How to Properly Tend to our Busy & Stressed-out Lives.
But somehow, along with the rest of us, I swallowed the delusional superpower pill. The “I can stay up late, get up early, and book every waking second in my calendar while I maintain my business, house, exercise routine, meditation, friendships, relationship, and my laundry all in stride” pill.
Uh, who exactly did I think I was?
I witness the tolls of the busy life every day in my practice.
People sit in front of me with mind or body ailments of all sorts. As I sit with them, I reflect back the intensity of their lives, and I give them “permission” to rest. It’s not uncommon for me to prescribe an afternoon of sitting in nature with a cup of tea and doing nothing for at least 30 minutes. Which is so often met with a giddy, “I’m allowed to do that? That sounds amazing!”
So where is it that I got carried away and thought I was somehow immune to the busy plague?
I will admit that I am an idea factory, and I get so very excited about the possibility and potential of things. The only problem with that is it takes time to actually do all these things.
And, just like everything else out there (our earth for example), if we push it too far, it’s going to rebel or stop being able to produce things. Just like allowing our fields to go fallow for a bit, downtime, non-doing, and the winter of our daily and creative world is not only important, but also essential to our well-being.
Rest allows action. Action without rest is, quite frankly, a death sentence.
If we tried to grow crops in the winter, we’d be shown very quickly that our time and energy expenditure (which would be enormous in the cold winter months) would not result in anything fruitful. And we’d be exhausted by the process.
Yet, this is what we do. We push though. Our bodies say (or scream), “Stop!” They cry for rest and we tell them off. We ask, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just keep going?” And we push more. We caffeinate. We medicate. We numb ourselves with constant information, which is just loud enough to distract us from that deep, wise inner voice that says, “Please, I need a break. I need to catch my breath. I need to rest.”
And we wonder why cancer is on the rise, why mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and extreme acts of violence are becoming common. We wonder why everyone is so angry or irritable. We wonder why people aren’t coping.
It’s because we can’t.
This life, this pace, this world we’re living—it’s not sustainable.
And I am at risk just like everyone else. Being a health care worker, I believe in the importance of healthy living, of deep inner spiritual work. Of living a balanced and nourishing life.
And somehow along the way, I’ve fallen off. I’ve lost it. I’ve started to drown in the busyness.
It started slowly with not being able to keep on top of things, to keep my schedule or to-do list straight in my head. Sleep started to suffer—I was staying up too late trying to get some much-needed personal time (even if that meant watching “Outlander” or “Suits” episodes back-to-back on Netflix).
I started waking in the middle of the night with a busy mind. I stopped my normal exercise routine, opting instead for hustled walks to the train or a 20-minute yoga class here or there.
Weekends became a list of never-ending chores that never got done, so I was always feeling inadequate and disappointed. I started forgetting things. I couldn’t keep up with my email. I wasn’t being responsible for the things I needed to be. I was cranky or nitpicky with my partner.
I basically started to lose my sh*t.
And then, one day at the office, I had a headache and a bad bout of dizziness, and I couldn’t focus on what my clients were saying. My body was saying “no more,” loud and clear.
So I cancelled the rest of that day and the next, and I went home. I stared out the window of the train looking at the puffs of nature as they sped by. I had nothing left to give. My soul needed me to stop, and since I wasn’t listening—“when I get this done, pay this bill, when this starts generating income, then I’ll stop”—well, it stopped me.
Thankfully my wake up call came before anything more serious happened.
For that’s what extreme diseases are: a call—a scream, really—to stop. Depression is often a call for deep rest, to step outside the chaos of the busy world and pause. Check in. What do I need? Not what the world tells me I need (to be successful, to have a perfect home, the perfect glowing complexion, or ass, or bank account…) but what do I need? What makes me feel nourished, content, or connected?
So today, that’s what I’m doing. I’m tending to my life.
It will look different as I go—I know this. But for today, I wake to gentle quiet and bird sounds. I sit in stillness and drink my tea and watch the world wake up. I write to dialogue with my inner world. I walk in nature. I stretch. I water my parched plants. I wipe the crumbs from my counters. I fold my laundry. I stop and check in with my inner compass: What do I need? What do I want? What will best serve me today?
I say no to things that stretch my schedule. I book off self-care time—and treat it the way I treat an appointment with another person: with respect. I value this time. I respect this time. I need this time.
Something bigger might need to change—most big changes in my life have been preceded by a period of discomfort and unrest. Things just don’t feel good anymore. Something that once worked doesn’t any more.
This is hard work. No one can do this for me. This is often uncharted territory; I don’t know exactly where life is taking me. And my job isn’t to figure it out beforehand. My job is to be receptive to the ride. My job is to listen. And I’ll tell you one thing, life certainly hasn’t let me down yet. But I know that in this pushing I do, this relentless doing, letting go of it is the work.
And so I go. Trusting. Prying myself loose from the grip of fear that if I’m not constantly in motion, everything will fall apart. I surrender, bit by bit. Sometimes a thousand times a day. Sometimes surrendering the same thing over and over again. But what are my choices?
For me, I strive for a life well lived. And that means my life well lived. And that’s going to look different than everyone else’s. And it certainly won’t come from pushing so hard that I don’t have time to appreciate the beauty and life all around me.