Recently I have been a little bit of a stresspot. Staring at the computer screen for hours on end, sitting in an isolated spot, surrounded by digital connections but lacking actual people, forgetting to look away, to move, to breath…all of this has taken its toll on my body and my mind.
My children would dance like tiny ballerinas around my desk chair and I would glance at them distractedly, smile and then look back at the screen (slaps forehead, I know better). My head would get tired from rereading an article I wrote for an assignment, until the words became fuzzy and blurred and I just had to submit it to stop doubting myself. My eyes began to give me a dull pain and my digestion suffered from sitting still for hours on end.
Once those assignments were submitted, I thought I would be able to relax. We were in Melbourne, the kids were with their grandparents. I had booked an Ayurvedic massage. How much more relaxing can it get? That dull eye strain didn’t disappear. I was still grinding my teeth. My neck was tense. The muscles supporting my spine were sore. I felt unfit and I felt unfocused.
I picked up a great book by the Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington called Thrive. You know when books find their way to you right at the moment you need them? That is what happened with this one.
Arianna describes the moment when she realised she needed to rethink the way she was living. She was surviving and not thriving. Over worked, Arianna didn’t think there was anything wrong with the way she was until she hit her head after collapsing from exhaustion. After consulting loads of doctors and having multiple tests including CT scans and MRIs, Arianna realised that she needed to make changes.
The book talks about the idea of the Third Metric. That is, measuring your success according to your wellbeing rather than your wealth or power. Although as a teacher I am not exactly driven by wealth or power, I had somehow lost my way when it came to my wellbeing when I took on my Masters and although the book didn’t exactly tell me anything I didn’t already know, it reminded me of the fact that I need to treat every day as a way to better my life and be present, rather than simply existing.
I love my course, and I love my life with my husband and my children, but my connections outside of my family are largely digital. I see friends at the gym, at catch ups, at playdates, but being at home means that there are days when I am lacking real connections. Social media can be fun, it can provide distractions both good and bad, and it can be a way of meeting like minded people…your own tribe, beyond those who have to love you for who you are, to those with the same passions in life. It is so much easier to befriend those people now, so why are we so alone in this world?
Although I love being on Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress, Scoop.it and Pinterest…they are time suckers. I forget to limit them, I wander on aimlessly, catching up on old acquaintances rather than focusing on the real task, the real children in my life, the goals I have set myself, the task at hand. Thrive gives really practical ways to switch off, connect and give back.
It also reminded me to go back to my focus on mindfulness. Mindfulness is something that is most difficult to achieve at the times when it is most important. You can read a few of my posts on mindfulness here, here and here but I also wanted to add some goals that I have set myself as a result of reading the book. In short, this year is about learning to thrive, not survive. Will you join me?
Thrive goal 1: Commit to a daily meditation. I love the Loving Kindness Meditation (you can find some more information on how to do that here). It sends out good thoughts and reminds you to be kind to yourself, your loved ones, people who you hardly know, people who you might have difficulties with and to the whole world. It also focuses your mind so that you are less likely to wander onto what you need to do to get dinner on the table or that task that needs to be done ASAP for work.
Thrive goal 2: Be present with my children above all. When they are around I am not any body else’s. That means switching off, putting the phone on silent, closing the book. If I need to get some work done, I will ensure that I have had quality time with them, doing what ever they want to do, before or after the task is complete.
Thrive goal 3: Join some more social groups for interaction. I have already started doing some morning bootcamp classes at my gym in addition to my usual Pilates class. The women all love to support each other, which is wonderful. I am already seeing the benefit in both my fitness and my happiness.
Thrive goal 4: Focus on sleep. Sleep has been a bit of an issue for me lately. Maggie has been crying out for her blanket at 4 in the morning and I am sometimes lying wide awake at night, my mind buzzing despite being completely exhausted. I have been focusing on clearing my mind before bed by writing a to-do list, making sure I get to bed on time (8 hours before I have to wake up), exercising and turning off all phones and distractions so that my room is cool, dark and silent.