Claim back your life!
You have set the alarm for 5 AM; you really must get into the office early to get a few things done before the others arrive. You arrived home late last night, and then had a glass, or two or three. At five the alarm rings. On some days you get up, but on other days you’re just too tired. If only you could wake up with a coffee in your hand!
If this is a bit like you, you are not alone! Coffee is the second largest global commodity, propping up our energy levels and camouflaging our tiredness.
Work pressure is only one of your potential “stressors”. Others are information overload, job uncertainty, social media, a highly reactive 24 hour input cycle, and too much coffee! To top it off, we humans tend to be masters of generating the stress internally by fuelling thoughts of worst-case scenarios, self-deprecation and placing the most negative experiences we have had on continuous replay.
The feeling is, “Once I get it all done, then I can relax. I just need to complete this and that, and then...” To try to get it all done we walk a little faster; we multi-task; we get up early, sacrificing a little sleep; we don't exercise as much as we would like; and we use coffee as our constant source of energy. Then we don’t sleep well, we feel overwhelmed, we can’t think clearly. We feel torn between home and work: at work we feel bad for the family, and when we are with them we can’t wait for them to fall asleep so we can get more work done.
We easily internalise and personalise stress to “I am not keeping up” and, even worse, “I am not good enough”. Our body systems are not designed for one big stream of high intensity work tasks and our attention is not designed for constant bombardment. It is not you: this is a cultural and societal problem and your reaction to this is natural, normal. Constant stress does, however, not serve you. It is hard on your body, on your mental and emotional wellbeing, on your relationships and even on your performance.
Much of the focus in corporate training and coaching is on ways to be more productive, more efficient - to get more done. The truth is you will never get it all done, you are most likely already at capacity and there is no magic trick that will give you more time. Are there ways to work more efficiently? “Yes”, and there are ways to manage our attention, but all this will only get you so far. Also, might some of those not-so-efficient moments have been when you had a laugh or experienced connection?
Not feeling connected contributes further to stress levels and low mood. With high stress and little connection we reach for the antidepressants when really our reaction to a crazy world is our systems saying: “This doesn't work for me”. Don't suppress a natural reaction to a sick system with antidepressants; instead, make some changes.
So what to do?
A good place to start is to reclaim your relaxed body state (the parasympathetic) throughout the day by simply taking ‘Five Magic Breaths’. You do that by focusing on the breath, then counting on the in breath and then counting twice as far on the out breath.
Start practicing mindfulness. Just ten minutes a day will make a substantial difference both immediately and over time. You can start with the ABCD mindfulness practice on our website: www.themindfulnesclinic.com.au.
Mindfulness is not a performance tool, it is a life quality and truth-finding practice. Mindfulness does increase our capacity, but more importantly, it makes it unacceptable to live in ‘everlasting go, go, go’ and ‘anxiety’. The practice of mindfulness will enable you to see the delusional treadmill that you are on and want better for yourself. After many years of mindfulness practice, I am no doubt more productive than ever, I also have more complete time off, and I don't allow myself to do rush, drama nor stress. Life is too short for low quality time like that.
Here are the basics in claiming your life back!
- Get enough sleep – if your work life is regularly affecting the time you have to sleep, something needs to change.
- Move - exercise a minimum of 30 minutes a day.
- Connect, relax, have ‘doing nothing time’ with no tasks other than perhaps a little gardening, reading, enjoying the sun or a long bath.
- Check in. Life is not a race. It exists in the NOW and that is now, right now. This moment matters. What is the quality of this moment for you? Are you making it a means to the next? Can you sense the body, the breath right now?
- Remember that out there is a rainforest, beaches, galleries, music, art, sport teams, books; life has a lot to offer and we forget that when all we can think about is finishing the next task.
- Charlotte Thaarup
- Principal Consultant
- B. Teach, DipFDR (Vic), DipMeditation, DipEd (London University) MBSR, MBEAT, CBMT.
- T 0432 724 764
- E: firstname.lastname@example.org