It’s important to remember that there are many routes through life. It’s normal to continually re-learn where the doorways to our health are. We can have a re-aha moment, where we recall with force, a previous insight. Those are great because we kick into the new gear almost immediately.
We get this reminders of past aha’s all over the place in life. Many of the things you see me posting are often things I have found that reminded me of some approach that I recall was helpful in the past. Recently, I did some posts on the value of sleep to productivity and to mood.
I had noticed my patience with myself was a bit shorter than normal. I was getting a upset a little more often, but fortunately I’ve undone those feelings so many times coming back down can happen almost immediately and completely.
But as I teach others to do here, I saw the frequency of those emotions as a sign that I needed to take conscious action to stop whatever was inciting those feelings.
Obviously there are many times in life where we’re given more than we can do, so we must triage what’s most important. For me that’s my parents, my work, my formal responsibilities, and then I reserve a half hour at the end of the day for restorative relaxation.
Just those things pack a day full but; with those things covered, I can survive until conditions allow me to tackle more.
It’s important to note that, as soon as I felt those feelings I started researching what the most likely cause was. I did that by both studying myself, and by reading about common issues people in similar situations encounter. By doing that, I realized that the most likely candidate was sleep.
The reason I was having less was because I was doing extra work in prep to have more time to sleep, so it wasn’t a crazy trade-off. But my body was communicating that it was time to make the trade. Early this week I started getting my first really good night’s sleeps in about three and a half weeks and it’s amazing how good I feel already.
I’ve had more umph, more enthusiasm, more energy, more creativity and more love and less frustration) –as we would expect given the research and our experiences.
Also, now I finally have a flowing schedule where the slots fit the tasks. From this point forward everything should run more smoothly –until whatever happens, and something always will. But for now, I’m grateful.
The point of bringing this up is to show the process. I knew I needed to revise my schedule. When I looked at what would work, I realized I would need to put in extra hours of thinking and planning before execution would make sense. Then I would need to do extra work to set it up. So there was anticipation that I would be tired.
When I was, it made it less painful because my fatigue was more like a marker along the road, rather than some foreboding sign. But then, when I noticed less general patience with myself and others, I realized I had crossed the Rubicon and the loss of sleep was no longer a net gain, it was a net loss. And so a new plan was enacted.
Notice in there I had a plan that required some suffering. And my solution had a major downside. My words were sometimes sharp and I would need to apologize. Suffering, losses, and a need to apologize.
Those could all be called failings if we isolate them. But in reality they were all fairly minor versions of the symptoms I knew I could anticipate as a consequence of the improvements I was making.
This is what it means to live in the present. Plans and organization are good things, but life will still throw curve balls at us, and so we have to use our emotions to let us know when and how to respond.
In the end, the plan worked, the future looks brighter, it’s given me extra time for my parents and for working. By doing all of this I’m now able to get more done overall.
On top of greater productivity, I also have more opportunities to sneak more of life’s small joys into my parent’s lives, like some meal that might otherwise have been just too ambitious. And that makes me happy too.
The day I wrote this, our opportunity turned out to be a nice walk on a beautiful summer day. A lot of people might have seen it as a painfully slow walk that demanded huge patience. But for me their enjoyment of it was a really nice payoff for all of that other work.
There’s other potential benefits too. Like, maybe I’ll have tired Dad out enough from the walk that I can actually beat him at our nightly crib games he likes so much. Lately I barely get a win in. Fortunately, that’s fine with me, because I’m less interested in winning at cards and far more interested in seeing him being happy.
If you know a caregiver who’s stretched too thin, consider suggesting that they might book a session. It can really make a difference to talk with someone who not only knows mindfulness, but who knows caregiving as well.
It is a challenging role. But like all challenges, if we approach it in a health way, it is littered with valuable rewards. And it really does make a difference to the people being cared for.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.