*Adapted from the published article at You, Me, and Uni, on 9.26.20*
Mindfulness has been in the back of my mind every day. I know how important it is for my mental, physical, and emotional health. I am aware of the steps to mindfulness. I know how to talk with my kids about mindfulness. But somewhere along the way, I stopped being mindful with intention.
“I blame technology. I blame the state of the world. I blame being a caretaker. I blame running several businesses.” These are my excuses, as well as the reasons that I am aware of for my lack of mindfulness in going about my everyday life.
I derive much pleasure from my work and I multi-task well, flipping back and forth between writing, matchmaking, and communicating with my clients. However, there isn’t generally an end to my workday.
I listened to an episode of The Spark on my Calm app this morning that helped guide me toward mindfulness today. Anne-Laure Le Cunff discussed mindfulness at work. She shared her knowledge, from studies, that show we are capable of four hours of productive and creative work each day. Beyond this, we are likely to only stare at the screen, wasting time.
Le Cunff referred to the “four hours maximum time” as time producing work. If our workday needs to be longer than four hours, our focus will allow tasks such as answering emails, taking phone calls, researching, and attending meetings.
This helped me to organize my workday in my head in a different way. I realize that I do find this knowledge to be true in my creative work as a writer. Two hours of creative writing and editing, a long break, and then I’m capable of two more hours, on a given day. If I’m distracted by emails, children, or phone calls during this time, broken concentration sometimes leads to being done with writing for the day.
Drinking tea, holding the mug, and even just having it near me, are rituals that help me produce creative work. I’ve tried to write without tea and I feel all squirely. Is that even a word? Since more than one cup of caffeine gives me crazy-brain, I stick with green tea mixed with herbal tea blends to allow me multiple cups. When I’ve had enough caffeine but I’m not finished being creative, I switch to herbal teas. I believe drinking tea affords me small mindfulness breaks from concentrated time on the screen.
Even the scent of tea can transport me to a calmer state. Meditative State of Mind tea is one of my favorites when I’ve had too much caffeine or sugar, bringing me down from those highs. It has a light floral scent that pairs well with fresh, local honey.
I have read about “Wiggle Time” in the classrooms of young children when incredible teachers get everyone to stand at the end of each hour. They put on music and they all wiggle it out. Adults need this too. Standing, movement of any kind, and fresh air are helpful to do each hour. Studies show our brains are more efficient after movement and I’ve noticed this to be true for me.
“Put the phone away, silence it, and don’t look at it for one to two hours, when working on a creative project.”
This is what I want someone to demand of me! I know it would lead to less stress and more focused concentration while working. I know I don’t need to answer emails and texts immediately. But I tell myself I do. I think this will help me keep strong relationships with my clients. This will show them I am worthy of their business. These are the stories I tell myself. Or perhaps these thoughts were ingrained in me as a Midwife when calls and emails had more urgency to them.
“You can take the woman away from Midwifery but you can’t take the Midwifery out of the woman.”
The truth is, we are likely juggling enough work, tasks, and responsibilities for three people.
In Loving What Is, Byron Katie leads her audience to ponder four questions that can shift their mindset. The goal is to have more peace and fulfillment. Several case studies in her book reveal similar stories of working hard, always producing to be worthy. This can lead to judgments and resentments of others whom we feel SHOULD do things our way.
“The word SHOULD is a prison that we place ourselves in.”
It doesn’t feel good to think about how others SHOULD do things differently. The truth is, it is up to us to live the kind of life we want for ourselves. It is never up to us how other people live their life.
“When I am truly mindful in a conversation with a client or a friend, I can hear their story and struggles without taking them on personally. This leads to more compassion and willingness to allow them to go through the stages and path they are on, without infusing my experiences into their story.”
I have found success with writing a Daily To-Do List where I pencil in self-care and exercise. I sometimes write self-care in my calendar, setting reminders. I create Goal Lists for the week or the month to include “work” that I do for myself.
You likely already know all the things you want to do to live a healthier and more peaceful life. Write them down. Whatever blocks we have to do these things are often tied to our perception of time. Writing down our self-care goals plants a seed. The seed starts a process within. Our goals become harder to ignore after this process.
I like taking a walk in fresh clean air before I start preparing dinner. This time of the evening starts my second shift. A nature break is a wonderful way to end the tasks of work before stepping into the tasks of family time. This change of scenery resets me, like a drive home from work used to do. Working from home has led me to create new and different rituals.
Chris Barez-Brown, well-known author of Free! Love your Work, Love your Life, suggests that 66% of our creative thoughts come when we are moving. He suggests recording yourself on your phone, which would just look like you are talking to a friend. It tricks your mind into thinking this also. Talk to yourself, dumping everything that is stressful and everything you are angry about. When you are complete, this is when gratitude and creative solutions tend to visit you. The act of being heard is powerful even if the only person hearing you, is you.
One week after this article was published has me living in a new state of being. Week after week, events jump into my plans that demand my attention in a loud way. These moments have been opportunities for me to practice my communication skills, to expand my daily yoga practice more deeply, and to give in to the beauty and magic of life. We cannot change many of the events that are happening all around us. But we can work on ourselves. One breath at a time.
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden
Writer, Editor, Author, and CEO @ Walden Writes For Women
Professional Matchmaker & Co-Owner @ Roots Matchmaking