Last Monday, my mindset challenge was to document how I spent the 168 hours of my week. By doing this, I became incredibly aware of how much time I spent exercising, commuting, and talking and listening to my young boys. Also, how I spent my work day interacting with colleagues and time spent in front of the screen (a bit shocking to be honest). It really opened my awareness to the point that I didn’t want to write down that I had spent more than an hour that day on Facebook. By becoming aware of this unnecessary use of time, I allowed myself to still be on FB but to cut the time down and use the extra to do some yoga and walking instead.
Reflecting on the past 7 days, I felt it was a quality week because the time that I usually wasted with frivolous things was chopped in half and then I took that time and deposited into more quality time for other things that matter to me. I would definitely recommend the 168-hour challenge to investigate your own week.
My week continued with a very busy Saturday, spending the entire day attending and participating in a First Aid Course. Saturday night we had invited 4 couples over and a few of their children to join us for a dinner party to celebrate my husband’s birthday. Finishing the First Aid course, I rushed around to pick up some gorgeous tulips, and a few more odds and ends that we needed for our evening. I was feeling tired, hungry and had a headache but pushed through and thought I could get myself into a more social mood for the evening ahead.
Walking in the door. I arrived home to a house full of guests, a bustling kitchen and happy children. However, it all felt a bit too overwhelming. I gave my husband a warm hug and felt fine. Then without warning, it hit me, I was no longer in a social mood at all and the ‘switch’ happened. There was nothing left in me to give out. It was like I had been drained of all my warmth, wit and charm. I turned into someone I didn’t like. Friends greeted me and I could tell that they knew I was not my ‘normal’ self.
Immediately I starting looking for a way out. I hid in the kitchen for awhile washing up the dishes (actually doing more banging than washing) and started to withdraw even more. To a great degree, I wanted to blame my husband, but it wasn’t his fault (and then I started to feel guilty, it was after all his birthday celebration). My thoughts were spiraling out into untrue exaggerations. How could I get out of this? I began to worry that everyone would think I was being bitchy, anti-social and moody. I decided to grab our dog’s leash, and with her, I escaped out the front door. It was the only choice I believed I had to remove myself from that situation.
I went for a long, silent, evening walk with our dog while our guests were being entertained by my husband. I literally pulled a 'Houdini'. During the walk, I felt a sense of dread and guilt. I had literally run away from my own home. Wanting to lift out of these self-defeating thoughts, I brought myself back to some of my mindfulness practices. I began with the breath, to bring a sense of calm and focus back. I wanted to clear away the mental chatter.
It occurred to me that mindfulness isn’t about being happy, cheerful and warm all of the time, nor is it about chanting positive affirmations on a daily basis. Despite wanting the night to be perfect, mindfulness isn’t about being perfect.
As I walked, I reminded myself that no one is perfect, there is no perfect anything really. When I arrived home during the party, I wasn’t practicing self-compassion and judged myself to be weak, bitchy, anti-social and moody.
During the long walk, I reflected on the fact that being mindful of our genuine physical and emotional states is critical. Whether these states are positive, neutral or negative, we must honor and accept them. Even if that means honoring feelings of guilt and shame. If I had been more mindful of the fact that I had low blood sugar, I was physically fatigued, and not feeling well, I could have easily avoided that feeling of needing to flee.
I know that all of our close friends would have completely understood how I felt if I had been more mindful and respectful of my genuine feelings. All it would have taken was honest communication. It is so crucial to take moments of stillness to recognize our physical sensations, our attitudes and emotional states in order to honor and be true to ourselves.
My mindset Monday challenge this week is to be mindful of how I feel, not to judge myself, but to be aware and present with self-compassion. To honor these feelings and put myself in the best position possible to communicate my truth quietly and clearly.
Test how self-compassionate you are here.
Honor yourself, practice self-compassion and strive to connect with others.
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily