Sunday, 3 January 2016
Scrambled Mess: Looking After #1
"Now your mind's a scrambled mess / I'll patch you up with a needle and thread / This, your old skin, you will shed / And, with care, on this new path you will tread."
When I heard Seren The Heron performing at How The Light Gets In festival last year her song 'Scrambled Mess' really struck a chord with me, describing perfectly the tangled web of tasks, internet tabs, meeting notes, ideas, events and self-created / self-adopted pressures that was my state of mind. I cited this brief trip to Hay-on-Wye as "the ultimate cure for my drained soul", but I was shocked to find to what extent my energy had reached such a critical low in the first place, and how necessary and quickly-obtained some brain breathing time had been.
Looking after yourself can not only make you happier, it can also make you more productive in your work and in your relationships. It has been this realisation that has led to a shift in thinking for me. A consequence of the driven sensibility that what you're doing matters is a tendency to stop at nothing to get things done, including missing sleep, meals and defying a healthy rhythm or balance in favour of just keeping going. The trouble with this approach is that it is very taxing to the body and mind, making you less efficient at the things you want to do, and I have found a fed and focused mind can complete tasks more quickly than a weary, overstretched one.
Now, this is absolutely easier blogged about than done, but I am starting to learn the importance of building in time to give yourself whatever you need to be happy, healthy and present. Wellbeing can mean a lot of different things to different people, but for me it centres on how we might optimise for life, recognising the remarkable effect that identifying and serving your own needs can have on your personal and professional endeavours, and, ironically, how easily we can lose sight of that when we're on a mission to be happy, fulfilled and successful.
This is something I'm really keen to explore in more detail this year, but as we embark on the glaring freshness of 2016, here are a few simple ideas about how we might get through January together, distinctly un-scrambled:
Drink enough water. There are plenty of ways to try and treat our bodies better, but this doesn't have to come at the price of a gym membership, an expensive superfood or a new pair of branded trainers. I'm a firm believer that the best place to start is by making a conscious effort to put away enough water. 8 glasses of water a day should do it. There's not much that water can't do, and dehydration is one of the most common causes of tiredness.
Walk with your achievements. I think the dawning of a new year can scare us because we feel like we haven't done anything yet, creating an instinct to do too much at once. Rather than trying to prove your worth in the first few weeks of the year, make sure you carry around some kudos for what you love about what you're already doing.
Don't always be on call. Running your shit in the modern world can mean replying to e-mails over dinner and tweeting in bed on a Sunday morning. In this way it can be really tempting to answer correspondence immediately and never really switch off. If, like me, you really enjoyed less of this over Christmas, why not try switching off your devices for an evening, or at the weekend? Create your own force field to protect against the relentless exchange of information by designating 'free time' - free from incessant updates and the demands of others.
Write it down. A great way to declutter a crowded noodle is to get some stuff out of there. Write about your day before you go to bed, or pour out notes for any ideas you're clutching onto in order to sculpt an actionable plan. You could also try making a done list in place of a to-do, to see what you no longer need to worry about.
Life is messy. Whatever your aims or new approaches for 2016, be open to the idea that they might take some figuring out. If you want to make a change it will happen gradually, and oftentimes you will have to forgive yourself for some failures along the way. Life can get totally scrambly and messy even when you're doing your best to look out for yourself, and that's okay. Just practice, learn, and try again at the next chance. Rise, rinse, repeat.