This time of year is usually one of transition. A changing season, and with it a change of pace, children settling back into school, work shifting up a gear, a renewed focus on routine. It feels like there’s a lot to organize, to complete, and to juggle, and things just can’t wait. Add to that the Election, the disastrous effects of climate change and extreme weather on our communities, the ongoing (seemingly never-to-end) COVID roller coaster, and the various crises in other parts of the world. It’s not surprising so many of us are feeling overwhelmed by events, changing circumstances and a constant stream of new information. These times of uncertainty, change and crisis seem to demand our immediate attention and response. Everything can feel urgent, so we get busy “doing”, taking action, working “hard”, pushing our agenda, judging others who don’t engage in the same way.
Setting up to fail
In addition to the external environment of urgency, there’s also our internal sense of urgency. Many of us have become addicted to being busy. We pride ourselves on the number of tasks we can juggle and frequently set ourselves unrealistic goals for the time available. Being busy can make us feel important and valued. It can fuel our self-esteem. If we’re not constantly doing something, taking control, or fighting for a cause, it can feel like we’re not contributing, or being a ‘good’ person. It doesn’t help that our culture and society reward us for getting things done. We are praised for being driven, resilient and strong.
In truth, urgency and speed doesn’t serve us well. When we are always in a hurried rush, we end up more exhausted than effective, so urgency can in fact set us up for failure. It’s also not good for our health. In this ‘fight or flight’ mode, the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline kick in. These can inhibit our ability to think clearly, to focus and maintain a balanced perspective. We may overlook, or even ignore, stress signals from our body that are indicating we need to step back or step out. In an effort to feel better and find some comfort in the discomfort, we distract ourselves by seeking reward or pleasure elsewhere.
Is your fix friend or foe?
What are your coping strategies? In what ways do you distract yourself when feeling overwhelmed?
Social media, junk food, sugar, alcohol, Netflix…? Or meditation, prayer, exercise, fresh air, self-care…?
While it’s possible to work from this place of urgency and rush, it’s not sustainable over time. It’s tiring, for us and others around us, at work and at home. We can become anxious, impatient, and judgmental. We may be busy, but we may not be productive, or doing our best work.
When we work from a place of ease, in mind and body, even amidst the busyness, we are more creative, calm, clear-headed, and balanced. We make better quality decisions and recognize opportunities. As we relax, we are better able to problem solve and work through our issues. It is possible to operate in a dynamic, fast-paced environment and BE at ease because ease comes from within.
Slow down to speed up
Paradoxically, if we want to speed up, we need to slow down. If we want to do more, we need to focus on less.
Finding ease in an ever-increasing urgent world is simple, but not always easy.
Here’s five things we can do to achieve more ease:
Notice when we are not at ease. When the pace at which we are living our life is not serving us well, or when the things that are most consuming our time and energy are not the important things i.e., whatever gives our life meaning and joy, or adds value.
Set clearer boundaries on our time. That may mean saying “No” or “Not now” to some requests that don’t feel right for us, or don’t serve us well. It may mean looking at our decisions and choices and asking ourselves if they are aligned to our values – the things and people who matter most. Clear boundaries require us to know, and stick to, what’s OK for us and what’s not OK.
Stop multi tasking and become ‘selective’ with our attention. Research shows it take more time to multitask – i.e. constantly switch our attention between tasks. It’s better to plan one task and concentrate until it’s done.
Breathe deeply from the belly (rather than the chest). Push the belly out on the inhale and in on the exhale. Do this for 3 minutes, 4 times a day.
Drink plenty of water. We can’t think clearly when we are de-hydrated.
As we transition into Fall, what one small thing would allow you to bring more ease into your life?