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Image Credit: Seyyed Llata/Gulf News

Dubai: It's now or never, so they decided to seize the moment. These UAE residents overcame worries about COVID-19, they quit the daily grind and decided to plunge into what they cherished most. The journey they embarked upon can also be termed 'living in the moment'.

Sold all possessions in Dubai and started to travel the world

Laura Jane Paradoe, a Dubai resident for a long time, and her husband changed life completely after COVID-19 pandemic: "Within one month, we sold all our 10 years’ worth of possessions in Dubai, let go of our villa and decided to travel the world, living in low-cost countries for 3 to 4 months at a time. We started in the UK, now we are in Portugal and later we are heading to Bali (Indonesia) and Thailand. We still run our Digital Agency remotely from Dubai, so nothing has changed in that regard. We are doing this with our four-year old, [who] we are home schooling and our one-year-old twins.”

Laura Jane Paradoe and family.
Laura Jane Paradoe and family. Image Credit: Supplied

Pregnant after 11 years of marriage

For Arnobi De, who lives in Dubai, COVID-19 became a blessing in disguise: an unexpected pregnancy. After 11 years of marriage, career and "professional challenges were always a priority and never really got time to plan for pregnancy." Slowing down really helped Arnobi. “It is a bit personal, but mystically COVID-19 and the lockdown helped me get some downtime with less stress to go through every day: I am a co-founder of a new digital marketing agency. Staying home [without] the stress and pressure of winning the ‘rat race’ helped me to conceive my first child naturally after 11 years of marriage, and am due this January.

"With this unprecedented pandemic that led to a complete economic and social halt worldwide... 2020 also made me realise that some things cannot be bought or measured with wealth like your relationships, hobbies, positivity and family. But having said that, being an independent person with an entrepreneurial mind set, I do look forward to getting on track of achieving new feats in life."

Arnobi De
Arnobi De Image Credit: Supplied

'I have learnt to live rather than survive'

UAE resident Rana Baisiri on the other hand left her career with an international company to become a sleep coach for children. “One of the greatest blessings of 2020 is surely the new lens we have been gifted with. COVID-19 made me put things into perspective and release my finger from the auto-pilot button. I now live in the present moment and have learned to appreciate and cherish the little things in life. I have identified my values with family and freedom being on top of the list. Today, I am a stay-at-home mom, who has decided to take a leap of faith and build her own business, focused on family and growth. After spending over 10 years in the corporate world, COVID-19 helped me take a pause and rewire my life to best fit my family’s needs, along with mine. What is present today will be the past tomorrow, l’ve learnt to live rather than survive."

Rana Baisiri
Rana Baisiri Image Credit: Supplied

Downsizing to a meaningful life

Another mum who changed her life drastically is Esraa. The working mother of three and a UAE resident, who called her life a moving hurricane, has slowed her pace. Esraa downsized and went from a big five-bedroom villa to a small two-bedroom apartment near the beach, from three cars to one car, clearing out up to 80 per cent of her family possessions (toys, clothes and furniture). “When we moved, whole rooms didn’t go with us, we prioritised and realised that we are not afraid of change.”

COVID-19 restrictions and the uncertainty the pandemic brought made Esraa realise that what mattered is a stress-free life. She has spent a lot of time commuting to school and worrying about maintaining a 'big life' that the family did not need. “We were occupying a big dead space, today it’s the best decision we have ever made, we learned not to be attached to earthly possessions, or worry about what others think, we as a family needed to grow closer, and the life we were leading was setting us up for failure.”

Esraa and family
Esraa and family Image Credit: Supplied

“Downsizing has diminished the sensory overload for my three children. They are absolutely different children overall since we moved. They mellowed a lot. This also sent them a clear message about what’s important in life. During pandemic you are forced to spend time at home. You are forced to confront your baggage and your possessions. You begin to see how [many] possessions you’ve accumulated over the years—and how much of that is absolutely unnecessary. This new lifestyle gifted us - more time, more energy, more quality time, more money, more focus and more opportunity to pursue those things in life that bring real happiness.”

Esraa's children
Esraa's children Image Credit: Supplied

My 30th birthday was the turning point, says Yousra Zaki, Gulf News staff

Yousra Zaki

"My therapist once told me that dwelling on the past or thinking too much about the future, prevents you from truly enjoying your present. But we live in a world that constantly tells us to plan ahead and think of our future. I am not going to pretend I am the queen of ‘living in the moment’, but turning 30 has really encouraged me to do better.
There’s no denying that I spend a lot of time and effort “working on myself” so that I can be hotter, richer and more secure in the future, but now I am forcing myself to stop obsessing with the future and to stop past actions from creeping into my present brain.
"I believe that living in the now is both a combination of an intangible state of mind and your tangible external environment.
"The external environment was the easy bit. All you have to do is move from things you see every day, like your room, office, car, restaurant and take yourself somewhere different. On the back of a horse in the desert, climbing down a mountain, or even to the beach on a paddleboard over the weekend. I also bought a bike to explore parts of my neighbourhood that I normally wouldn’t get to see. So it’s been 28 days since I turned 30 and I have: Eaten worms, abseiled down a mountain, visited a haunted ghost town in the middle of the Sharjah desert, I swung on a waterfall swing, entered a 500-year-old mosque in the UAE, went scuba diving and saw sharks and ate incredible Vietnamese food.
"The tricky part is the state of mind, making sure your brain doesn’t drift off to the past or the future. It’s not easy! You have to keep telling yourself to enjoy the food you’re eating right at this second, to really look into your friend’s eye while you are talking to them. To feel the smoothness of your hair while you brush it and to not let what happened in the past ruin your present."

What is living in the moment? Dr Arun Kumar, Dubai-based psychiatrist, explains

Dr Arun Kumar, Specialist Psychiatrist, Aster Clinic and Hospitals

Living in the moment basically means to be able to bring the mind to the present moment and have a non-judgmental awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, sensations and the environment. Being mindful, increases your psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility means being able to fully participate in what is happening now, as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation demands one should be able to change or continue the behaviour volitionally.

The thoughts of the past and the fear of the future clogs our thought process and causes a restless mind. Our behaviour is a product of our current emotional state (the emotional mind) and the logical analysis (reasonable mind). But most often than not, our emotional mind begins to dictate us. As most of us would have experienced that we had been illogically angry, irritable, rude, anxious or fearful in situations and we realize it after the incident is over and feel regretful. So being mindful will improve our control over ourselves, our emotions and help manage stressful situations.

The techniques

There are many ways to learn and practice these techniques. Treatment methods based on stress reduction and in cognitive therapy has shown efficacy in disorders like anxiety, recurrent depression, OCD, chronic pain (like fibromyalgia), functional gastro disorders (like IBS) and personality disorders to name a few.

COVID and well-being

More than coronavirus pandemic, it has been a mental health pandemic globally. Though 'being cautious' is required and mandatory, many have this intense and often illogical fear of the illness and death. There has been increase in the number of people presenting with anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, multiple stress related symptoms like feeling feverish or feeling a lump in the throat (though all tests reports were negative). Those managing it well are indeed those who are focussing on the 'now and here' rather than the 'what if?' It is logically better to focus on what we do now - preventing spread, wearing masks, maintaining social distance and be socially responsible, rather than worrying about the illness and absent mindedly doing things which we aren't supposed to.

'Try this simple trick (the STOP technique) each day and see how mindful you can be'

  1. Stop momentarily whatever you are doing: a pause
  2. Take a deep breath: breath is a tool to pin our awareness to the moment
  3. Observe: your thoughts, your feelings, what you are going to do and whether it is required
  4. Proceed with what you think is right

Filling the present of distractive things is one way for escaping the fear of tomorrow, says Dr Andrea Tosatto, Dubai-based psychologist

Dr Andrea Tosatto, clinical psychologist

"COVID-19 is not over. Or maybe it is. Or maybe it never was what it seemed to be. And it is very difficult for almost anybody to plan their future from a perspective of control. The perception of lack of control is one of the most depressive, anxiogenic and demotivating experiences for a human being. Filling the present of distractive things is one way for escaping the fear of tomorrow. Worries of future did not fade. People is just hiding the head under the sand because the future is perceived so out of control that nobody wants to deal with it."

Learning to live in the present, or mindfulness, is one of the most important life skills you can master, says Tooba Siddiqui, Dubai-based psychologist

Tooba Siddiqui, Clinical Psychologist, Medcare Camali Mental Health Clinic

Learning to live in the present, or mindfulness, is one of the most important life skills you can master because it brings with it immense rewards. It means that your mind is not in the past nor is it in the future. It is right here, right now.
We are pulled in so many directions by too much stimuli, too much responsibilities and too much hurrying. But all this does is cause the mind to bounce between the past (“should’ve, would’ve, could’ve”) and the future (worry about what might happen). The result? Stress.

Take a moment to check in with yourself and identify the moment you’re in. You can do this by asking questions about your surroundings and your current state. Ask yourself questions like: Where am I? What is around me? What noises do I hear? What can I physically feel around me? What do I smell? Who is around? How am I feeling? What am I grateful for right now? Accept whatever comes up without tension, judgment or friction. Let it be. It doesn’t mean letting things passively pass you by, but on the contrary, it means being actively yourself in the present moment.

'Worrying today won’t change what happens tomorrow'

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome. Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life. The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true. In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. It’s much harder than it sounds, but try to remember that worrying today won’t change what happens tomorrow.