The all consuming “to-do” list has become the nature of our days and even our nights. As we wake to an alarm clock that reminds us of the few short hours that our day contains in which to accomplish an often unending checklist of “things”. It can become an obsession in our lives as we run from place to place, appointment to appointment, phone call to phone call in a desperate attempt to check off as many things on that list as humanly possible before the clock strikes midnight.
The ironic thing is that we often find ourselves learning to function in a constant state of complete exhaustion. I am someone who thrives on having a busy schedule. I find that I am much more productive when I have a lot to do. On days when I only have a few things to do I often accomplish nothing because I am also a procrastinator. A bust schedule leaves little time to procrastinate (though I still manage to procrastinate certain things that end up plaguing my to do list for days on end). Keeping myself busy helps me stay focused and productive but it is not always beneficial to my mental and physical health. I tend to skip lunch, skip my workout, munch on snacks, go to bed extremely late (sometimes not at all) and after a few particularly busy days in a row I begin to become anxious, stressed and overwhelmed even if I am accomplishing a lot of to-do’s.
About three months ago I pushed myself so hard for so long that I made myself very sick and almost had to be hospitalized for exhaustion and malnutrition. My body and my mind had had enough. I was seeing things and having panic attacks and my heart was racing. I was so exhausted that I got to the point where I couldn’t stay awake but my mind would jerk my body awake as soon as I fell asleep. It was scary. It was also a wake up call – see that’s funny because I was jerking awake and it was a metaphorical wake up call. Anyway….
I made a commitment to not allow myself to get to that point again. I made a commitment to take time to take care of myself. Part of that commitment meant taking intentional moments throughout the day to be still, unplug , take a few deep breaths and embrace the silence.
I still stay pretty busy and I still find myself consumed with my to do list at times, but I am working to shift my priorities to accomplishing only what I can while still being respectful to my mind and body. Using my time responsibly has been a huge lesson that I am still learning and making sure to take time for myself, even if just in little ways throughout the day has been a small change that has had a huge effect.
Rising With The Sun. Making myself get out of bed half an hour earlier than everyone else, in that time just before the sun rises. Sitting outside or at the window in the quiet while everyone else is asleep with a hot cup of coffee as I watch the sun rise and spend some time in quiet thought and prayer is such a revitalizing and refreshing practice. The silence and the beauty of a new day dawning is truly magnificent and humbling.
*If I can get up an hour earlier, getting in a quick yoga session before watching the sunrise makes the day that much better! Most days this is a little too ambitious for me as I am NOT a morning person, but I am working on it.
Afternoon Tea. Taking my queue from the Brits, I have fallen in love with the practice of afternoon tea. Usually around mid morning when I start feeling myself sputter a bit, I will stop what I am doing, make a cup of my favorite tea, or sometimes a second cup of coffee and a small snack. I will then retreat to my favorite chair in the backyard, or my favorite chair by the window and do nothing by stare out at the sky, the clouds, the birds, the rabbit that has taken up residence in my garden or the koi in my pond and just sip my tea in utter silence. It is like medicine to my soul and once finished, I am ready to get back to work for a little while longer!
Evening Wind Down. because I am a night owl and find that I usually have the most energy and motivation in the evenings, I struggle to not stay up super late working. I love the silence that comes once everyone has settled down for the night. It becomes incredibly tempting to use this time to pound through as much work as I can since I will most likely not be disturbed by the phone or incoming emails or my sleeping family. Admittedly there are some nights when working at this time is necessary as deadline approach, but I am working on changing my habits. My goal has become to use the couple of hours before bed to get in a good workout, a nice, relaxing detox bath and then spend the hour after everyone has gone to bed reading my book before falling asleep myself. This forces me to unplug and it allows me to relieve the stress that has built up throughout the day, allowing my mind to wind down for a good night’s sleep.
*I have noticed that when I read a book on my iPad at night, I tend to stay up later and my brain takes longer to shut down. I often become distracted with checking email, logging onto Pinterest and updating my Twitter and Facebook status as well. When I read from an actual book with a reading light, however, I tend to fall into a relaxed state much quicker.
How do you Embrace Silence during your day?