When overwhelm and anxiety strike!
One month ago I tried a little experiment. I wanted to see what would happen if I spent one week with no TV, no radio, no podcasts, no internet, no phone and no reading after 5.30pm. My intention? To see whether getting rid of all those inputs would impact my creativity and lead to better quality down-time.
My hope was that I'd have loads of great ideas, be inspired to write, draw and make music, get outside, exercise, play games and bask in a slower, richer end to each day.
I was completely and utterly unprepared for what actually happened.
The first day was as I'd expected: delicious. Our evening felt unrushed, completely relaxed and full of space. Lulling me into a false sense of security...
Because on the second day, I felt truly awful. Instead of feeling light and refreshed, I felt heavy, irritable and sad. The next day was the same. And the day after that. This was NOT what I'd signed up for!
But rather than running back to the comfort of a box set, I stuck with it as I could sense that something important was happening.
In the silence I'd created, I could suddenly hear my own voice. Thoughts and feelings usually drowned out by the 'noise' of planning, doing and consuming other people's content came bubbling to the surface, demanding to be heard. And wow, was that uncomfortable.
Anxiety kicked off its shoes and settled in.
In what my coach brilliantly described as 'a confluence of events', all this coincided with the looming GDPR deadline, meaning lots of additional work.
After two weeks of attempting to push through, I finally admitted I needed a week off to rest and recover.
Or is it?
Perhaps it's just part of life. None of us are perfect and despite everything I know and teach others about productivity, slowing down and taking care of ourselves, we can't get it right all the time.
Now I've come out the other side, I can see what those tough few weeks were trying to teach me and I’d like to share some of that with you in the hope it might help if you're going through something similar.
In a future blog post I’ll share my productivity-specific musings from the last few weeks, but here are my top three bigger picture insights (or reminders of things I already knew but had let slip, goshdarnit!):
Too much doing and not enough listening is asking for trouble.
With all the inputs we have at our fingertips these days, it's all too easy to drown ourselves out. Check-in with yourself to make sure that the 'doing' you're doing feels good and right for you. Strange yet wonderful things happen when you give yourself the space to listen to your own voice, gut, intuition. I'm going to try harder to create that space for myself regularly. Do you need to do the same?
When you're stuck in your head, thinking and problem-solving yourself into a frenzy, get back into your body.
I've written before about the importance of movement to productivity. But getting back into your body is also a very useful tool when you're working through difficult emotional shizzle. My default is to revert to my brain. But I've realised that a 15 minute blast of cardio shifts angsty, irritable energy way more effectively than any attempt to think my way out of it. My favourite yogi, Adriene Mishler, uses the cue "bow the mind intelligence to the body intelligence". I love that phrase.
When you're feeling overwhelmed it's ok to let some things go.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: sometimes you have to be ok with not getting stuff done. Over the last few weeks I had no choice but to let some things go. I was not in the right headspace to write blogs, so I chose not to. I needed to go inward, so I chose not to use social media for a while. I was exhausted, so I chose to take a week off work. It's not easy, but it's important. Choose to let things go. You can come back to them when you're feeling better.
None of this is rocket science and I've talked about it all before. That in itself is uncomfortable, but I figure I have a choice. I could pretend that the last few weeks never happened, that I have this productivity stuff nailed and never feel overwhelmed. But I'd much rather be honest. We all struggle from time to time and fall back into old, familiar patterns. And that's ok. It's all part of the process. Be gentle, stay curious and recalibrate, remembering the Japanese proverb, "fall down seven times, get up eight". I don’t know about you, but each time I get up I feel more aligned and have a fresh perspective. That can only be a good thing.
And as for the week of creativity and space I'd hoped for when my husband and I removed those external inputs from our evenings? I'll definitely be giving it another go, but next time nothing will surprise me!
Does my experience over the last month resonate with you? Do you find it easy to spot the lessons when things are feeling tough? I'd love to hear from you if you'd like to share in the comments below.
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