Category Archives: mindfulness

Travel mantras

Today I will head home from my work visit to Mexico City.

It is good time to write out some of my travel mantras, as reminders to myself to enjoy the journey.

That’s the first one, actually: Enjoy the journey.

Here’s another one I like: Remember, everyone is fighting their own battles. There are struggles we may not see, that may affect others’ behavior.

The best one, when stress or anxiety come up is: Breathe, just breathe. It is all okay.

When I am practicing mindful awareness of my surroundings, I also like to remind myself of all that I am grateful for: the opportunity to travel, a kind word or smile I may receive as a gift from a stranger, and a life in which I am privileged to see into the window of other cultures as part of my work.

What’s your favorite travel mantra? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

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When in Belgium

Yesterday I made an exception to my usual no alcohol rule and had a “Pink Killer” Belgian beer which had grapefruit juice and a lovely fruity finish. It was on the lighter side in terms of alcohol content, and I enjoyed it.

Pink Killer

Taken in one of the “Delirium” bars near Jeanneke Pis statue in Brussels.

This was during a walk around the historic downtown area with two colleagues, one who had arrived a few hours earlier than me on Sunday. He had headed straight out to explore, as it is his first work-paid trip to Europe, and he does not want to miss a minute of the experience.

I used to do more of that, but this time, when I arrived after no sleep on the overnight flight, I treated myself to an short nap and some quiet and solitude during the afternoon my hotel. While I felt a little guilty about not making use of the sight-seeing time, I know it is a necessary part of centering myself for a busy and people-filled week.

I realize now that my choices reflect a feeling of sufficiency instead of scarcity in my beliefs. I do not feel a desperate and grasping sensation of never having this opportunity again. Instead of telling myself that “I’m missing out” I say instead “I am taking care of myself.” That makes a huge difference in the way I show up and honor my needs without guilt or shame.

Granted this was not an automatic process, and involved a little self-coaching when I started feeling bad about not getting out. It was a conscious choice to tell myself a different story, to help take a perspective that is nourishing to me. It takes practice, and requires patience with old patterns. But the more practicing I do, the easier it gets.

Have a great week!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Reading, writing and rhythm

I am a voracious reader. My nightstand is typically piled with books, and I have about 3-4 going at any one time.

There’s at least one fiction book, which is my treat reading before bedtime, and the way I wind down before sleep. I am not so into e-books. I have a Nook, but forget to charge it. I have a love for real pages that I can turn, a visceral and physical experience of a book that I am too old-fashioned to replace.

When I write, I integrate the things I read, the practices I attempt, and the swirling thoughts I notice while meditating or navigating my days. It helps me slow things down enough to consider how it all fits together.

My philosophy teacher used to recommend that we write to remember. When studying, write out concepts and ideas we want to understand or explore.

In biology or chemistry labs, we wrote to capture our protocols, and our results. Writing is a part of science, part of study, part art-form and part formal work.

Reading and writing do not come easily to everyone, and I am grateful that I have always enjoyed both since a young age. Fifteen years ago, toward the end of graduate school I was diagnosed with adult a.d.d. Now it makes sense to me that I can either hyper-focus or be challenged to finish a page without distraction.

I do not have the “h” part of the usual diagnosis (and women often do not manifest that part, or they train themselves out of it to be quiet, compliant little girls from a young age). But clearly the difference in my ability to focus was palpable after treatment and medication.

Before the diagnosis I had suffered from 2-3 periods of depression in my life, precipitated by burnout and anxiety. I had always struggled to pay attention during my “boring” classes, and often escaped into my imagination. Teachers knew I was smart, but they often said I was not working up to my potential. I finished salutatorian of my high school class, so clearly a lot of students may not have been working up to their potential…

What I find these days is that life is more about establishing the right rhythm for my days and weeks, rather than pursuing the elusive “balance” many strive for.

Filling days with to-do lists and activities may help us feel productive and in control of our lives. But resting, pausing and re-evaluating need to be a part of our lives too. An a.d.d.-oid brain is typically in motion constantly. I describe my thought processes as cascades, and they are very fluid and dynamic.

Normal people can typically compartmentalize their thoughts, like putting them in boxes, categorizing and organizing them. The a.d.d. brain tends not to work that way, instead flowing from thought to thought, in associative “play”. We create new categories, with different boundaries. Our brains  leap outside boxes like playful puppies or kittens.

For years I spent time hiding my a.d.d., at the advice of well-meaning professionals that explained to me that employers would not necessarily understand, and may penalize me for it professionally. In every job I needed to “prove myself” with consistency for quite some time before advancing, very hard for the a.d.d.-oid mind that gets bored once it knows the routine. The first time I was able to hire administrative support to help with the details while I could focus on big picture work, I finally started realizing my potential.

My current position as an operational manager for an international team requires me to be quick thinking and to balance many factors in making decisions. I get to help my employees with career development (which I love) and coach them to develop their skills, especially when it comes to influence management in a large corporation with a matrix reporting structure.

I turned a weakness into a “superpower” of sorts, at least the way I am choosing to author my life and my story. I do not see it as a disability. I see it as a way of seeing around corners, flexibly solving problems, and bringing creativity to many teams.

As long as I find the right rhythm in my days, get time for rest, play and taking very good care of myself physically, I thrive. When I neglect myself, or slack off on good self-care routines, like getting enough sleep, healthy food, affection, love, and exercise, I suffer.

What I want to say to those suffering from depression, anxiety, a.d.d. or any other type of diagnosis: it does not have to define you or your life. You will need to learn to manage it, that is true. But it will give you unique insight, skills and resilience when you learn to manage it. You will benefit from more compassion for those who struggle. And if you learn to love yourself, and the unique way that your brain and body work, you can fully use your gifts.

 

Find your rhythm, find what makes sense for you. Find others that support your strengths and help you cultivate them. You deserve that. And it is possible.

Have a great week, friends.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Slow vs fast

I am sitting here watching the sunrise in my favorite chair with my coffee beside me. Sometimes my mind swirls with all I “should” get done today. Then I remember to take some deep breaths and SLOW DOWN.

I just finished a re-listen of Tom Sterner’s book, The Practicing Mind yesterday. It is about developing focus and discipline in your life. He reports a time when he tried an experiment: instead of rushing from thing to thing, event to event during his day, he tries moving as slowly and deliberately as possible. He discovers a remarkable thing: in that process of slowing down, everything seems to get done faster.

This is something I have noticed at times in my own life. When I am pinging back and forth between screen windows, or thinking in the back of my mind “I have so much to do” I get a feeling of busy-ness that creates anxiety.  When I realize that, I take a deep breath and acknowledge I have time for everything I need to do, I relax. I focus. I engage in the present moment. I get things done, one at a time.

Truly we only need to breathe to survive today. Yes, we probably want to eat sometime as well. But we would survive if we did not eat one day. Yes, we probably want to go to work, because there are consequences if we do not. But we have all the time we need, and going slower may actually help us get the work done faster. 

I love this paradox. As someone who has conditioned myself for that rushed feeling, it will take some deliberate practice to change the habit. But it can be done. I am going to prove it to myself. It runs counter to our culture, and that is just fine for me.

Go slow, friends.

Meaningful May

Happy May Day!

A blogger friend of mine (Stephanie) is writing a series which I think you may like, so if you are so inclined, please check it out at Make More Meaning. I will be the guest writer for May 15th so you will probably see a link to my post there here on this blog as well.

Now that the weather is nice, my posts are going to be shorter for the season. I am attempting to make progress on some fiction that has begun scratching at the back of my brain for a while too. It’s my own secret love affair, so I will not be sharing it here (yet).

Have a great month, all!

makemoremeaning

 

Energy and resistance

I recently decided to cut myself some slack in not posting as often on my blog, giving myself Tuesdays and Thursdays off my internal obligation to write, so that I could free up time to work on a few other things, like my coaching homework.

Observations so far:
  • Yesterday I felt an urge to fill my usual writing time with media input instead, in the form of podcasts and audio books. I had a hard time turning these off as I was getting ready for the day. It’s like I was trying to get a cheap thrill rather than the nourishment I usually feel in writing.
  • I had a lot less energy for work-related stuff, and even for coaching homework. I felt like something was missing; I sensed a loss of what gives me a zip of energy in the morning, the process of creating something complete, even if short, and publishing it.
  • I had a sense of dragging myself through the day, trying to “bribe” myself to do work, but not managing to stay very focused.  Usually I have a lot of meetings scheduled on Tuesdays, and this time, I only had one. There may be a certain calm before the storm at work, as it is close to fiscal year end for us (April).
  • I did some hand-written journalling throughout my day as I tried to get myself out of this “funk” but it just seemed to weigh me down further. Yuck.
  • I procrastinated on things I wanted to get done, rather than tackling them right away in the morning like I usually do. There was a lot of thinking and noodling around, and some research, but it did not feel very satisfying, and I did not complete anything on my list. Lot of of unsatisfying starting and stopping rather than follow-through…

Conclusion: Sometimes time is not the relevant variable in our day. The energy we bring to a task is just as relevant, and the resistance we feel toward doing some tasks can be very draining. I realize that even though I had blocked off time to do the necessary things I’d planned to do, I just didn’t get the “oomph” needed to do them. Maybe it was just a bad day. This is very atypical for me, and when I get going in the morning, I am able to knock a bunch of things off my list by noon, giving me proper momentum in a day.

The other possible factor: I have been procrastinating at completing the budget and finance piece of my coaching homework. I know this is dragging me down as well. Last August I purchased a “Money Clarity” course – there were 10 lessons space over the course of a month. I did the “easy 6” and skipped the 4 hard lessons. It’s time to come back to those now. There is no way I am going to figure out my “next big thing” without getting very comfortable with my money management.
Much as my “inner brat” likes to throw a tantrum rather than work on this, it is time to face the facts and live and spend more consciously, rather than throwing my money away or spending frivolously instead of intentionally. I have done this close and intentional observation work before on food. Like Geneen Roth says in her book Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money many of the principles are the same, but they take hard work at first, until they become more regular habits. It is time!
While it is natural to feel resistance to change, sometimes our long-term well-being depends on it.

Pausing, resting and noticing

On Thursday this week I opted to sleep in instead of blogging. Since I’d had some insomnia on Sunday (slept 2 hours) and Tuesday (slept 4 hours) it felt really good to get 10.5 hours of sleep. It was really good, juicy sleep. I know that I dreamed, but I did not write down my dreams right away, so they faded quickly. But the sleep felt cleansing and nourishing, so I know my psyche was working out whatever needed processing.

I was fortunate to be able to work at home so I had some “think time” in between my conference calls. I took a little extra time to meditate, and to work on planning during my quiet time. I wrote in my journal. It is a handwritten, old-fashioned sort of practice for me. It is a way I slow down my brain long enough to process thoughts and feelings, to pay attention to what is going on in my body.

Our bodies can provide a necessary “compass” for the messages in our soul, but so often we forget to observe our reactions as a visceral process. We are in go-go-go mode, always trying to learn something new, read another book, listen to another podcast or audio book. I certainly love to indulge in all of these “treats” as I think of them. But then I need to allow for it all to settle, and for my personal truths to emerge.

As I tuned into my body’s messages today, I discovered I do not want to go to Boston in May for a trip to a conference that is typically an annual event for managers on my clinical research team. The week after that trip I am scheduled to travel to Belgium for another meeting. Then I am planning a trip the week after that to Mexico, to work with a colleague to help orient and train a new team member.

First off: three trips in 3 weeks is an easy NO for my body. More like a “shit NO!” if you pardon my French…  Is it that Boston trip itself causing the objection, or just the idea of traveling 3 weeks in a row?

I’m not wild about the Belgium trip honestly (even though I have enjoyed past work trips to Europe). But since I am on a “farewell tour” of sorts in my current role, that trip is part of my closure process in orienting a team member who may be taking on some parts of my role after I leave.

I am breathing through this decision and validating it by noticing the lightness I feel when I imagine skipping that trip. While I enjoy travel, I have come to appreciate sleep and a certain “life rhythm” in living well throughout my days and weeks. To be my most energetic and authentic self, I must respect that rhythm and notice when my body sends me these signals. When I ignore them, and press on, things tend not to go well.

In all honesty, there is no real reason I need to go to Boston for that conference. I have been to Boston before, and I enjoyed it, but I have no desire to go this time. My boss knows my career path is leading me to a new role. I have been upfront with him about that. He may not understand that my personal deadline of August is regardless of whether I have a job lined up specifically, or if I will simply take a break before my next gig.

I will honor that amazing compass of internal wisdom. It never leads me astray. Time to write the email to let him know my decision on this one…

Cheers & happy weekend, amigos!