22 May, 2017
In the past I strongly identified as, what we call in our family, a ‘fast walker’. I believed that this was a superior way to be, when compared to moderate or slow walking people. Luckily when I met my partner, he too was a fast walker and so together we have begun spawning a whole family of cyclones. Charming.
Call it the air element in me (or impatience), I love to be on the go.
However this tendency in me to get things done quickly can also cross over in to unhealthy rushing.
Especially in my more recent role as mum (which might be re-labelled as multi tasking/wizard of time/project manager) the never-ending to do list of house-hold chores, errands, pick ups, drop offs, planning, childcare, groceries, creative projects and work, can leave me stressed and with little time for myself.
What I understand from studying yoga is the negative consequences of rushing on our nervous systems.
Our nervous system is similar to the communications manager in the body. It delivers messages between the body to the brain. When left alone, it does an excellent job.
But when we are caught in a cycle of eternal busyness, the sympathetic nervous system (also referred to as the flight or fight response) is activated. Cortisol surges through the body. What this looks like on the ground floor for our Comms Manager is a mortal threat. Its response is to shut down all non-vital functioning in the body. Organs don’t work at 100%. Systems weaken. The immune system is suppressed. This lays the fresh soil for disease.
So, what to do when this has become our habitual way of being – like it has for so many women of our times? Here are some strategies that I employ when I need to cool my heals and release the rush.
Technological development in the last twenty years has been some of the most incredible achievements of the 21st century so far. However we have also opened a floodgate of information. What used to take us a trip to the library to learn can now be accessed with a few taps on a tablet. I personally find that when I start feeling anxious about ‘doing, doing, doing’, disconnecting from my the digital deluge is amazing. Most people know now to avoid screens in the evenings before bed to ensure a restful sleep – but are you doing it? Another idea is to create a family digital basket, where on Sundays all phones and tablets go in for the day and come out on Monday morning.
Try to avoid ‘eating on the run’ as this leads to poor digestion. Create space around meal times, turn off all screens and really chew the food until it is a ground up pulp.
Learn how to say No.
Saying yes can open us up to new opportunities and experiences. However saying no is also essential to nurturing and retaining our energy levels. Set clear boundaries for yourself and observe the situations or relationships where you might be giving away personal power. (If you feel like you might be giving away your personal power, click here to learn more).
Do a wardrobe cleanse.
I always notice the impact of this amazing external practice. Go through your wardrobe and for each item be sceptically honest about your likelihood of wearing it again. If not, cleanse. I like to make two piles one for charity and one for Trade Me. Your seconds might have another life in a new wardrobe somewhere else in the country. Cleansing our wardrobe can create an energetic shift in our lives. We are letting the universe know we are making space for new experiences. When we move towards clarity externally and internally, the desire to rush to get things done can dissolve.
Outsource where you can.
To take the pressure off, we can always outsource certain responsibilities. A lot of families I know order their groceries online now and have them delivered. If it’s in the budget, a cleaner once a fortnight can really take the edge off. Look into different ways that you can reduce your output and with that saved time, do something nice for yourself!
Ask for guidance.
If I face a difficult choice about how/where/with who to spend my time, I find it helpful to ask my intuition for guidance. We can do this during our meditation or yoga practice by simply asking ‘what should I do here’ and then observing the response. For some it comes easily, but I had to practice to tune-in to my intuition. The voice of ego and self can easily get muddled up in the message, leaving us unsure what to believe. Usually the first thing that comes up is a glimmer of our intuition, so enquire further there and trust!
Many of us have grown up to believe the lie that exercise has to be hard and make you sweat to be effective. There is no denying that physical exercise is essential for a healthy life. However if you’re already extremely busy and stressed, sometimes adding more intensity is a bad move for the body. Nurture your body. Love it like you would one of your children. Some examples of great ways to switch off the flight or fight response through movement are ~ Yin yoga (learn more here), gentle walks where you mindfully observe nature or gentle hatha yoga.
Often when we are rushing and stressed we have unconsciously stopped breathing properly. We might only be utilizing our full breath by 60%. This is another effect of the flight or fight response and can be helped by yogic breath practices which are referred to in yoga as ‘pranayama’. They are not difficult and do not require going to a yoga class to perform. A short 3 – 4 minutes (inhale for count of 6, then exhale for count of 8) will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, helping you to relax quickly.
Developing a daily meditation practice completely changed my life. Knowing how to independently connect with my inner sense of calm has had incredible flow-on effects in all areas. I haven’t become immune to stress. Stress is a part of human life. But as my practice has developed, I have noticed a lot more clarity and space around choices and making decisions. Essentially it has become easier to know what to say yes to and what to say no to.
The 100% rule.
There is only 100% of you. So if you’re giving 60% to your children/partner, 30% to a creative project or work, 5% to friends and 5% to self care/development – that’s it, there is no more to share. Sometimes we believe we can squeeze out 110%, but mathematically that’s impossible and unsustainable. To live a graceful, present and luminous life we must accept the 100% rule and then from that place choose wisely where we spend our energy.
Marhareshi Mahesh Yogi is a Indian yoga teacher who I have been inspired by and who is remembered for bringing meditation to many parts of the world. He would famously say ‘Days and nights are irreversibly passing and life is long.’ When we release our rigidity around timing and how things ‘should’ look, life can flow effortlessly and we can find joy in the ordinary, like the face of a child, the sip of a cup of tea or the stunning site of a deciduous tree changing from green, to burnt red and orange.
This blog is inspired by my upcoming workshop – A Diamond In A Rush – where I will offer simple hatha yoga and meditation techniques as self care for mums. There are two events, the first in Napier on Saturday 27th of May and the second in Auckland on the 10th of June. If you’re interested to learn more or put some of these things in to practice, please join me.
As always if this blog has resonated with your personal experience, please leave a comment below or jump over to my Facebook page and leave a comment there. I would love to hear from you.
Lots of love + Namaste