I was sitting with a friend on Saturday morning, surrounded by lush olives trees; a perfect autumnal morning. She drank a chai latte and I relished my flat white. We spoke about how beautiful the place was we’d discovered, and then we shared about our week just gone. As she told me about her week which was perfectly formed and present on one level yet astoundingly complex and busy on another, it made me ask the question; when does being super cross over to the realms of being super-human? And how do we call a ‘time-out’ on our super powers?
There we sat in our beautiful surrounds, in the moment, totally encapsulated in our bubble of precious time and 100% devoted to it. But only moments before and probably in the moments that would come after we’d be slipping on our Lycra. We’d be slipping on our Lycra and flying off with reckless determination to high-achieve and please en mass.
If you’re anything like me I juggle and struggle with the ‘living in the moment’ concept. It’s what I want. It’s what I strive for and it is a regular dialogue in my head as I step through my day. Slow down. Breathe. Relax. Enjoy. Slow down. But striving for mindfulness and reaching it are two very different landscapes.
I take comfort in the fact that I do achieve this ‘state’ in some form every day though. I do. I give myself a right ole’ pat on the back for that. And I know when I’m ‘in it’ and I luxuriate in that feeling and cherish it. But, I want more. And often I feel as though it is out of my hands and that I’m unconsciously pushing fast forward and engaging my super powers to get me through.
So, when we are in our superhero mode, what exactly is happening to us? What kind of primitive physiological shift is happening to enable us to achieve this insane level of accomplishment to take place? Well, we certainly haven’t ingested kryptonite and it’s nothing to do with a little sprinkling of pixie dust. It’s an inborn response preparing us to either battle it out or run for the freakin’ hills. Fight or flight.
When our fight or flight response clicks in there is a quick fire rampage of chemicals sent in to our bodies. Things like adrenaline and cortisol thrash in to our bloodstream. This is when we change from merely ‘super’ to ‘super human’. Our breathing rate quickens, blood rushes to our muscles, we become super sensitive to our environment and sounds, our pupils dilate our sight sharpens and we don’t process pain. We are on high alert and can really only focus on surviving, getting through.
We feel invincible and ready to attack; blissfully unaware of the price we will pay for this injection of super-power. We are blissfully unaware that our rational mind has been kicked to the curb, crushed and rejected. And that a new acquaintance by the name of burnout is waiting patiently for us to collapse, beaten in to submission, defeated at its feet.
This all sounds very dramatic doesn’t it? And it should, because it is kind of dramatic. The chemical and emotional effects of us running at the speed of light constantly are huge and confronting.
Having been beaten in to submission and strewn out at the feet of this painful burnout more times than I care to mention, I realized very quickly that I needed a strategy. And so, over some years, I’ve devised a few strategies to help me be in the moment and self-preserve – sometimes smiling, sometimes not. Being a mother of two Little’s makes this quite the discipline some days, but I tell myself constantly, a little is better than none, and a lot can often be too much.
So, here are a few methods I use to find the quiet and space in my days, strategies to slow me down in my head, my body and my ways.
- Upon waking: my shower time is sacred. And I prefer it uninterrupted. So, I try to have at least a 10-minute window of ‘get ready’ silence where I take stock, think and prepare for my day. I know this is difficult if you’re a parent or if your job requires you to be out the door at the earliest of hours, but, I consider my shower time my ‘upon waking’ meditation. What is yours?
- Feed your body: as easy as it is to skip meals, breakfast is the one meal that can level your blood sugars and give you the boost you need to head on in. I’ve discovered the breakfast that best suits my body; it’s usually green and all manner of super foods thrown in the blender; but you may like a simple piece of toast with marmite and a cup of tea. Whatever you choose, just make sure you consume it. Empty is not an option.
- Become conscious: So often I am in the middle of my day, doing, being, achieving and realize that I am processing and ‘chattering’ inside my head at warp speed. So, I’m driving, talking on my hands-free, the whole time running through my life’s great bucket list and how many things I’ve ticked off. However big or small fry my internal dialogue is, it needs to stop. And, to do that, to shut it off and be in the moments of my day, I need to be conscious that I’m even doing it. Being conscious forces me to be in the moment. So, clock the chatter then make it stop.
- Be in your body: I learnt this when I started doing yoga. I learnt how connected the mind, body and breath all are and that being present in my body would give me great freedom. That’s all very well when you’re in a yoga class I know, but what about when you are running through your day? We need to become conscious of how we move through the day. How do you hold your body? Are you thrashing yourself about? How do you walk, stand, sit and even get in and out of the car? When I become aware and conscious of these things I find myself more fluid. And with that fluidity I become less tense and more present in my body. It may not seem like much of a change, to stand up straight, sit without a curve in your back, or move more smoothly, but by doing this the experience of carrying your body around all day becomes easier.
Other things I love to do to fill my cup and find peaceful pockets throughout my week:
- Walking & Running: those that know me well know that I walk fast and I love to run. I’ve tried desperately to slow my pace down over the years and I think I’ve succeeded. But, I still love to put my trainers on and go run up a hill.
- Music: listening to music can transport us. I love to listen to it through head phones, I love discovering it and making a mixed tape.
- Audio books: I’ve just discovered the joy of audio books through another beautiful blogger. Because I wasn’t reading as much as I wanted this was a way to shut off my inner dialogue when I was alone in the car. It’s magic.
- Bath: soaking in my tub with essential oils. I never seem to last long in the bath but the whole process is beautiful and gives a lot from just a little.
- Candlelight: lighting candles at night is something I’ve done for many years but was inspired by a friend initially. She has lit candles, and many of them, for longer than I remember and her home is always so warm, calming and beautifully lit.
- Writing: I love nothing more than to sit and write a letter to someone I care about. This is a slow and very intimate giving away of ourselves. It’s old school. No computer, no phone, just a piece of paper, a pen and someone to give away to.
- Be child-like: snuggling, reading, baking, creating, building, running or dancing in the dark. With kids or without, be child-like. It may feel slightly awkward but letting go can be truly joyous.
- Food love: making, sharing or giving it away to others – this is a simple and healing act, always.
So, there are a few of mine, what are your little ways of stealing moments and slowing down? I would love for you to share your golden nuggets with me, it all helps as we try and remain simply super and keep Burnout from knocking at our door.
After all, having or showing exceptional ability or powers is all very well – if you want to save the world. And while part of me of course wants to save the world, I feel that it may have to wait a second, while I try and be in the moment.