SUNDAY FEATURE: 2020 – It’s time to wrap up!

2020 : ‘Tis the year of learning

2020 has left a scary impression on the collective conscious of humankind. As New Year is around the corner, it’s time to step up with hope, optimism and lessons learnt from 2020 to glide in next year like a pro. Here is what the mind and body health professionals have to say about the lessons learnt during this unprecedented year and their expert advice to make your 2021 better.

Heidi E. Spear

Author, Meditation teacher and Energy wellness instructor based in California

Her books ‘Ayurveda Made Easy’ and ‘My Pocket Chakra Healing’  are published by Simon & Schuster.

As a meditation teacher, what do you think is the main challenge in recalibrating people after the damage of 2020?

As a meditation teacher, my focus is to help people meet the moment where it is and from where they are, with compassionate awareness. 2020 has been hard on mostly everyone not only for how they and their loved ones have been impacted, but also (due to human empathy and our energetic connection) for how they feel about the toll it has taken on everyone: their neighbors, the healthcare workers, and even people they don’t know throughout the world. What we need to do, even as we are still in the midst of what began in 2020, is to learn and consistently practice meditation so that we can move through our feelings in healthy ways. The challenge comes when we look outside for others to fix things; we have to realize we each have a unique role to play in life as part of the collective whole. Self compassion and compassion for others is the key.

What are the lessons or reflections you have gained from your profession and as an individual during this pandemic?

There have been countless lessons I have gained from my profession and as an individual during this pandemic. The one that is on my mind most often is that – crises heighten both the positive and the negative in ourselves and in our society which allows us to give it all a closer look and make better choices. Remember that choices don’t only refer to our actions. They refer to what we think, say, and do. Every thought, word, and deed effects our lives and contributes to the energetic and evolution of our world. This pandemic has shown how powerful human connection truly is. Just as important is noticing where we can improve; we also must have and share gratitude for the positive aspects we see in ourselves, in others, and in our world. Then, we move forward with compassion in our choices. It just has to happen step-by-step.

What advice would you give to make 2021 a better year?

My advice to make 2021 a better year would be first to notice all the good that came out of 2020 for you. 2020 has been extremely challenging. Finding gratitude can help you cultivate hope and resilience. Meditation is important because it takes us to a place where we can find gratitude and where we can assess and refuel our energy. From there, we know what we need, we can learn to show up well for ourselves and others and we will be able to see all the good that is happening alongside suffering. Seeing the good in ourselves and others and being grateful helps stay afloat. We can do this! I believe in wisdom, in love, and in the warmth of human heart: and this is the space where we need to continue to reside.

Dr. Amanjot Sandhu

Medical doctor based in London

(MBBS, MRCGP)

How do you think 2020 has affected the mindset of medical health professionals?

2020 has been a challenging year from medical perspective. We have been practicing telephone triage in England for a long time now but it is now accepted as the main form of patient care. Hot hubs were quickly set up in areas where suspected covid patients were triaged and accordingly further care was decided. Hospitals did have coping issues as well and as a result special units were set up here. However, there were issues of staffing and equipment. We have lost a lot of doctors, friends and family members due to this virus. It has certainly affected mental health globally. Overall this has been a very challenging year for medical professionals and is continuing to be. But I would say this has made us stronger, resilient and taught us a lot of things on how to be prepared for future.

What are the lessons you have gained as a doctor during this pandemic?

Viruses are highly infective organisms and have a capacity to mutate fast. For instance the influenza pandemic of 1918 lasted more than 2 years until a vaccine was formed and we still get a wave every year. Vulnerable patients need to be vaccinated each year against the active strain even now. We can have more viruses like this and covid could be one as well. The medical community has realized the need to have a proper strategy to fight any such future pandemic. Quick and effective measure will be required as compared to this time. Public health needs to be more proactive and plan on this from now onwards.

What advice would you give to make 2021 a better year?

Personal hygiene (hand washing, mouth covering) social distancing, self isolation and good ventilation are key to tackle any infections. I believe these should be followed in future and forever.

Anjashi Sarkar

Motivation and Manifestation Coach, Counselor based in Delhi

Miranda House alumni, PhD from Jamia Millia Islamia University

 Author of ‘Voicing Contentious Silences: Other Narratives on History and Society’,

                    ‘Sectarian Politics in North Bengal and North East India’

                    ‘Transformation Targets: Your Pocket Fitbook’

Which prime psychological and behavioral issue you observed in 2020?

Almost 90 percent of people who I have mentored have abandonment issues. That being said, it is not uncommon to find individuals resorting to immoral practices, having frivolous relationships, etc. just to seek validation or to be accepted in a group. There is also a constant indecisiveness when it comes to personal relationships. Again there is lack of consistency (in work) in most people; out of the 53 cases I came across, I found 37-38 people complaining that they have no idea if they’d be able to continue the momentum. They ‘think so’ and that is the problem.

What are the lessons you have gained from your field of work during this pandemic?

I was able to begin sessions immediately after the lockdown was announced. There was a time I had been in the same position as the people I have been helping. My biggest takeaway of 2020 is- -if you are able to inspire people enough, if you’re able to make them realize their true potential, that is undoubtedly a big win. And if you can make them eradicate their fears and allow them to become more compassionate, help them re-evaluate definitions of love and humanity, everyone can motivate themselves enough and help others heal too. For me, I don’t see people as good or bad anymore; I view them as healed or unhealed.

What advice would you give for a smooth glide in 2021?

While 2020 showed us the mirror – taught us the value of food, money, shelter and made us connect with our family more, 2021 could bring a lot of abundance if one takes a lesson from the past and begins working on their mindset. Instead of being reactive, one may choose to be responsive. That should serve most of our purposes since presumptions have mainly been the reasons behind conflict. Everyone counts, every mind counts, every opinion counts, all things matter but little patience, mindfulness, lot more love and compassion, and a bit of empathy have the power to change the world.

Dr. Parvati Halbe

Pediatrician based in Pune, Maharashtra

 (MBBS, MD)

What was the main concern of parents you encountered in 2020? Was there any child development issue because of the pandemic and social isolation?

In the initial phase of pandemic, in the year 2020, as everyone was shocked and scared, parents were more cautious about the health of their young ones. The vaccine issue has been in the discussion since last couple of months. For all age groups in my clients (children brought to me), I have come across problems due to lack of exposure and schools being shut for a very long time. Kids were found lagging in speech development. Some developed wrong habit of watching videos on mobile after the online classes. Their food habits got deranged. Sleep patterns changed and even led to insomnia in some school going children. Adolescent group showed lack of energy in studying and extracurricular activities remained out of reach which also contributed to excessive weight gain in some.

What are the lessons or reflections you have gained from your profession and as an individual during this pandemic?

 Fearful it was last year, 2020, no doubt. But one has to start thinking in broader aspect of humankind – inclusive of other lives on the planet Earth. Implementing our simple guidelines to protect our environment can reduce the further scary situation in future. 2020 has made me reflect on our deteriorating natural resources. We need to look at them in a more responsible manner and use them wisely to spare them for future generations.

What advice would you give to parents and others alike for making 2021 a better year?

Though younger population is spared much from the disease, it is facing side effects of the measures taken to control the disease. I would advise parents should take this opportunity to bond well with children and work on building a healthy lifestyle. Involve children in other healthy exercises at home. Sharing daily chores with them can be an interactive activity. There should be more thought sharing as well as passing experience based knowledge to them.

Amreen Sekhon

Former Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Apollo

Special Educator Counsellor at Strawberry Fields High School, Chandigarh

Ph.D in Psychology

Which mental health issue has been predominant according to you in 2020?

According to a survey done by the University of Exeter in the year 2020, a fifth of people reported having experienced mental health issues and a third people having felt isolated due to the pandemic. The current outbreak has revealed the psychological makeup of the society. Major depressive disorder has been predominant in this year.

What are the lessons or reflections you have gained from your profession and as an individual during this pandemic?

Some of the lessons learnt during this year have been that do not personalize an experience (rather) have self compassion. The current situation is being faced by entire humankind. Hence, do not stop your life and wait for things to fall back in place. Instead, make the best of the time in hand. Secondly, mental illness is not a sign of one’s weaknesses and one should not have to deal it alone. Talk about your mental health and seek help if necessary.

What advice would you give to make 2021 a better year for mental health?

Exercise regularly and practice habits that you thoroughly enjoy and find relaxing. Keep up with your daily routine as much as possible. Have a schedule. Shift your current narrative, focus on the positive. Seek credible information and help when necessary. It is also important to stay connected with your family and friends always.

Published in The Post India on 29.12.2020

NUGGETS of LIFE: Living the virtual life, courtesy corona

At last, humankind has realised how vulnerable it can be

“It’s interesting how Corona has shifted the entire world to live virtually in real time and finally the revelation has happened”, I said looking up from my phone.

“Throw some light…”- came the swift inquisition from my husband who had his eyes racing across the news bulletin for quite sometime until now.

I went on rambling in my mind about how human lifestyles had become too fast paced to be lived efficiently and without a warm sense of hygge (coziness) as Danish would put it.

Until, came Corona and everything got bombarded in a lockdown – but for everyone’s good I’d say.

My husband now looked up at me sensing the silence and awaiting me to illustrate my statement. So I began.

“You see earlier the spicy gossips that happened over cards and kitty parties have now switched over to online Ludo games and WhatsApp groups. Similarly, when poori-chana were made on Sundays – close friends were invited over brunch, or the home baked cakes were shared over tea or coffee. Now they are shared on Instagram.”

“Now this sharing doesn’t lead to any olfactory satisfaction amongst friends in reality but since these turn into popular internet trends, so the poor things have to keep up with it – whether they like it or not”, I went on.

“Hmm, so it’s like I shared my cake now you share yours”, added my husband as my kiddo raced across.

“And just look at the change in the lives of all the kids! How happy they are with their virtual classes but they miss their friends terribly and evenings turn into drama parties for parents to handle. Yet there are many children across the country that do not have access to computers and sadly are also missing out the meal provided at school. There will be consequences of schools being shut down for so long.”

My husband looked thoughtful now. “You’re right! It won’t be easy to bridge the gap of holistic learning and of course deal the screen addiction.”

“Yes, so…there are also people posting pictures of working from home – on their laptops with a cup of black tea by their side – telling tales of how happy they are of this new trend of virtual offices across IT sector, while others are complaining how monotonous it is to work from home!”

“And by the way everyone has started to read newspapers online these days. It’s all getting digitized and techy I tell you. At least many trees would be saved.”

My husband shook his head in disagreement: “Dearest you would be flooded with fake news and targeted with algorithms if all you do is read from online portals. It would be no good for our society to completely do away with traditional print media.”

“But in between what is the big revelation?” he asked in a serious tone zooming back to my first statement.

I turned to look him full in the face – “At last humankind has realized how vulnerable it can be.”

Published in Hindustan Times on 11/6/2020

OPINION: The Digital Advertising Market in India post Covid-19

The industry of advertisement has been in service since the time of classics. From the drumming of town criers to the revolution of printing, the arena of advertisement has evolved to a new phase, namely, digitization – where time and distance hold no substance. And in the troubling times of covid-19 it has not only become the most wide reaching medium but also the most powerful in creating strong audience impressions.

A common metric for what a digital advertisement is that it is a media that does not merely involve dissemination of information and persuasion like its predecessors, but also stimulation of public demand through online campaigns, search engine optimization, social networking sites, viral advertising, e-mail and mobile marketing, blogs, pop ups and the list is endless. Its accuracy of measurement to track viewership through ‘hits’, ‘likes’ and ‘click throughs’ also render it much success similar to a proper feedback in a successful communication, thereby helping in market research and surveys. The search engines match the interests and topics of the browser with the targeted advertising without the browser realizing it. It effortlessly contextualizes the advertisement and seeps into the lives of its market audience.

It has been rightly observed that audience influences the media, and the media influences the audience. This observation has never been truer than in times of covid-19 when lockdowns have led to major lifestyle resets, especially in India which saw one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world. Although the Indian lifestyle had changed long ago, creating new demands that in turn led to further technological prowess in the country. The boom in telecom industry in this country has been extraordinary lately.  An enormous market in India has been created, first by making smart phones within the reach of common man and second by providing better internet speed. The 3Gs and the 4Gs have in turn given tremendous impetus to the digital advertising sector which further impacts the huge population, or it can be said, the market audience in the country. A report by Dentsu Aegis Network has stated that the media and advertising industry is shifting at a rapid speed and digital is certainly taking charge with a growth rate at 27% in 2020. It is to be noted here that post covid-19 this growth rate is very likely to increase manifold.

The topic of tussle is that to what extent digital advertising will be successful in Indian market given that the majority population of the country lives in remote rural areas and lacks data infrastructure. However, notwithstanding, the whole situation can also be looked from an optimistic angle. The increased availability of internet and smart phones in the recent past, combined with the new adoption of local language in technology has only increased the number of rural users, thereby creating more business. India has begun to change its digital narrative from the ground level itself, as can be observed in Indian governments ‘Digital India’ initiative and the recent demonetization which rather pushed the country for a digital up-gradation with people adopting and adapting online medium over the traditional ways. This has also turned out to be of immense help in the distressing times of covid-19 pandemic.

In the end, it is worth keeping in mind that digital advertising market in India is not solely about technology but also sociology. It is undeniable that a huge digital market awaits to be tapped in this country. Covid-19 has sadly but certainly opened a gateway for major new digital advertising trends that can take over India drastically. It is now only a matter of how it is optimized and utilized.

THE GREY ZONE

The future of digital advertising market in India post covid-19 certainly has potential but it also raises some pertinent issues since India is a developing nation.

Mental Health: By working on the notion of selling the consumer to the product than the product to the consumer, it can lead to higher discontent in a society that is already going through a mental health challenge in these tough times.

Managing Perception:  When a large amount of information is fed and not merely dispensed, it is in other words – creation of a perception that can be managed by various digital tools. This can have serious repercussions since majority population of the country is rural and is primarily educated at a basic level. They would not be able to skeptically view or identify the sophisticated organic digital marketing.

Young Market Audience:  Even if the lack of data infrastructure in remote rural areas is completely met with, there would still be a major task of spreading awareness about various digital medium to safeguard especially the young market audience from falling prey to online rumors, fake news and suicidal mind games that often make way through digital advertising.

Published in The Post India (thepostindia.co.in) on 20/7/2020