Last week we were feeling a little tired and run down and noticed just how much it impacted upon our passion and productivity. Of course we still got stuff done but we just didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as we usually do. This coincided with us watching Ruby Wax’s new play Sane New World about mindfulness – it couldn’t have been timed better and resulted in us taking a step back and making some life changing decisions! If you’re in a similar position here are a few bits of advice that might just inspire you to do the same.
You should take a look at Ruby’s book Sane New World and her latest play if you get the chance, she also has a great TED talk on depression. Driven by a need to understand her own battle with depression Ruby Wax popped off and got herself a Masters from Oxford University in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (and joked that only someone as dopamine driven as her could nail this in such a short time frame with no background on the subject!). So now she’s on a mission to take the importance of mindfulness to the masses and explain how our endless chattering minds and self-criticisms can drive us to suffer from anxiety and stress. We’re pretty sure her entertaining, yet expert delivery on the subject will make it become the trend it really needs to be and people can start to come terms with the importance of changing how we think and live our lives.
In the run up to watching the play we’d had a busy few days and I’m ashamed to admit I was still on emails in the theatre when I should have just been kicking back with an ice cream and getting excited about the show. So her first question “why are we so busy?” was totally appropriate and completely stopped me in my tracks. Since launching our own company Matt and I have been pretty busy, so that’s 6 years of being busy with very few days off and no actual laptopless holidays. Whilst we have achieved some phenomenal things, the sad fact is we’ve barely taken a moment to stop and appreciate our success and hard work – because we’re too busy jumping onto the next goal or project. Ruby Wax highlights that some of this chronic ‘busyness’ is perhaps because we’re too scared to stop for a moment and see what exists outside of it, what would we do if we weren’t tip tapping away on a phone or laptop all day. Lately, we have both observed our sense of busyness has increased and maybe we’re doing it on purpose to hide away from the fact we’ve lost our way a little, it’s easy to keep busy on daily basis than stop and make some profound changes in your life. The following are just some of the questions we’ve asked ourselves lately and provide a good starting point for you to reflect upon your own lifestyle. See if the headings below resonate with you at all?
Do You Need ‘To Do’ It?
We all seem to take pleasure in stacking up an overwhelming ‘To Do’ list and then for some reason leave everything to the last minute so we can fly through it and get a great kick out of some serious adrenaline fuelled hours (or days) nailing everything. A combination of caffeine and cortisol will usually ensure we succeed, we have a mini air punch, flop down for 5 seconds and then start the whole process again.
Take a moment to assess EVERYTHING. Your work diary, social commitments, exercise plan, nutrition intentions etc. Are they too vast and overwhelming for you? Maybe you need to start striking some things off the list or simplifying some aspects of your life. Start by eliminating or changing the things you don’t enjoy and yes it’s ok to be a little selfish here. In fact make a mental note of how much of your week is spent doing things you actually love? If it’s a couple of hours there’s a big need for change here. Do you need to make life easier with with some ‘no fuss’ nutrition and resort back to simple, quick recipes and scale back exercise to serotonin boosting walks, a few bodyweight exercises and a dance around your bedroom.
You might also wish to ask yourself this question about some bigger things in life; your job, relationship, even living where you live. Environments are hugely important to health and wellbeing and yours might be chipping away at your inner serenity. The fast pace of life today and constant chitter chatter of social media distractions often means we’ve lost ourselves a little. Our heads are so full of what we ‘should’ do and governed by what other people think rather than what we really ‘want’ to do. Our own gut instincts about happiness are being dictated to us by Facebook and Twitter and a serious digital detox might be in order for you.
Are Your Habits Driving Your Needs?
Sometimes we flog ourselves so hard we send our feel good hormones like serotonin through the floor and upregulate our drive for a dopamine hit. Dopamine controls the reward centres in the brain, it can be fabulous thing as it pushes you to achieve things in life and make your mark, but it can also be destructive as you’re constantly on the chase. The chase is the exciting part and the adrenaline junkie in you loves it, whereas the actual the achievement or success part often feels like an anti-climax and you struggle to experience a sense of satisfaction or contentment.
This lethal combination makes you consistently strive and slave to feel continuously unfulfilled and miserable most of the time. We escape this black cloud by distracting ourselves with retail therapy, overly ambitious social plans including agreeing to be in two places at once if possible and generally fill our lives with objects and clutter that deter from facing reality and asking ourselves if we are actually happy. Here is the really crazy part, as we spend, spend, spend we then have to work harder to fuel these superficial needs when we could actually treat the source of the problem that is driving this cycle of hormone dysfunction.
Do You Need To Set Your Day Up Differently?
A mini experiment I conducted recently involved assessing how I feel based on the day I plan and the pressures I place on myself. Here is a brief description of a bad day and my resulting feeling and behaviours:
- Alarm was set for 5am.
- Trainers parked at the bedside so I HAVE to kick off my day with a run.
- To do list is loooooong and consists of lots of monotonous tasks.
- I put off the list in favour of wasting a couple of hours on Facebook pretending to work yet deliberately looking at hugely successful people to ensure I feel as bad as I possibly can about myself.
- Continue to proscrastinate for most of the day and finally start my actual list late afternoon resulting in an entire evening working, after an entire day of being glued to my laptop, not working.
- Fall into bed wired, exhausted, feeling like a fraud only to suffer a disturbed and broken sleep full of work related dreams (don’t you just hate those!)
How do I feel on this day :
Depressed, negative, a failure, tired and unfocused.
What do I do on this day:
At any given opportunity I drink too much coffee, eat chocolate and eat ‘treaty’ stuff and purchase things or waste a lot of time looking at purchasing things.
My day could look a lot different. I trialled not setting an alarm or declaring what exercise I MUST do the night before and simply decided to see how I felt in the morning. I started my day doing some research as it’s my favourite aspect of my job, I did it in bed with Hamish snuggled under the covers with me. I drank green tea on this morning (halo!) After a couple of hours of research I went for a walk in the woods and mixed up the rest of my day with client work, podcasting, recipes and writing. I closed down email and Facebook for most of the day allowing me to focus on the task in hand and stopped working at 6pm. I spent the evening watching TV and flicking through magazines.
How do I feel on this day:
Chilled, positive, inspired, creative and happy 🙂
What do I do on this day:
Drank green tea, didn’t snack or crave anything, no purchases (making Matt’s day too!)
Obviously, if you’re not self employed most of your day may not be within your control, you have to be in places at certain times and may not have the luxury of implementing some of what I mention here but you do have choices in life. Take a moment to think about whether your current lifestyle and habits are ruining your health and driving your destructive behaviours. Can you make your working day or environment healthier? One thing that became apparent to me was the importance of outsourcing parts of my job I’m no good at or I don’t enjoy because it was having a negative effect on the aspects of my work I’m passionate about. Of course there are financial constraints and considerations to making changes like this or completely transforming your career but if you weren’t spending so much on coffee, a new outfit to brighten miserable Monday, expensive gym memberships and other things you don’t really need maybe you could take time out to follow your dreams and be genuinely happy.
….Or Set Your Life Up Differently?
Matt and I have always been on a journey with fitness, health and nutrition, as we learn and grow we spread the love by guiding others based on upon our own experiences. At some point this became a business for us and although exciting it filled up with targets, task lists and budgets. A serious lack of mindfulness led us to become two hamsters sprinting away on a wheel and whilst this kept us fit, we’ve just been rushing and pushing for some time with no real sense of where we’re going or actually moving forward. In fact our most genius moments always come to us when we’re taking things down a gear walking in the countryside or taking a day off. We always thought it was the blue sky that enabled us to have the clarity, great ideas and realisations but actually it was just the clearing of the clutter and rubbish from our minds and detaching from a god damn laptop for the day.
So partly inspired by Ruby and few darker days of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted we’re taking some time out to map out some dreams, breathe again and make sure the future feeds our passions. We’re even discussing giving up our flat and living in a holiday home so we can do whatever it takes to make sure we’re still doing the things we love on a daily basis and keep the fire in our bellies. Even just having these realisations that we need to change and acknowledging we have the power to do so has lifted the weight of the world off our shoulders and put the smile back on our faces!