You expect that you should be feeling good, this is the break you’ve been hankering after for a while now. But you are feeling off, maybe stressed, maybe ill, maybe grumpy, maybe even depressed or picking a few fights. Whatever it is just isn’t sitting right with you. This is your break, you want to feel great, so how do you get over what you are feeling right now?
Here’s the deal, you’ve been running hard, possibly all year without any kind of a decent break. If you’re like me you may just be feeling a little like you’ve survived something, and it’s more than just Christmas dinner. You’ve kicked your body into a permanent state of flight and fight and, now, you have a change of routine for a few days and suddenly your body is looking for the threat it’s been busy running from and fighting all year long.
In essence, your body is detoxing from a whole bunch of stress hormones and your mind is disrupted from its usual patterns of repetitive thoughts that drive your actions and therefore your experiences and feelings each day.
Okay, so you’ve felt better but what can you do about it? Well, less of the ‘doing’ for a start.
The best thing you can do for now is carry on with your seasonal plans, but start noticing how things are making you feel. This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how oblivious to our own lives we are for so much of our time.
For example, I’ve spent most of the last year having a painful elbow and wrist treated, thinking it stemmed from wrenching a muscle when I was moving furniture, which then trapped some nerves. Given the pain I was in, I dutifully followed the physiotherapist’s instructions on exercises to do at home. Over a period of months it slowly got better, the pain retracting from my elbow but remaining in my wrist.
Then the physiotherapist strapped up my thumb and wrist with some new muscle tape, slightly restricting my movement. With the tape on it suddenly made me conscious of every movement that hurt and I discovered quite quickly that the main culprit was my laptop. Really I’ve had a repetitive strain injury because of the posture I adopt when typing.
Now, I’m not completely oblivious to the pain I’ve been in while typing, I just wasn’t paying enough attention to realise it was the cause rather than a symptom.
Often we are so wrapped up in our drive to ‘do’, and distracted in our thoughts about what we are doing or have to do next, we miss all the signals going on around that indicate our wellbeing. Right now is your opportunity to simply tune in to yourself and pay attention to the causes of any disharmony.
Are those fights you are having with your nearest and dearest the cause of your mood, or simply a symptom of something else that is out of whack in your life? What are those aches and pains telling you? Do you really need to go on a diet, or do you need to address something else totally in order to get back into a healthier eating regime? Is that person at work really such a pain in the neck, or do your issues lay elsewhere?
Now is the time to start paying heed to what lies at the heart of your discomfort. Often you have to let that thought sit with you a while, you’re unlikely to have an epiphany about your career while reading this article. But you might in the next couple of days or in the next week, just start being aware of what is really making you feel bad.
Sounds obvious doesn’t it? It is, but it may also be that the first few things you notice are simply the icing on the top of the problem, so don’t jump into an action plan straight away, let it sit in case there is more to reveal itself.
We take so little time for ourselves, yet when we practice being mindful in this way we take great big positive strides in our life. This is the time of year many resolve to make changes, because when we see our life through different lenses we can’t help but be compelled to take action.
That will come, for now, just ‘bide wi yerself a wee bit’ – meaning to sit with yourself for a little while. Observe what is going on, it’s more than likely that the surface indicators are only that. There’s no use in taking rash action, just wait, see what else arises. Often it can take 6 or 7 looks at an issue to really get to the heart of it, so let it unfold.
Once you’ve done that, figuring out what needs to change is so much easier. But that is next year’s job, for right now, rest up, relax and unwind. As the new year approaches we Scots like to say:
May the best ye hae ivver seen be the warst ye'll ivver see.
May the moose ne'er lea' yer girnal wi a tear-drap in its ee.
May ye aye keep hail an hertie till ye'r auld eneuch tae dee.
May ye aye juist be sae happie as A wuss ye aye tae be.
May the best you have ever seen be the worst you will ever see.
May the mouse never leave your grain store with a tear drop in its eye.
May you always stay hale and hearty until you are old enough to die.
May you still be as happy as I always wish you to be.
Here’s looking forward to a healthier, happier 2016!
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
Being Present is the Best Present You Can Give Yourself: Why it’s Important to Let Every Last Moment of 2015 Sink In
It’s the end of the year, another is in sight, but for now just enjoy these last days of 2015. Connecting with people old and new, connecting with the world around you has magical restorative effects.
There’s so much to do winding up at work, social events, family gatherings and shopping for gifts, the list seems endless. As you are racing around trying to get everything done, stop just for a second and realise that you can’t (do everything). As much as you will give it a darn good try, it will rob you of what’s happening right now all around you.
Your happiness in life occurs at the points where your energy seems to just flow, it’s a very light energy as the proverbial weight is lifted off your shoulders. While feeling ambivalent is better than feeling stressed, angry, sad or depressed, gratitude is the top elixir of all emotions. Feeling grateful is something that comes easily when we relax a little and notice more.
Look around. Who are you sitting next to? What’s the weather like? What do you look like when you stare at your face in the mirror? This moment will never come again. You can choose to live in your next thought of that email that needs sent, the letter that needs posted, the groceries you need to buy, the fuel that needs to go in the car on the way to pick up the kids. Or you can choose to be fully present in the line at the post office rather than thinking about the next thing you need to do.
Recently I’ve become so aware of how we shut ourselves off from people. When we are out and about we avoid eye contact and gesture in a way that says “I’m too busy”. A couple of weeks ago I dropped in to a sandwich bar to pick up a smoothie. Rather than dive into my device as I’m prone to, avoiding eye contact with everyone else, I got to chatting with a lady sitting drinking her smoothie.
I have to admit I had this lady pegged as a housewife of around retirement age. As it turns out she was a music producer. Though I’ll never likely meet this lady again, I can tell you it felt good to connect with someone and the surprise and delight at meeting someone so creative gave me a lift as I headed off to the next meeting.
Just yesterday I was visiting a nearby fairy tale themed garden with my kids, they had happened upon the fictitious wolf’s hideout (the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood) and were happily playing with pots, pans and mouldy water.
As much as the dusty hideout and mouldy water did not entice me, I did surrender to the moment and let the girls play, caught up in their imagination for a long time. Meanwhile I sat on the grass and looked up at the trees, they were big trees, been there a long long time. It felt solid and soothing to just be there.
If ever there was food for the soul though, catching up with old friends would be it. As the holiday season approaches our minds often turn to checking in with those we haven’t in a long time.
Then as we talk we wonder why we haven’t, our hearts enriched, our load unburdened.
Old friends, close friends are amazing, and enduring. There are those who are only part of our lives for a season and then we move on, nowadays we honour the past connection through social media. Then there are those who are still part of the fabric of our lives, we just don’t get to see them that often.
In terms of being who you are and being present in the moment, nothing can be easier than when you spend time with good friends. Since having children I have found that life gets especially busy in just the day to day stuff. Before you know it another year has passed and here you are wondering why you left it so long to check in with those who ‘get you’ the most.
Catching up with those who make you feel this way is part of the restorative end of year cycle. There is nothing to feel guilty about; your friends are in just the same boat. There will be moments you have together, maybe even this year you are sharing a vacation, but there’s no need to feel any angst about it, just sink in and enjoy.
Like the tide washing in and washing out, your soul needs soothing, it’s ragged at the end of a long year. Life has a rhythm about it, as much as you will start to reconnect with yourself and get more clarity on the things that are truly important to you in the coming weeks, just to be present now as you start to wind down and let that all unfold.
It’s time to wake up to the world around us again, to shake your boots off and sit down, rest a while in good company and enjoy the wonder around you. All of these things and more will do you a power of good. Rest up, for when that clarity comes about what’s really important in your life, you will be called to act and remember fondly the time you sat still for just a moment and took in the world around you.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/11242455@N00/4530848609">Dandelion</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
At this time of year we are often in situations where we are catching up with people we don’t choose to spend time with day to day. For many this is uncomfortable, if not downright undesirable, leading to more stress at a time when all we want to do is unwind. We often find ourselves next to colleagues, our partner’s colleagues, or their partners, or members of our family wondering what on earth to say next.
What if you could turn this into an enriching, uplifting experience? I’m not talking about the usual intoxications that grease the wheels of most social occasions, I’m talking about something really simple that won’t result in a hangover or find you reaching for another substance (which for many who choose to remain sober, or have been elected the sober driver, isn’t an option anyway).
Most of us get anxious just thinking about those initial moments of walking in saying hello. We are often too busy worrying about what we are going to say next and what these others might think of us, that we are not truly present at all. You might find yourself just wishing for the waiter or waitress to come over and distract the attention onto the safer topic of drink or meal choices.
However, if you choose not to focus on yourself at all, and simply be interested in listening to others, it will burst the bubble of anxiety and make your time, life even, much more rewarding. Of course, what is simple is not always easy, but in this case, it’s actually not that hard either. You have all the skills, they might be a bit rusty but they’re there.
This weekend I found myself at my partner’s work’s annual dinner. He has only worked there for a few months and so I hadn’t met anyone. He’s also a tradesman, so in terms of what they do for a living and what I do, on the face of it, it’s completely different.
When we arrived the restaurant was already really busy and there were a few people from our party gathered in the waiting area. Unfortunately the only space to coalesce was seats that were in a long straight line, so it wasn’t really conducive to a conversation of any kind and I could see people were feeling really awkward. Checking whether our table was ready, we decided just to head through and wait there instead, that got the ball rolling.
As it ended up, I had one of my partner’s colleagues on my left and another colleague’s girlfriend on my right. The guy on my left was really interesting, I discovered that (although he’s being doing his trade since leaving school) he was retraining as a counselor in his 50’s. Given my passion for people following their heart, the topic he was retraining in and relative proximity in age, that made our conversation really easy.
The girl on my right was only 18 and fairly shy, but once she knew I was actually interested in what she did and thought, she started to open up. I discovered she had a 7 year old sister that she seemed to really enjoy being around, and I could see her eyes light up when I talked about our two young kids, she had found something to relate to.
If you're not a confident conversationalist, think of some questions to ask in advance as openers to the conversation. If it’s someone you know, you can ask things like “Hey, I’ve never really asked, what do you do in your spare time?” or “I know you have kids, but I’ve never really asked their names, ages, what they do?”. If you don’t know someone the field is wide open: “What do you do?”, “Tell me more”, “What’s the story behind how you two met?” and so on. If you’ve thought about it, even only briefly, once you arrive you’ll be on the front foot. So just smile, dive in, then listen.
To truly listen you have to be able to interpret what is going on within the many levels of a person. For example, there are the verbal cues (what they are saying, what they are not saying), visual cues (their body language) and sensory cues (the feelings they are projecting). To do that you have to be completely present, absorbing all that is being conveyed, rather than thinking ahead. So while listening is a skill we all know we need, and one that we are all capable of, it’s one that few have truly cultivated.
To listen you have to be aware of the voice in your own head. That voice will immediately start to judge what’s being said, start to defend, start to look for weaknesses in order to attack or to make us seem knowledgeable or superior. Being able to observe your own judgments, recognizing them as opinions rather than definitive rights or wrongs, and to allow others to be as they are is what it takes.
What you will find is, as you start to listen, people open up. Once they see that you are actually interested in what they are saying and not scanning the room for a more safe haven, the conversation takes on a momentum.
Instead of feeling relieved my partner’s dinner was over for another year, I found I had really enjoyed it, and was both relaxed and uplifted. The evening had actually given me a bit of a buzz.
Listening is truly a meditative practice because you are giving your presence to another. For anyone who has tried being mindful in this way, you will know it’s called practice for good reason, because our minds are constantly wandering. The trick is to notice your mind has wandered and just pull it back into focus, again and again.
That is natural, but if you continue to focus upon someone you will find, fairly quickly, that you will have something in common with them, and it makes the whole experience a whole lot better than the awkward, stressful type. If you are lucky you may suddenly happen upon a topic in which you realise you (and the person you are talking to) must be soul mates in some way because what they are saying is something that really resonates with you, then you’ve struck gold.
As tired as you are, as stressed as you are, look upon some of the events in the coming weeks in a different light. If you can see those once awkward social situations as an opportunity for upliftment you will reap the benefits on every level.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/10845359@N02/9073652476">Union & Pine 319</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
How many of us are wrung out and crawling towards the holiday season? Right now most of you will be more than ready for a break. You’ll have had quite enough of 2015, the layers of ‘stuff’ that you’ve taken on (and are more than ready to shed) as you move into 2016.
The presents that we ‘have’ to buy, the dinners and nights out that we ‘have’ to attend, the time with family we ‘have’ to spend over the coming season will be more than some of you feel you can even face right now.
This feeling of having to do anything is just more of the control you’ve been experiencing since you were born. My 3-year old was singing along today to “Let it Go”, though more accurately you’d say she was belting it out with vehemence; the way I imagine many of you will this holiday season in parties and nights out the world over. She was fully in the moment and the look of intensity on her face told me how much she resonates with the song.
Songs like this are awesome; they cut through all social proprietary and just talk to our inner being. The fact that such a song can gather so much momentum tells me that many of you feel like you lock your emotions away and long to just let your true feelings out. The real you is inside somewhere and, at this time of year, has had just about enough of everything.
Watching my older daughter spiral into a full scale meltdown last week, and then my niece earlier today, I could feel the release they were experiencing. The sounds our children make at those moments can be horrifying (hence the reason most parents live in dread of it happening in public) but come from the depth of their soul.
As a mum, I catch myself constantly saying some form of “no” to my children. It generally relates back to their safety, wellbeing or respect for property but I am questioning more and more where some of my ‘rules’ are coming from. Being the parent of a kid in melt down is no fun; in turn it makes me want to melt down too.
"Let’s face it, who among us likes any level of control being directed at us?"
The same in the workplace, the rigmarole of ‘managing others’ that you know can actually manage themselves pretty well if we just treated them as whole, responsible, individuals. Let’s face it, who among us likes any level of control being directed at us? Often all it does, whether at home or in the workplace, is subconsciously invoke memories of our own childhood and we immediately rebel defensively in one form or another.
We have become beings who seek to control, our own and others' thoughts, emotions and actions. The mere suggestion that control might not be required after all sets most of our minds into red alert and we immediately fear that chaos will reign.
This happens from childhood and continues throughout our adult life, in both the workplace and our homes. We have become so conditioned to believing we need the control in order to avoid the chaos, we aren’t listening to our inner voices.
Imagine for one moment that we all know right from wrong, that we are born with an inner guidance about what is good and bad for us. Then remember what it is like to have that discarded and get told what is right and wrong, even when you knew it wasn’t.
The number one regret of the dying is living life for others, the ‘have to’ stuff, and not doing what they truly wanted to do. Remember that as you head into this holiday season. When you make the time to unwind, listen to your inner knowing, you will start to remember all the things that are truly important to you.
Seize this moment to make the most of the rest of your life. Consider the role that control takes in your life, the control you’re experiencing from - and are exerting on – others. It’s time to cut loose and go with the flow a little. Perhaps you’ll discover that life is in fact only a stream of wellbeing, if you’ll only go with it.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
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