The current year has been my busiest yet. I’ve functioned like a hamster on a wheel…there was no time to stop to think…I just kept going. Until one day, not too long ago, an acquaintance asked me a question – a question we’re all asked every day; only this time it was different. The question was ‘HOW ARE YOU?’. The difference was that this person asked in a tone of compassion (realising my elevated stress levels – mainly stress about other people). This person listened for an answer. I answered honestly because I knew I was being listened to, but I continued to think about this question long after this brief conversation was over.
I hadn’t had time to think about how I was. Work was busy and everyone around me convinced me that it was good to be busy. That this was a hallmark of success. Really? Because what busy cost me too expensive. It cost me my health because there was no time to eat proper meals, and when I did, it was something convenient and non-nutritious. I kept putting off my annual physical and there was no time to get medication I needed (even though I work daily in a hospital that has an in-house pharmacy). I gave up the one thing I did for ME – Pilates – because a 6am class wouldn’t allow me to start my workday early enough. I was drained, rushed between home-office-hospitals, with no time for even a glass of water between patients. But everyone seemed to need me. Everyone that I couldn’t pause to help made me feel like I was selfish. And when I reached out, I was told that I was being ungrateful – ungrateful for how lucky I was to be busy. I was never ungrateful – I just didn’t want to wear myself out so much that I was not even good at my job.
I eventually stopped to ask myself ‘What are you rushing for? Will the world really fall apart if you said NO?’ My answer scared me. I felt like I was rushing towards death; leading a meaningless life, ticking items of to-do lists. This is not what I want out of life. I thought about what I want. I want to be brilliant at my job and for those who come to me, to feel hopeful. Therefore I needed to present. I want to feel well-rested and do meaningful work. But I also realised that this was not possible if I didn’t take care of myself. I lost friends because I had no time to socialise.
Busy does not mean successful. In my eyes money is not a measure of success. My idea of success is equanimity of mind; it is being calm in everything I do and being present. Success to me is not measured by possessions, but by moments – enjoying a cup of coffee (undistracted by phone calls and messages), listening to my favourite music while driving, knowing that my body is strong and healthy because I’ve had enough sleep, nutritious food and replenishing any deficiencies.
So, if you too are running around, juggling all your roles and responsibilities, take time to ask yourself – what am I hoping to achieve? Am I content with life? Would everything fall apart if I slowed down and just said ‘No’ sometimes? I’m fortunate to have a husband whose a man of few words, but whose few words are true gems. He said, ‘if anything disturbs your peace, just say no.’ So if the thought of accepting an invite drove me into a frenzy of how everything else would get done, I started to say ‘no’. Your true friends will always understand.
Setting boundaries is really difficult, especially if you’ve always put others first and tried to please them at all costs. But do not wait until your health starts to fail, until your marriage starts to fall apart and you are ineffective as a parent or at your job. Multitasking can be dangerous. It’s almost become a way of life – perhaps the only means of getting everything done; however, trying to do too many things at once means that we don’t pay enough attention to any single thing. It’s thus easier to make mistakes, to forget things or become overwhelmed. I received a simple but brilliant piece of advise from a colleague who once noticed me rushing around. She said ‘just do one thing at a time.’ So every time I feel like I’m racing against the clock, I slow down and do just one thing at a time – I’m more focused and end up doing a better job.
YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR LIFE.
Resolve to embrace the little moments in life. Try to be mindful in everything you do. Mindfulness allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature, to treasure moments with your children, to be more productive at work and to love and respect your body.
Important questions to reflect on?