Dana Al Sarhani
ICV Special Projects Lead, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) (OMAN)
Corona has cast an indelible mark and will be embedded in global history. The pandemic has and will change the global order too. One still finds it difficult to believe that a tiny virus could do so much damage and also change the whole world – for better or for worse.
Building self-resilience is carved organically
Now, how am I doing? I am doing surprisingly well actually. As an outdoor, extroverted person, the last seven months have been the best self-growth in all the years of my life. I have had profound introspective insights about life and more so, on my own life path. I developed a comfortable ritual that became my go-to habit, and I have stuck through with it. I also learnt that self-discipline is healthy but not in a dogmatic way and so tuning into one’s soul, body and checking in regularly what you need has also become a habit for me. Building your own self-resilience is carved organically. As each of us lift ourselves up from situations, we learn what aspects of our mind, body and soul needs to be revived.
Meditation became a daily ritual
So for me, meditation, which was a practice I have done on and off for over 20 years of my life, became a day-to-day ritual. As I have done much research on neuroscience and psychology, I understood early on in the COVID situation that my mental health was critical to continue performing at work and in life in general. The first thing that I do when I wake up every morning is to spend a minimum of 20 minutes meditating. I would engage in a centering meditation, which creates an ideal stillness within me for the day to start with. I then proceed to spend approximately 30 minutes in a yoga sequence, which incorporates pranayama, which is Sanskrit for breath work. This is one of my favourite parts of my yoga practice over the years, the benefits of which I feel immediately. Depending on what is happening or what I am facing, I extend or shorten my pranayama practice and I use different methods based on physical and mental requirements.
Meanwhile, I have been doing five minutes of French everyday since a year now, as it has been on my bucket list right from childhood to be fluent in French. I love the Duo lingo app for this and would like to totally recommend it – it is a wonderful app that was primarily designed to support immigrants across the world and it is available for free! It is great and it is a simple and fun app, which reminds as well as rewards you.
All-girls’ dining group
I had started a small, private girlfriends’ dining group in 2015, where we would pick a date and theme and dine out say, three times a year. My foodie side inspired me to do this and also the realisation that fundamentally, we are all the same and we need company and we need to be together. And sometimes when we go through the toughest time in our lives, making new friends and having a deep conversation with someone not connected to your life can make a massive difference in perspective. Food brings people together – historically, that is a fact, which we cannot deny. I created this dining experience, so my friends could make new friends. Also, because I realised that some of us had many things in common. When COVID hit, our foodie group expanded and communication, which was limited to three times a year, really started to become daily online affair, with the ladies going wild with cooking. With the wonderful produce supplied in the local market and the emergence of online home suppliers, the recipes got funkier and the food photography became amazing!
‘Chicken soup for the soul’
I find cooking therapeutic and as I come from a family that loves cooking, hosting friends over a meal has become a daily creative outlet that feeds my soul. I cook two meals a day, one for breakfast/brunch, which ranges between 10am to 12pm and one around six to eight pm.
Keep ‘H-anger’ away
If I am having a particularly intense workday, I try to ensure that I have a light lunch, which includes a good source of protein as it helps me focus. In between, I drink water, at least 1.5 litres and one canister of Pandan or lemon-grass tea. Again, I found the key to being more in control of one’s emotions is sufficient hydration and food. This is necessary and can greatly help us from being a ‘victim’ of the self-created “H-anger” syndrome that we tend to create as we hurtle through our busy ‘modern’ lives.
Develop self-mental health care
One really important thing I realised is developing a self-mental health care ritual where almost on a weekly basis I would check in on where I was, and I would be honest to myself when I truly did not feel like wanting to face a person or situation, I would honour that feeling. I honoured my digestive system by respecting how I felt and if I had a craving I fed it, I trusted my innate body’s wisdom. As a result, I lost weight unintentionally yet put on lean muscle weight and strengthened myself physically through my yoga practice, working with my wonderful yoga instructor, Erica, from Salaam Space Yoga, to heal injuries, restore mechanic movement and strengthen specific zones.
I would see my nephews and niece at least once-a-week, even if I could only make it for half an hour. Hanging out with children is always refreshing and lovely. I have also started indoor gardening, which I had never done before. It is rewarding to see your plants grow, and blossom with flowers. Something wonderful to surprise you every morning.
Enrolling in Mindvalley quests
I enrolled myself online on Mindvalley quests through the mobile application and attended three weeks of Mindvalley University (online). I am grateful to Vishen Lakhiani, Daniela Zapata and Nash Ashwani (Kamalaya) for their generosity. Quests are like courses online on the Mindvalley app and they connect you to a community of likeminded individuals who have aspirations to higher purposes in life on a particular theme etc, which is a wonderful platform to engage with amazing individuals from across the planet that share the same values.
New life aspirations
As a result of this, I developed and set new life aspirations and I was inspired to remember all the things that made me happy and restart whatever is within my reach and my heart yearned for: reading, writing, barefoot walking, using aromatherapy oils, sunsets etc.
Stronger and better than before
Over 20 people I personally knew through different times in my life passed away this year, in addition to the virus, and all the curfews, lockdown, changes, restrictions and other peoples’ anxiety I honestly feel I have done exceptionally well coming through stronger and better. The release of the lockdown was a massive relief, especially as I have strong connection to nature.
Leave only footprints
My love for camping slowly and surely was rekindled. I have been doing quite a bit of that. We have wonderful weather during the summer in Al Wusta and Al Sharqiyah regions, places like Masirah, Ashkharah, Duqum, Ras Ruwais, and Bar Al Hikman are wonderful to cool off, reconnect to nature and breathe in some of the incredibly fresh Shamali winds that hit the coast. Others include the more popular Jabal Shams and Jabal Akhdar. I cannot help to use this space here to appeal to those venturing out on trips to please take good care of your camping spots and try to leave them in a better condition than you found them as its no longer about visual unpleasantness and environment, it is hygiene linked to human health and safety. The pandemic is a grim reminder of the kind of monsters we create from the mess we make.
Grateful to many
I would like to thank the family members, friends and colleagues who stood by me, some of them, almost every single day without fail, holding space for me to grieve when I lost another friend or ex-colleague; thank them for their unshakeable moral and emotional support. Finally, I would like to thank my foodie ladies’ group who continue to be a source of inspiration in my life.
Come out with ‘flying colours’
If I could leave you all with one tip, it would be: manage the information you expose your mind to like you manage your stomach. You know what is healthy and what is not, strike a balance and in case you feel lost or alone, always, always, ALWAYS reach out… to someone you feel inspired to reach out to and who would be healthy for you. We are not alone, we are all human and we are going through this together and if we are going to make it through, it better be all of us together. Let us come out of this with ‘flying colours’!
(*) Pandan is an herbaceous tropical plant that grows abundantly in Southeast Asia. The cultivated plant, which is similar to the palm, features upright bright green leaves that are long, slender, and spiky. The leaves are used for their flavour in many Thai and Southeast-Asian dishes. (Source: Net)