How frantic becomes the music of our lives when we become desperate for a break. Yet all that seems to come our way are crescendos: a swarm of e-mails, interruptions, meeting reminders, the dash in-between to grab a cup of coffee to stimulate our minds for more hours of ceaseless activity. We long for repose: a dignified calmness. We long to sleep peacefully at night, but are anxious about the details of the following day, if not constantly replaying the tape of previous day over and over in our minds. How is rest possible with the threats of the urgent responsibilities? We shudder to think of the consequences of not complying with immediate demands. This thinking is counter-intuitive as it damages out ability to think creatively to problem solve or even just be creative in general.
These thoughts are the result of a vicious cycle in which we mentally place ourselves. And it’s very hard to break out. The problem is not that we don’t have times set aside when we’re supposed to rest. The problem is that within these times of rest, we aren’t actually resting. Here are three concepts that will hopefully be like stepping stones over the rushing river of your life, onto calmer ground.
Remove the Stress
The first concept is to remove the weight of the stress. Imagine that the demands of your life that seem to chase you around the clock are heavy weights and files in a box that you are holding, and your mind is the step ladder you are standing on. If you are not finding true solace during weekends and at night, the step ladder gets weaker, like an antique, with rusty hinges that are wearing away. And the more responsibility and pressure you have on yourself to perform increases the load. A fast move out of place from you will result in the entire stack of the ladder (your mind) yourself and your workload crashing down. Holding up this weight is impossible, but failing also feels impossible.
Why do we get ourselves here? We are over-functioning. Often, we over-function out of the desire for approval & respect from managers, peers or even family members. We lie to ourselves that our self-worth is tied up in our performance and what others think about us. This is a common notion. But it’s not true, and it’s crippling. On our good days, we feel even more bound to achieve and on our bad days we feel worthless – the common thread is that both are hopeless. Perfection is never a nice-looking future. 100% is predictable and doesn’t define us. We are much greater than reaching our KPI’s. Every human has more fire in them than simply ticking off their to-do list. The key to getting rid of approval addiction, this perfectionism and our inclination for over-functioning is to understand where our value is found. This might take a bit of soul-searching, chatting to friends, but it’s important to find out for yourself why you matter. I would argue that it’s the most important discovery you’ll ever make.
The second concept is to begin speaking the truth. Often it helps to understand what your truth is before you can make it known. Being honest with yourself and others gives you the freedom to talk about your limits and your stress. This is only possible once you are secure in your own personal worth apart from others opinions of you. Being able to be honest with others keeps you away from becoming bitter that others weren’t able to guess what you wanted. I’ve fallen into this trap before, but it’s a reality; no matter how long someone has known you, you can still surprise them, and it’s unfair to expect them to anticipate your desires. Speaking them out will help bring them about or give you internal peace about why they aren’t a reality. When you’re honest with yourself, you give yourself the responsibility for the outcome of your life. Not your partner, not your parents, your children, your co-workers or your boss. You alone know your dreams best and only you will get yourself there. Beginning to be honest with yourself starts you on a journey to get there. Don’t fall into the trap that I believed for decades: that some lucky people just happen to make it in life and there are limited opportunities. You can’t live anyone else’s life but your own, and you’re free to live your new, unique and gorgeous life.
Find Your Rest
Often people are confused after a long weekend of travelling, spending time with family and vegging out on Netflix that they return to work feeling exhausted. But it’s not surprising; Even though they weren’t working, neither were they resting. Once you begin to be honest with yourself and others, you will start discovering that you can be honest about what you find restful or not. My husband and I have found that we differ in our need for solitude, and even though I seem much more extroverted, I need much more alone time than he does. Studies show that journaling and silent meditation everyday does wonders to center a person, calm them and keep them in a much more restful mood for the remainder of the day. Try spending a few minutes each morning writing down your thoughts over a cuppa tea. And be honest. If your partner loves something that you’ve “put up with” maybe it’s time for them to go along with a group of other enthusiasts and give you time to do things you genuinely love. Do you love reading, being outdoors, sport, volunteering, artwork? Think about what you wish you were into and what’s keeping you from getting into it. Then get rid of what is in your way, if at all possible. Life is too short to spend the whole time worrying.
That which is false brings trouble to the heart, but truth brings joyous tranquility. – Rumi
Note: Much of my musings in this blog come from reading texts by Geri Scazzero.