There’s a tornado – no wait – 3! Um, no – there are 6! They are headed STRAIGHT FOR US. Please! Please listen to me. I can see it from the upstairs window. We HAVE to get to the basement… NOW! PLEASE. Can’t you hear me? I’m begging you…. Let’s go. PLEEEEASE! <Whooshing sound, and… I wake up.>
Ever have dreams like that? I do. It’s a recurring theme. It’s actually become much less frequent – so that’s promising. The more I set healthy boundaries in my life, the less my sub-conscious mind revs up dreams of trying desperately to get my family members to hear me when I’m trying to warn them about our impending doom as a cyclone (or 6) whirls its way toward us. The ‘tornado dream’ as I refer to it – almost always has 3 constant variables at play…
- It occurs during stressful times
- I feel like I’m stuck and can’t ‘get away’
- No one around me seems to get it – and I can’t seem to prevent the impending tragedy…
If you don’t make time for you, your body will eventually do that for you – but it won’t be as enjoyable.
Heed the warning signs…(You know – like stressful dreams about tornadoes barreling toward you.) When I don’t respond to the red flags and limit the cortisol surges – my body eventually says, “Absolutely no more, woman” in the form of debilitating migraines. The rubber band gets pulled too tightly, around too many goals – and it finally snaps. I’m prone to migraine headaches, and easily 95% of them stem from tension in my shoulders (though some of this tension comes from poor posture, certain activities & sleeping positions, which I’m working on as well). It’s where I unwittingly direct my stress, frustration, and fatigue. Although stress can also be positive, it is said that our bodies don’t recognize good stress from bad stress in the way of cortisol-release. That cortisol builds up quickly – and messes with your physiology in many harmful ways. From fatigue, brain-fog, and trouble sleeping, to inflammation, depression, and disease – it’s no wonder my body stops me in my tracks!
Here’s the thing… With each passing year – I’m more inclined to buck the system even further. I disallow the world around me to dictate how I’ll live my life, and Joel (the hubby) is fully on board with this too. We try to maintain that even keel between the responsibilities we have to uphold, and then enjoying the good that comes from doing so – and making sure there is enough of that time to enjoy…
Try as we might – we live in a whirlwind-culture…. It’s hard to stay on the desired path when the wind is blowing you in every direction. If I get distracted and forget to pay attention to the clouds, I don’t see the tornado headed my way. I get sucked-in, and boom – I’m a victim of our over-eager society – willing to prove themselves at any cost – and keep on doing more. This ‘doing more’ is often viewed as heroic, but I couldn’t disagree more. When we forget about the real reasons why we are doing something – it soon loses its spark, and the candle eventually burns out.
Our culture doesn’t seem to notice it much. It’s become ‘the norm’. The expectation, even. What’s the first question we often wonder about people? “What are you DOING?” Right? Think about the last time you were able to answer with the word “nothing” and actually MEAN it. We toss that out there lightheartedly – when we are basically trying to suggest that we’re not doing anything that can’t wait until we’re done chatting with the person who asks. But when’s the last time you truly did absolutely NOTHING? Or – when was the last time you did something that wasn’t attached to “accomplishment”, time constraints, achievement, or a need to ‘get things done‘? Something just for you. Just for FUN. An opportunity to clear your mind and give it a rest.
If you answered ‘recently’ – then give yourself a pat on the back! Be proud of your ability to know when to say when and take care of YOU. Not many people have that kind of self-awareness, or the understanding for how beneficial it is to let things go for a while and create some mental space. Whatever you do – do not be ashamed or made to feel like you’re not a “productive member of society” if you aren’t constantly running your azz off at all hours to do, do, DO! Ultimately – when you get stuck in a routine that’s solely do, do, do – you’re eventually going to die, die, die. Even if pushing yourself past your limits doesn’t cause immediate physical harm to yourself, you’ll slowly begin to ‘die’ on the inside.
So what’s a girl (or guy) supposed to do when the society they are immersed within places so much emphasis on doing, climbing, excelling, speed, multi-tasking, more-more-more?
Here’s a start:
- Change your mindset about expectations. You don’t have to live up to the expectations of anyone else. And, it’s OK to simply REST your mind! Be at peace with being at peace.
- Determine what’s truly important to you. What does success in life mean to YOU. (Not according to society. Not according to your spouse/ bff/ parents/ or anyone else… This will differ for everyone.) As an example…. Money in itself is probably not so important. But paying your mortgage, affording other needs for your family, and getting to look forward to a vacation and some joy probably are….
- Figure out your personal balance. Ever notice how many (if not most) successful business owners have tons of income and clients – but very little time to enjoy the earnings? Or – those with more time on their hands generally have less income to fund ways of enjoying that time? What if you could arrange to find the balance in there? Enough money to do what you want and need to do, and enough time to do it…. There’s the Sweet-Spot!
- Let go of perfection. No one is perfect; so what makes you think you ought to be? You’re human – so take advantage of it and revel in the imperfection!
- When you’re feeling overwhelmed by your list of ‘to-do’s’ – ask yourself this, “What is the worst that could happen if I don’t do this right now?” Chances are – the world will keep turning, you’ll survive, the people around you will adjust, and things will work out… I’m fairly doubtful that most of your non-doings will unravel the hemisphere and cause an apocalypse. Sometimes – setting it aside will mean greater productivity when you return to it anyway.
Now that you’ve got a new mindset around this, here are some things you can actively DO:
- Carve out a small amount of alone-time for yourself each day. Give yourself room to just breathe, and sort out your thoughts – or try to avoid too much thinking and give your mind a rest through meditation. RELAX.
- Having a hard time with not getting more done? Schedule something that will force you to relax! For me – a massage is required – roughly quarterly. It’s a little gift-to-self, and to the family, really – as they benefit from a well-rounded, relaxed, pain-free mama too. Aside from renewing my psyche, it helps me manage that shoulder tension I was talking about above…. preventing migraines, among other benefits. (‘Tis a lengthy list!)
- Think of something that you enjoy doing, that isn’t necessarily on your list of to-do’s. Something that is reserved for ‘when you have time’. Something that you might, oh say, reward yourself with if you were to finish all of your tasks… DO that thing – and enjoy yourself for a while! It’s NECESSARY.
- Make certain times/ days of the week “Non-responsibility-days”. At the very least – you can minimize responsibilities on certain days. As an example – I don’t do laundry, or my online work, on the weekends. Period. It’s family time. Often, if we don’t have something planned, we plan nothing intentionally – which leads to my next suggestion…
- If need be (or WANT be – for me it’s both) – SCHEDULE open space on your calendar with NO commitments. This is space you LEAVE open – until that time arrives. Just tell people you have something scheduled. Hey – you’re not lying. Trust me when I say – this feels A.MAZ.ING! Then, when that time arrives, be spontaneous! Do whatever you feel like doing at that time. Family time? Go for it. Solo-time? You bet. Read a book. Take a walk. Or if you’re feeling especially motivated, do some kind of personal project that you’ve been putting off due to a ‘lack of time’. (That can feel great too!) *Note – for those with kids, you already know you need a little time to plan ahead for date-nights with the spouse. So – in that case – get that sitter, and plan the date-time. (It doesn’t mean you have to plan WHAT you will go do on your date, which still leaves room for some spontaneity!)
I want to share a favorite quote (from a favorite movie): Ferris Bueler’s Day Off
(Ferris) “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
He was led to what he needed. He made some mistakes – but learned from ’em. He touched some people along the way. He grew. He experienced life. He experienced joy. He still graduated… And he didn’t really hurt anyone in the process. (Fate took care of that, if you recall the end of the movie!)
If you have not seen this movie… it is a MUST-SEE classic! I OWN it. “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” (Another Ferris quote for ya…)
I tend to think of it as a need to feed the soul, not the stress! Now, even though there is a positive side to stress – largely impacted by how we view it – I believe that there is still a need to come down from stress so it doesn’t become chronic – or take a turn for the negative by allowing something to overwhelm us. Cortisol is still cortisol….
I wanna know: What’s your biggest struggle with letting go and just BEING?
I’ll start: For me, my struggle is that I am a ‘finisher’ by nature. I love to complete something. It feels good. It feels fulfilled. It feels accomplished. So – I’m working more on embracing the journey, and recognizing the fact that small steps will lead to great achievements! In our world of instant gratification, it’s a tougher lesson, no doubt – but totally doable. How? Why? Because I want to feel joy. I want to enjoy some flexibility. I want to feel free from the anxiety and stress that are invoked by always trying to ‘catch up with myself’. I want to live on purpose – and I want to make every day count. That supercedes my worry about merely ‘getting things done’. I can be free to take steps in that direction, and also to take some time for myself in order to rejuvenate for the next day. Gotta allow room for that creative energy to flourish… (Bama!)
Please share in the comments below.
Tell us your struggle, and what you do – or plan to try – to overcome it. Ready – GO!