Time to SLOW DOWN
I’ve been slipping a little into mindless behavior lately, so had to spend some time addressing self-compassion this morning. There are periods of time where life just gets overwhelming and I forget to mind my mind. I didn’t realize I was slipping until this morning, when I found out I booked the wrong day for meeting my daughter and grandchildren. I was so irritated with myself at first, but then stopped to reflect on what’s really going on. And that’s when I realized I’ve allowed too many obligations to creep in and I’m overwhelmed. If this happens to you, too, remember that it is in the noticing that we are building our mindfulness muscles.
I’m juggling a lot with work right now, in addition to tedious and time-consuming administrative tasks like renewing insurance policies, reviewing or renewing contracts, renewing my own meditation facilitation certification, and working on regulatory compliance issues. Exciting stuff, not. But on top of all of that, I have major construction going on in my backyard, so am interrupted by the noise, questions or decisions that have to be made on the fly.
I’ve mentioned before that our brains can’t multitask, they can only task switch. And bouncing back and forth from contracts to workshops to construction to insurance issues is clearly over-tasking my brain. I just had a coaching session with someone who is overwhelmed and it was easy for me to suggest self-compassion because on top of all of the chaos we create in our lives, our tendency when overwhelmed is to criticize ourselves and to push even harder, which just doesn’t work. We in fact need to do the opposite and slow down.
Over-taxing our minds doesn’t increase output, it decreases quality. So with that in mind, I know I need to slow down, despite the deadlines coming up. I don’t need to take a week off or anything so drastic as to miss my deadlines. I just need to take a little breather, slow down, remember to enjoy what I’m doing as I’m doing it. I need to slow down so I can take care and pay attention to what I’m doing. And I need to slow down enough that I am paying attention to my body, which is starting to protest too much sitting again.
We can all think much more clearly when calm and centered. Practicing mindfulness supports us greatly in that effort. It sounds counterintuitive to slow down when you get too busy, but I know from experience that doing so makes an enormous improvement not only in how I feel, but in what I produce. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, give it a try to experience it for yourself. Take a half hour or so just to be, not do. Then return to the tasks at hand and notice the difference in how you feel.
I’ve also been having to practice serious patience over the past month or so and it has honestly been a little taxing for me. The backyard project has been delayed for a couple of months, started up, was delayed again due to material shortages, started up again and now, can’t be completed for another month due to another shortage of materials. It’s not the actual project that requires so much patience from me, but everything being in such disarray and downright filthy.
My outdoor furniture is piled up in corners of the yard. I have a pallet of pavers in my driveway. I have stacks of bricks and walking stones in various locales around the yard. I have 2 tons of sand where the yard used to be, blowing around with the slightest breeze. I have boxes of various things waiting to be installed or used scattered about indoors and out. I have sawdust and nails and chunks of used materials all over the place. I have another 2 tons of dirt stacked in my front yard, also blowing about. And of course, the dust and sand creep into the house daily.
I’m not a clean freak, although I do prefer a clean space over dirty, but it’s the chaos this situation creates in my mind that is requiring so much effort in patience. I feel irritated every time I have to step over things, duck under things, go around things and unfortunately, frequently trip over things. I feel frustrated that I can’t start my next part of the project, laying pavers, until the contractors are done with their part. Aggravation rises as I also have to step over cans of paint and outdoor furniture cushions stacked in my studio, and each time the piles of cushions fall over as I try to maneuver around them to get to a desk.
In addition to all of these physical irritants, and much more importantly, I can’t stay focused for any length of time on what I’m working on. Just like stacks of paper visible when working, all of these stacks of other things distracts my mind. You may have heard the adage that a cluttered space produces a cluttered mind. It certainly does for me and that’s where self-compassion comes back into play. I need to recognize that this situation is unsettling for my mind and instead of berating myself for getting distracted, I need to be gentle with myself and try to accept what is.
Sometimes it’s very hard to practice the aspect of mindfulness that is acceptance. We have to make a conscious choice to do so, which in itself is difficult. We don’t want to accept that we are not in control. We don’t want to accept that we can’t have things the way we want them or when we want them. And we don’t want to accept feeling discomfort. But the truth is, all of these things we resist accepting are true, so resisting them does no good. In fact, resistance it just creates a lot more discomfort.
The choice that serves us best is to practice acceptance and to achieve that state, we simply have to observe life’s events from a neutral space. Like it or not, I can’t control contractors, I can’t control other’s timelines, I can’t control the shortages of all kinds of products related to the pandemic shutdowns and I can’t control the amount of space I have available to stack and store stuff. I can accept that the only thing I can control is my response to these events. I can respond by being cranky and irritable and frustrated, or I can respond by accepting what is and letting go of my need to try to control what is not in my control.
I can also increase compassion for myself because this is very uncomfortable. My mind is fighting me. By being kind to myself, by giving myself a break for my mistakes and by recognizing that this may not be the best time to push myself harder, my entire system can begin to relax and better support me. Fighting my mind is exhausting, so I can also remember that as my aggravation rises, if I allow it to go unchecked, it does not serve me. I can pause, breathe, forgive myself for any screw-ups and let it go.
I can take more breaks, get a little more sleep, increase my exercise and focus on gratitude for what I have now, and for what will be a beautiful backyard later. I can slow down so that I can be more at peace while being more productive. It just requires patience and acceptance. Lots of patience and acceptance.
Consider your own life right now. Are there situations that cause you discomfort and that you resist accepting for what they are? Are you fighting your own mind, causing yourself more stress? We are living in unusual times, where life is still not normal, where we’re still dealing with a lot of anxiety about transitions and where we don’t have much control over the events occurring. Perhaps you could use a little self-compassion, too. Plus a good dose of patience and acceptance to help get you through.
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Mindfulness increases our emotional, physical and mental well-being. It can also enhance our focus and productivity. Perhaps most importantly, mindfulness strengthens our empathy and compassion for others, which I believe we need more of in our world today. So, practice mindfulness in everything you do. Spend at least a little time meditating every day. And remember to be kind to yourself and others.
We’re here to do more than just survive. We can thrive. And it all starts with a mindful moment.