Calming My Monkey Mind

This past month has been a very growing time for me. I experienced a lupus stress attack six weeks ago that triggered a plethora of actions and emotions. I don’t want to get into details about my health complications, but rather focus on the lessons I took away from it.

When these flares happen, I know my body is telling me that once again, I have pushed myself past my limit. I was working full-time at my serving job, I had a part-time research internship, I was working on my honours thesis, and preparing to write the GRE (a grad school exam) this summer. My weeks were easily running upwards of 70 hours a week, not including the time I spent at the gym or doing yoga. I reached a point where I completely lost my passion for what I was doing. I questioned if I even wanted to go to grad school anymore. During my week of rest, I spent a lot of time reevaluating what my priorities are, remembering what is important to me, and what adds value to my life.

The first thing I did was quit my research internship. Even though it was only a part-time commitment, it was another obligation that took time away from self-care. I also decided to postpone writing the GRE exam until next summer after I graduate. It was many sleepless nights before I made this decision, as I was extremely conflicted. Not writing the GRE this summer meant that I was not eligible to apply to grad school until December 2018, which would add an additional year to my educational path. I felt a lot of disappointment in myself and spoke openly to my counselor about this. I felt like a failure and could not get myself out of this rut, which is what inspired me to write this blog piece. The lesson I took away from this experience is the importance of loosening my vice grip on life and letting things unfold naturally.

Since my teen years, I have always struggled with having uncertainty and ambiguity. I think it became much more pronounced after I was diagnosed with lupus. When I received my diagnosis, I felt a complete loss of control. That I had no influence on my life anymore, that things were being handed to me, and that I could not fight back. At which point, I tried to become more in control of all the other aspects of my life to compensate. I still very much can be a control freak, but I am starting to find comfort in the unknown.

I had my educational path mapped out for the next few years, in terms of when I would be applying to grad school, when I would start, etc., and have come to the conclusion that not having the next 5 years of my life mapped out is not detrimental to my success. As I continue working towards my future goals, I still need to enjoy life and do things in the present that enrich it.

I preach to my friends and family about the importance of self-care and yet at times, I neglect my body when it’s telling me to slow down. I have scaled back where I can and am trying to enjoy the rest of my summer and focus on taking care of myself. I recently started Moksha yoga, which I absolutely love. I practiced Bikram yoga for the past decade on and off and wanted to try something new. Moksha is similar to Bikram in the postures performed and that it is also done in a hot room. I find Moksha to be less militant than Bikram and have enjoyed the instructors and their more nurturing approach. Moksha is really about developing your own practice, listening to your body, and doing what feels right to you in that moment.

My takeaway lesson from this past month is that things will work themselves out. I have faith that events will unfold for me as they should. When I say faith, I don’t mean it in a religious context – I mean, I have faith in myself. Faith that the experiences I have, the people I meet, and the growing and learning I do every day, will lead me to my life’s purpose. Being able to take a step back and focus purely on the present (the next year – which is a major improvement for me!) has been extremely empowering. Undergoing self-realization and knowing that I will be okay in whatever path I choose to pursue has left me feeling content, peaceful, and grateful.

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What has school taught me thus far?

enlightenment

It has been almost 5 months since I last posted. With the craziness of school, work, volunteering and the natural stresses of life, my blog has unregrettably fallen to the wayside. Today I want to emphasize the importance of engaging in activities that brings you pleasure, a total sense of absorption, and something that distorts time completely. It is during these activities that we can experience an optimal level of flow and awareness without judgement. It does not matter what the activity is, as long as you are fully immersed in something that you are passionate about, you will reap the short-term and long-term benefits. We need to be able to escape from the stresses of life and invest energy and time into rebuilding, changing, learning, and growing. We need to be the ones in control of our mental health and well being, and not let external factors dictate when our minds and bodies need a break. Do the daily maintenance and routine checkups for your mental, emotional, and physical well being, so you can prevent the big mental breakdowns or physical ailments due to exhaustion.

Ironically, the most important thing I have taken away from my post-secondary education is the importance of making time for yourself. I learned how crucial self-development was once my weeks started running 70-80 hours long between school, work, and volunteering. In retrospect, I am astonished by how much time I wasted when I had free time. The things I used to engage in during my free time were mindless and did not promote engagement or self-realization, activities like aimlessly watching TV when I was bored or surfing the net.  Now that I have such little free time, I’ve learned the importance of maximizing the little time I do have and committing to 20-30 minutes a day for myself. Here are the things I find utterly absorbing and relaxing:

  • Meditation – I enjoy mindfulness, loving kindness, and transcendental meditation
  • Reading – the last few months I have been reading a lot of positive psychology books, I am currently taking a positive psychology class and this area of psychology has really intrigued me. One book that I would highly recommend to everyone is “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. She gives you the simple,short-handed findings in the field of positive psychology and evidence-based strategies that can help you cultivate happiness depending on the type of activities that best suit your style.
  • Cooking – intertwining creativity with something that could be considered a daily hassle allows you to enjoy even the mundane tasks. I appreciate the time I put aside each week for meal prepping, because I have the opportunity to make great, healthy food that will nourish my body.
  • Journalling – this could be writing about anything. A specific stressful event that you are experiencing, the day you had, or a memory that you wanted to relive. I have been doing a lot of gratitude lists/entries, it may be that somedays I am grateful for the most simplest things in my life, but regardless it always cultivates appreciation and recognition. I also have a journal that is dedicated solely to quotes. Every few days I try to find a quote that really resonates with me and how I’m feeling at that present moment, I will write it down with the date so when I look back at it I can remember that specific moment.
  • Physical exercise – as soon I get to the gym and start pumping my workout playlist I lose myself in my workout. Once I start my workout I turn my phone off immediately – it is me time. The world can wait while I work on myself. For that hour, no one can disturb me or distract me without my willingness.

Those are the main activities that I engage in to escape my crazy life! Please feel free to share those fully-absorbing activities you practice and would suggest to others!