Artwork for MAY.

My artwork for May consists of two quotes that are closest to my heart.

You matter

YOU MATTER.

And,

Be kind to yourself

BE KIND TO YOURSELF.

Some very important words we forget to repeat to ourselves. We forget about ourselves as we try looking after those who depend upon us.

For me, repeating these lines to myself, especially when feeling sombre, gives me a feeling of being hugged.

Try doing it, if you haven’t.

Look into the mirror first thing in the morning. Look right into your eyes and say to yourself, “You matter.” See how it feels.

And, on days when life seems to slip from your hands, and when you feel neglected, remind yourself that you need to be kind to yourself. Self-care and self-love are important. For, you can’t pour from an empty cup, can you?

 

I also made this self-portrait with my pet Cookie perched on my shoulder, as always, giving me a kiss.

Self portrait in Zentangle

 

 

And, of course, there are my favourite, Mandalas, too.

Mandala

 

Mandala

Mandala

 

 

Finally, I made some changes in my Instagram handle.

Earlier, it was linked to my blog, Metanoia, where I shared posts on health, food, books, pets and art.

Now, I will be sharing only my artwork on my Instagram handle. And, that’s why I changed the name from shilclix to shilpsart.

Here’s the link.

@shilpsart

My other Instagram handle – @healthizms – will have posts on health, food and nutrition.

Do drop by for a visit there and leave your insta handle for me to follow you back.

That’s all for this month.

See you all with my artwork the end of next month.

Until later,

Take care and stay safe.

 

 

A simple guide to improving your immune system.

What is immune system?

Our body has an inbuilt army of cells and proteins that protects us from infections. Infections like the cold and flu, bacteria, microbes, viruses, parasites are all invaders that cause illnesses.

Our white blood cells, for example, are the sentries that can recognise the invaders, or microbes, and attack them before they multiply and lead to sickness.Our immune system, thus, defends our body from invaders by identifying and attacking them and safeguards us from infections.

Recommended:  Immune system explained for a detailed study on immune system and how it works.

What is immune system

What damages your immune system?

There are people who seldom suffer from cold and cough or any other viral infection, even during the monsoon, or when the virus is going strong. And on the other hand, there are some, who are always suffering from allergies.

This is because some of us have a stronger immune system, and in some cases, the immune system is too weak to defend the body from infections which results in frequent episodes of some sickness or the other.A weak immune system could be so because of various reasons, such as:

  • Immune deficiency, where a person is born with a weak immune system,
  • A disease that weakens the immune system
  • An overactive immune system that could arise out of an allergy
  • An autoimmune disease such as diabetes, rheumatide arthritis, or lupus, which results in the immune system turning against us.
  • Smoking and alcohol which also damage the immune system apart from harming other organs
  • An unhealthy lifestyle which lacks proper diet and nutrition as well as sufficient sleep and exercise
  • Diseases like HIV/AIDS that destroy the white blood cells
  • And, chronic stress that leads to a weak immune system which in turn increases stress-related mental health issues.

It’s a situation which requires a healthy lifestyle and a nutritious diet to change into a stronger system that will be better able to care for us.

Let us look at the 5 most common foods that help strengthen the immune system. Foods that are found easily and are present in our everyday meal preparations; foods like certain spices, vegetables and fruits that are packed with nutritients that help improve our chances at fighting infections.

Foods that improve immune system:

CITRUS FRUITS:

It is common knowledge that if you want to safeguard your system from cold and flu you should load up on vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables.Vitamin C increases the amount of white blood cells that fight infections.

Fruits that are high in this vitamin are:

  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Sweetlime

If you aren’t getting any vitamin C from its food sources, then it is important that you take vitamin C supplements. Our body cannot produce vitamin C and hence we need to outsource it! So, if not through food, then through supplements that provide the daily recommended amount of the nutrient.

GARLIC:

One of the most common kitchen ingredients, garlic has been used not only for its taste, but also for its disease-fighting properties since ages. It contains sulphur-containing compounds that increase the white blood cells in our body which fight infections.

Garlic is also considered to be a blood-thinner and is prescribed to those who suffer from hardened arteries and high blood pressure.Crush the garlic and leave it for a while before using it, either in cooking or before eating. This improves its disease-fighting properties.

GINGER:

After garlic, ginger is another herb that has been recognised for its medicinal properties. It is for this reason that we are adviced to include ginger in our everyday diet, especially when we suffer from a sore throat and nausea.

The gingerol present in ginger contains cholesterol-reducing properties as well as anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce chronic pain arising from rheumatoid arthritis.

Add some grated ginger to boiling water and have it first thing every morning to maintain a healthy immune system.

TURMERIC:

The golden yellow spice has been used in almost every kitchen since ages and is best known for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.Whether you suffer from a sore throat, or sleeplessness, pain in the joints or nicks and cuts, turmeric is the go-to spice for instant relief.

Today, curcumin (from turmeric) in combination with piperine (from black pepper), has been added to the list of supplements that strengthen the body as well as its infection-fighting capabilities.

YOGURT:

Yogurt contains live bacteria that encourages our immune system in its fight against infections. It also contains Vitamin D that improves our chances of beating infections.

Including yogurt, especially home-made, or one without any artificial sugars or flavours works best.

Regular consumption of yogurt will keep cold and cough at bay, improve your digestive system, and also strengthen the bones.

 

Supplements for a healthy immune system

Vitamin D and the immune system:

Vitamin D has known to be a bone vitamin. But it also strengthens the body’s chances at fighting respiratory infections.

A deficiency in this vitamin is found to cause respiratory infections like bronchitis, pneumonia, severe respiratory tract infections and tuberculosis.

We get Vitamin D from sunlight and from food sources such as:

  • Eggs yolks
  • Fatty fish
  • Mushrooms
  • Codliver oil
  • Tuna fish
  • Fortified foods (milk)

If for some reasons you aren’t able to include these foods, or aren’t consuming enough of these foods, then you need to turn to vitamin D supplements. Check with your doctor for the best vitamin D supplements, the duration and the dosage.

In these times of COVID19, it would be beneficial opting for a vitamin D supplement apart from including the foods mentioned above. It could keep you safe from catching the infection!

How to keep your immune system strong:

Our immune system can be strengthened if we make the required changes in our lifestyle. Here are 5 ways following which one can definitely benefit and lead a healthier life.

  1. Nutritious food
  2. Vitamin supplements
  3. Healthy lifestyle
  4. Better sleep
  5. Reduce stress

Just like improving our overall health, maintaining our immune system also requires us to make certain changes in our lifestyle. It’s simple, really, but needs a lot of willpower, patience and some fastidiousness on our part.

 

Effective ways to improve your immune system

5 simple ways to maintain a healthy immune system:

  1. Follow a healthy, nutritious diet every day. Include the above five foods in your daily meals, Look for simple recipes that are tasty as well as healthy so you can follow your diet religiously. Include vitamin supplements if you aren’t getting enough nutrition from the food you eat. Stay well-hydrated. Water is important for a healthy immune system, too!
  2. Begin an exercise regimen, if you haven’t already. Exercise boosts the immune system if followed every day. Moderate exercise of walking, or yoga should suffice.
  3. Give equal importance to your sleep. Our body requires sleep for our cells to repair and rejuvenate themselves every single day. Our sleep and our immune system are closely interconnected. If you aren’t getting enough sleep – 7 to 8 hours daily – you are bound to suffer from more infections and fall sick oftener. Switch off your gadgets at least an hour before bed time. Follow a fixed sleep routine–sleep and wake at the same time everyday.
  4. Learn to handle your stress. it isn’t easy, but there is help! If your stress isn’t manageable, please visit a counsellor, or a psychiatrist who can guide you on how to manage your stress. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system making the body susceptible to infections and illnesses. Include mindfulness activities even for half an hour during the day. Meditation works wonders, too, but can be difficult to master. Pursuing a hobby is a good alternative.
  5. Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption.

Conclusion:

Our immune system helps safeguard our body from various infections and viral attacks. But in order to maintain our immune system we need to follow certain rules. Making dietary and lifestyle changes goes a long way in achieving optimum health. Making healthy choices ensures not only a healthy body, but also a healthy defence system. The choice is yours!

Like it, Pin it!

How to strengthen your immune system

How to deal with mood swings during perimenopause.

If you are anywhere in your early 40s, I am sure you have begun to experience mood swings, much to your discomfort. Moods that get the better of you and leave you befuddled, and in agony.

There are times when your anger hits the roof at the slightest pretext. And there are also times when you get emotional and your eyes tear up for no reason, at all.

Believe me, it’s not your fault, and no, you are not going crazy!

More often than not, this is what we think about ourselves when we fly off the handle or cry at the drop of a hat: that we are losing our mind.

Mood swings are signs of perimenopause. A phase when our body goes through various changes.

READ 5 ways your body changes after 40.

 

Perimenopause is characterized by hormonal changes that trigger mood swings.

 

HORMONES AND THE ROLE THEY PLAY:

ESTROGEN AND PROGESTERONE:

Our ovaries are the storehouse of all our eggs, each of which they release every month during ovulation. Our ovaries are also the source of the two types of hormones: estrogen and progesterone.

Estrogen is responsible for:

  • breast development
  • fat distribution in our hips and breasts,
  • and the development of our reproductive system.

Progesterone is responsible for:

  • thickening of the lining of the uterus,
  • preparing our body for pregnancy,
  • menstruation,
  • and our sexual desires.

During perimenopause, the level of these two female hormones begins to fluctuate. It is not a gradual process, but an erratic one. And, the mood swings, the anger, the anxiety, and the depression is a result of this fluctuation.

Fluctuation in hormone levels results in:

  • Mood swings
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Low sex drive
  • irregular periods
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Tiredness
  • Disturbed sleep

Perimenopause lasts for around 4 to 5 years in some women, and for a decade in others.

 

MOOD SWINGS:

One can’t put a finger on when exactly the mood swings begin; the onset can be subtle if I can say that because there is nothing subtle about mood swings!

Range of emotions you experience during PMS:

  1. You lose your temper over trivial matters, and you also find yourself getting emotional over minor issues.
  2. The angry outbursts are often draining, causing distress to not just you but also those around you. They don’t know why it is that you are so agitated.
  3. You experience bouts of crying that leave you exhausted.
  4. There are times when you are happy for no reason at all. You feel chirpy, bubbly, and enthusiastic about life. No problem, big or small, overwhelms you.
  5. There is a sudden surge in your sexual desires and you wish for some intimacy with your partner. And, on some days, you just wish to be left alone!
  6. You find yourself in a chatty mood, eager to meet up with friends and talk nineteen to the dozen.
  7. You wish to be by yourself; you do not want any company, be it close friends or family. All you want is some peace and quiet.
  8. You feel irritated by the tiniest of things.

it’s only after these feelings have passed, that you feel your “normal self”.

These mood swings are more pronounced during the PMS – 1 or 2 weeks before your period. It’s really a time of great concern to you because you have begun to notice how everything changes during these 10 – 12 days.

But, there is really no need to worry. Once you understand why you have the mood swings, you will be better able to handle them and work your way around them. A little help is all you will need to feel good about yourself, despite the mood swings.

MOOD SWINGS IN A NUTSHELL:

To put it concisely, your mood swings are a natural occurrence. The depleting levels of estrogen and progesterone cause mood swings as well as other changes in your body as you enter your 40s. These are all symptoms of perimenopause and stay till you reach menopause. During the last phase of perimenopause, the depletion of estrogen is faster and you will start experiencing symptoms of menopause.

 

LIFESTYLE CHANGES THAT HELP YOU SURVIVE MOOD SWINGS:

Once you understand what causes mood swings, it becomes easier to take control.

Making lifestyle changes earlier on helps you have a coping mechanism in place that deals with perimenopause and later menopause. A healthy diet and an exercise regimen are some of the most important lifestyle changes that you will make for yourself, the effects of which you will notice as your body undergoes a change in your 40s. Beginning early–in your 20s or 30s–will ensure a healthy 40s, 50s, and the rest.

If your mood swings become unbearable, it would help if you visit a gynecologist for hormonal imbalance treatment. Or, you could also visit a psychiatrist. There is no harm in it, really. It will only help you overcome your problem faster.

DIET:

It’s one of the most talked-about lifestyle changes you will come across when you decide to make a transformation in the way you live.

It is crucial that you include green leafy veggies, fruits, nuts and milk, and milk products (unless you are a vegan) in your everyday diet.

Ways to deal with mood swings

Make your own meal plan depending upon your likes, dislikes, working schedule, weight, allergies, tolerance/intolerance of certain foods, and also any lifestyle disease you might be suffering from.

Plan your meals before the week begins, and try and stick to the plan. But also be open to changes. It’s okay to miss your diet plan once in a while.

INDULGE:

During PMS I crave chocolates and junk food–the spicy kind. And I make sure I indulge my cravings. It’s just a once-in-a-while thing and it gives me a wonderful feeling when I let go of guilt. A bar of chocolate won’t do much harm and will do me a world of good, especially to my mental health. DItto junk food.

SUPPLEMENTS:

After consulting with your doctor, get on a dose of regular vitamin and mineral supplements, especially calcium and vitamin D. With age, our bones begin losing their strength, and to maintain strong bones we need calcium.

Ways to deal with mood swings

We could depend upon food for the same, but in case you suffer from lactose intolerance, or are a vegan, then you will need calcium supplements. And, if you aren’t getting enough vitamin D from your diet, or from sunlight, then you will need Vit D supplements, too.

Do consult with your doctor about which calcium + Vit D supplements to take, when, and for how long.

Do not self-medicate.

EXERCISE:

It is yet another important part of lifestyle change. If you haven’t done it before, now is the time to make a new beginning.

Ways to deal with mood swings

Either begin with yoga and a morning/evening walk or join a gym, but exercise is a must.

A habit tracker will help you to keep count of your exercise regimen. it’s easy to make and keeps you on track.

EMOTIONAL WELLBEING:

Our mental and emotional wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing. Everything we do is controlled by our mind; and if our mind is healthy, we will be able to live a healthy and happy life.

Pursue your favorite hobby, or develop a new one.

Ways to deal with mood swings

Spending even 30 minutes doing something that takes your mind off your troubles goes a long way in improving your chances of surviving your mood swings.

There are a whole lot of activities to choose from:

  • Drawing
  • Reading
  • Doodling
  • Sewing
  • Knitting/crocheting
  • Dancing/singing
  • Gardening
  • Sports

The list is endless. Take your pick and get started. Indulging in an activity that occupies your mind, creatively, is a great way to practicing mindfulness. Your soul will bless you!

CONNECT:

Connect with your close friends and family. Talking aloud about your mood swings, or your problems with your friends is therapeutic, isn’t it?

Ways to deal with mood swings

Make time for yourself so you can spend some time in the company of those who care for you, your wellbeing, and are a huge support system.

SLEEP:

Another important thing that decides how we feel from within.

Make sure to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Set an alarm to help you wake up. And, before you go to sleep, switch off your gadgets. Give your mind time to calm down; send your brain the signal that it’s time for bed.

Ways to deal with mood swings

When you lie down to sleep and find sleep evading you, close your eyes, and begin deep breathing.

Breathe in and breathe out deeply, slowly and in no time you will fall asleep.

Drink your last glass of water an hour before you go to sleep so you won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom.

 

CONCLUSION:

Mood swings are natural occurrences and can be dealt with effectively if you make changes in the way you live. Making simple lifestyle changes will help you deal with the mood swings as well as improve your overall health. It will prepare your body for the times to come and strengthen you not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

 

Pin it for later!

 

 

20200514_101533_0000

How to stay positive during a lockdown.

Ever since the lockdown began, I observed my enthusiasm levels dipping by the day. WIth hubby, too, at home, my schedule went for a toss – Netflix and Amazon playing all day long, gave me zero peace to work on my writing.

I need peace and quiet when I sit down to write. But, with the movies and the web series tempting me, my writing took a back seat. Yes, I lost all self-control and got lazy.

In a week’s time, though, the restlessness began seeping in as I wasn’t indulging in any creative activity that has usually kept me busy and happy–neither writing nor art. That’s when I changed my schedule. Well, how long can one watch TV?

With writer’s block hitting me hard, I turned to art to help me stay afloat, and here’s what I created this month. One drawing per week that took me around 2 to 3 days each to complete. And I enjoyed every moment of creating these pieces. I haven’t done anything like this earlier as I preferred smaller, less complicated designs. But, now I am addicted to it.

I have a few plans up my sleeve (although I know plans never go our way, but, still) that I would like to bring to fruition someday. Until then, I will work on such drawings and reap the benefits–both, creatively and emotionally.

Every artwork is created on an A4 size drawing paper using 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 0.6, 0.8 mm leads Micropens, and 6B and 8B pencils for shading.

KATHAKALI DANCER:

Art by Shilpa

 

AUM:

Art by Shilpa

 

NANDI:

Art by Shilpa

 

THE BUDDHA:

Art by Shilpa

 

 

Art is a favorite activity, other than writing, and is a sure-shot way to keep my anxiety and boredom at bay.

It also encourages me to get out of my comfort zone and try out something new, something challenging, which not only helps me improve my craft but also brings back my lost enthusiasm and joy.

6 WAYS TO STAY POSITIVE DURING A LOCKDOWN:

  1. Take some time out for yourself, even if half an hour, to do something that you LOVE.
  2. If you can’t think of any activity that might interest you, take a walk down memory lane, to days of your childhood, and try and remember what it was that made you feel alive. Do it now–even if it means playing board games with kids, or dancing to the tunes of your favorite songs, even if you can’t dance. Who is watching, anyway? Everyone’s busy with their gadgets. Dance for yourself!
  3. Pick a new hobby if you are bored of the ones you indulged in up until now. Maybe reading, or drawing; even if you aren’t comfortable doing it, do it. Do it for fun, nothing else.
  4. Start with something simple and do it daily. In the half-hour or even 10 minutes you find for yourself, do that activity–read 2 pages of the book you chose, or doodle whatever comes to your mind, or write a letter to yourself.
  5. If you find it boring, put it away and get back to it only when you feel like it.
  6. Over time, push yourself and make the transition from simple to complicated–read a chapter, make an entire drawing, or write a 1000-word essay.

In a matter of days, observe yourself feeling alive on completing the activity and watch the ennui vanish, slowly and steadily.

Of course, there will be days when you will not want to do anything, at all. Just follow your heart. The urge to indulge in the activity needs to come from within. And it takes a little bit of practice to cultivate the habit, so you will need to be a little bit strict with yourself.

But, do it…do it for yourself, because if you don’t, who will?

 

Pin it for later!

De-stressing with art

 

 

 

Route 15 – Highway to hell. Book Review

Route 15 – Highway to hell, an anthology publication by The Hive.

Genre: Horror fiction.

Publication date: 11th March 2020.

Length: 366 Pages

Format: Kindle Edition

 

SYNOPSIS:

What happens when 13 writers of horror are trapped in a bus on a stormy night?

They try to outdo one another with blood-curdling, spine-chilling tales.

Each horror tale is narrated such, it intrigues and terrifies you! WIll you survive the journey?

TRIGGER WARNING: 

This book contains scenes of abuse, violence, death, rape, and swearing. It includes instances of children being harmed.

 

MY REVIEW:

I wasn’t a fan of horror, ever. I would make sure I looked away when a horror film popped up while surfing the channels. So, of course, reading a horror novel was a complete no-no for me.

But, a couple of months ago, I came across a Facebook group – The Hive – that invited writers to test their horror-writing skills, or indulge in horror-writing fantasies they may have had in their life, and I totally fell for it.

Writing horror felt like a natural skill to me, as I came up with a mini tale of 100 words every week. And, now, I am a complete horror fan!

Route 13, Highway to hell, is the collective effort of 13 writers and The Hive. And, I am proud to share with you that a mini tale by yours truly also features in this book!

Although I now enjoy horror, I prefer psychological horror stories instead of those that have blood and gore, galore. I still have to develop the nerves to digest it all.

Here are the 13 stories and their writers:

  1. THE PURPLE GRAVE, by Jaya Pillai
  2. WELCOME, by Sarveswri Sai Krishna
  3. PASTEL OF THE PAST, by Priya U. Bajpai
  4. ILL-CONCEIVED, by Meha Sharma
  5. KILLING MURAKAMI, by Venkataraman Ganesan
  6. THE SILVER BEAST, by Srivalli Rekha
  7. OLD MACDONALD HAD A FARM, by Varadharajan Ramesh
  8. THE HAVELI, by Anshu Bhojnagarwala
  9. THE ARTIST, by Yatindra Tawde
  10. THE ADVENTURES OF A VIRGIN, by Tina Sequeira
  11. MACABRE MELODY, by Sreeparna Sen
  12. MEMORY OF A FACE, by Kanika G.
  13. THE CASE OF THE SEANCE, by Ell P

These stories are all connected together with the conversation that takes place between the 13 writers as they travel in the bus on Route 13, sharing their experiences with the supernatural.

Here are some of the stories that made me fear the dark:

WELCOME, by Sarveswari Sai Krishna, was one psychological horror story that really had me sweating nervously. It plays on your mind and is so fantastically narrated, it has you in its grips from the word go!

KILLING MURAKAMI, by Venkataraman Ganesan is another story, that is something you might not have come across in any horror story. It’s different, and keeps you guessing what’s around the corner as you turn the pages.

OLD MACDONALD HAD A FARM, by Varadharajan Ramesh – my favourite author – gives you the heebie-jeebies. This guy knows how to grab your attention, keep you riveted to the narrative, and finally, lose your sleep and peace of mind with the twists and turns in the story! Trust me, you will begin regarding nursery rhymes with doubt and fear after you are done reading this one.

MACABRE MELODY, by Sreeparna Sen, is simply terrifying. You just dive into the story as soon as it begins. The atmosphere she has created is certainly worth capturing on the screen!

And, THE CASE OF THE SEANCE, by Ell P, is scary till the last word.

Frankly, each and every story in this collection is so brilliantly narrated, you get a taste of every ingredient that goes into making a horror story.

Be it the development of the plot, creating the ambience needed for a horror tale, the characters that are black,white and grey, the accompanying histrionics of those characters, and not to forget, the props–the blood, the gore, the shrills and the thrills–every story offers these to you on a platter.

If you are a horror fiction fan, then these stories are for you. Short in length, but sure to leave their mark on your psyche long after you are done reading them, they succeed in bringing about a sense of dread, the kind the genre has been tailored to accomplish.

The short stories are followed by 13 mini tales (100 words tales) by other writers who participated in the weekly writing projects at The Hive.

 

MY RATING:

4.5 stars out of 5.

If you are above 18 years of age, and a fan of horror, then just go, grab a copy and enjoy. It would be the best way to spend these long days of lockdown!

 

%d bloggers like this: