with stickers, notes, a little bit of poetry and doodles. Honestly, I didn’t take it seriously.

But the moment I sat down and opened up the bullet journal website, things started to feel different. I was going through a bit of a rough patch at the time and simply hoped this journal would take my mind off things for a bit.

But I started writing and writing and writing and… I couldn’t stop.

Suddenly, what had started off as hesitantly-drawn titles became pages and pages of thoughts. I wasn’t just writing what I had to do that day, I was writing down how I was feeling too.

Let me explain. The bullet journaling website advises that “Event entries, no matter how personal or emotionally taxing, should be as objective and brief as possible when Rapid Logging. The Event “movie night” bears no more or less weight than “best friend moves away.” That being said, once you’ve rapid logged an Event, feel free to write about it at length on the next available page.”

So when I jotted down the event that I had to “do the laundry”, other things started to come up too. I sat there, looking at that little, meaningless task. I knew how insignificant it was, but seeing it written down made me feel angry and scared and kind of trapped.

So I turned the page over and wrote. I wish I could tell you what I wrote about, but honestly, that’s not as important as why. I wrote because I needed to have an objective thing listen to me, something I didn’t need to pay an hourly rate to. I needed to pour out my feelings without hesitation. I made spelling errors, messed up the grammar, bled the ink a little bit and all of it was pure bliss.

After an hour of pure writing, scribbling and coloring in, I closed my book and felt… safe.

And, oh yeah, I did the laundry too.

It didn’t cure my depression. Of course, the next day I woke up and I still felt pretty bad. But I got out of bed, made myself a cup of tea and opened up to a new page. I jotted down a list of things I had to complete that day, and once I’d done them I wrote about how productive my day had been. I wrote about how that made me, well, happy.

I felt happy.

So no, I don’t believe that the bullet journal solved my mental health issues. I don’t believe I can turn to it and, like magic, it will fix all my problems and yours too.

But I do believe that it gave me a sense of achievement.

I felt more in control that I’d ever felt in years. I felt like I could be productive with my illness in ways that I’d never been able to before.

And it helps me remember to do the laundry.

Tech Now + Beyond

I couldn’t tell my family the secret behind why I was spending so much money

Even though there may be a perfectly good dress (with the tags still attached) hanging in the wardrobe, it is hard to resist the temptation of a new purchase. 

An instant adrenaline rush, short-lived but deeply satisfying.

We are all guilty of spending too much money once in a while. But can spending become dangerous? It can be when you’re unable to stop because you’re depressed. 

Money and mental health have an unstable relationship. Poor mental health such as low mood and “mania” can make managing money more difficult, and worrying about money can make your mental health even worse.

Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) reported nearly nine out of ten people with significant debt problems also suffered from mental health disorders, particularly depression and anxiety. The statistic shows how mental health can affect how you manage your money and lead to difficult financial situations.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety three years ago. During this time with the help of counseling, I finally came to terms with the fact that my mood goes up and down frequently and irregularly. It is inevitable when you have depression. What I did not expect was to spend hundreds of pounds, surrounded by the damage caused and still be feeling empty.

Because mental illness works in a funny way.

In hopes of uplifting my low mood and depression, I spend money. A lot of money. It is an internal need to, to make myself feel better. But this always leaves me in a difficult financial situation. The worst spending outburst happened during my first year at university when I had less than a fiver ($6.45) in my bank account. I only realized this after spending over £100 ($129.05) and had to return to the store the same day to refund my purchases. 

I felt embarrassed and ashamed.

My family became concerned when I opened up to them about my spending habits. My grandmother was distraught when she found out and believed I had a gambling addiction. She had created a scenario that her 20-year-old granddaughter was spending her student loan on online bingo and casino.

What she did not know was how pressure from my studies and personal issues had triggered stress and depression; and as a result, caused me to spend in a careless way. But how could she have known when I did not tell her the whole truth?

Mind, a UK mental health charity, provides information and support to those in need. Their website offers advice ranging from mindfulness, well-being and money and mental health.

The charity suggests sharing money worries with someone you trust – your partner, family or friends. It can also be a health professional if you are already seeking mental health support, such as a counselor. Also, it is important to ask for financial help when need be, as it can alleviate stress.

Another method to understand your behavior is to recognize the patterns. Thinking about when you spend money and why and what aspects of money make your mental health worse can help to find solutions. Overspending can be a problem, but also opening envelopes and managing bills.

What worked for me was writing and tracking my spending habits in a diary or journal. It is crucial to understand how much money was spent from compulsive buying as well as how much was spent on rent, bills, and food. This put things in perspective about how I should manage my money for the next month.

Feeling regretful about your expenses is highly likely. But, I’ve learned further stress and guilt about money has a detrimental impact on mental health. While this may seem impossible, particularly when you’re feeling irrational, you should try and focus on ways to improve spending habits rather than dwell too much.

If you are finding it difficult to cope with money or emotional stress, contact Samaritans or visit your local branch.