OMG, we are already 3 weeks into January 2021. Is this going to be one of those fast years again? Chances are that the answer is YES.
Have you ever wondered why this is? I have a couple of ideas. I think, it has to do with how fast and furious our lives have become. It’s like we’re living in a pressure cooker. There’s so much going on that we are constantly on the back foot trying to catch up. There’s more and more expectation at work, things have ridiculously tight deadlines. Bean counters are constantly saving money by reducing staff members and resources available to projects.
Stress is going up in the workplace, but also elsewhere. Traffic is becoming more hectic. Once the school holidays are done, trying to get anywhere without traffic will be almost impossible. Plus, more people are expected to work in the office again but are discouraged from using public transport. If you are not living in Sydney or in another big city, lucky you. Sitting in traffic, not getting anywhere, but having time pressure galore is certainly adding to the stressful scenario.
Living in a pressure cooker scenario
Then we have the rest of the family. If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about. It’s not only your own stuff adding all this time pressure to your day, there’s the kids (and sometimes partner) to organise as well. Day care drop off and pick up times, before and after school care, afternoon activities, school excursions, school projects due, and the list goes on and on. It’s downright crazy.
Of course, the kids sense your stress and depending on their personality, get whiny, obnoxious or hyperactive, which in turn will increase your stress. One thing adds to another and you start screaming, feeling overwhelmed and wish the weekend was already there. And finally, you’ve made it to the weekend, only to discover that you have about 3 million loads of washing to do, the house looks like a pigsty and your parents in law are coming over.
Before you know it, the weekend is over, the mill starts again, and you haven’t even been able to take a long deep breath in and out. Meanwhile within all this craziness, you have also been bombarded with billions of marketing messages and other information that you didn’t have to know about. Not that you’ve been consciously aware of this, but your brain is. And it’s been diligently filtering all those impressions and stored them away, keeping them for later. Our brains love automation to free up the conscious mind to do its thing. But in the background, there’s a myriad of activity going on, adding to your stress levels.
The decade of distrust
No wonder, we get irritated and don’t trust anything and anyone anymore. I saw this headline of the New York Times during a presentation and took a screenshot. They labelled the past decade as the decade of distrust. I think, there’s something in it. How many of you know your neighbours well? One of my neighbours, for example, has an automatic garage door and internal access to the house. I don’t even see them. It’s likely a normal reaction that we have created a private cocoon to protect us from the stress. Remember our brain doesn’t know if the thing that makes you stressed is because of a life-threatening tiger running after you or from being late to an important work meeting.
The only thing is that the stress doesn’t stop at our front door. Most of us have a potent stress creator right in our hip pocket, our mobile phones. Work-email on your phone, check, social media apps on your phone, check, being tempted to reach for your phone any time it makes a noise, check. The list goes on. We also have television, radio and computers, even the kids have mobile phones and iPads.
What happened to our social network?
Plus, our face to face social contacts have diminished. This was a trend before the pandemic, but lockdowns and other restrictions have certainly accelerated this tendency. Since humans are social beings, I mean, it is a human need to have a community or a tribe, it’s no wonder that many people report diminished mental health. There’s also an increase in social anxiety disorder, particularly in young people.
All this is alarming, especially to me as a therapist and psychology researcher. And I’ve been wondering how to address these issues. Many of them are systemic and not easy to be rectified by individuals, however, there are things we can do on a personal level. It was one of the reasons why I chose TRUST to be the theme for 2021 .
I think, it’s important to develop some trust again, first and foremost in ourselves, but also in our social network. It hopefully will act as a cushion to soften the stress that comes from our lifestyles that we cannot entirely change. I will endeavour throughout the year to offer you tips and easy exercises to increase the level of trust in yourselves and beyond. As I did last year, each month will have a topic that I explore on social media and summarise in my monthly newsletter. See, what I just did? I committed. Now I must trust myself that I can pull this off 😉.
January topic – Trust and new beginnings
In January, the topic is TRUST and New Beginnings. Many people love making new year’s resolutions, and rarely do these last into February. I think, it’s just this idea that a new year would change things magically and make room for something new and fresh. There’s more hope that it will happen this time. Obviously, this also applies to other dates such as a new month, think new financial year, a new school year, or new semester at uni, maybe even a new week. Most people will start a new diet tomorrow. There’s one common theme in this type of magical thinking, the future. Unfortunately, the future is always in the future and the only opportunity to change something is now. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow never comes, we only have this moment.
Nevertheless, we can just ride the wave of new beginnings, harvest the hope and magic and dive straight into the theme of the year, TRUST.
Trust is even more important than ever. In the current climate of distrust, we all need to make an effort to cultivate trust again. First, it’s looking at ourselves. Do we really know how to trust ourselves? Second, it’s important to develop trust in our communities again. Third, when we as humanity start building our lives and societies on trust, it will positively impact almost everything: how we treat less privileged people within our own society and in other countries and how we treat our planet.
So, what is trust?
Trust (according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) is:
- an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
- one in which confidence is placed
- dependence on something future or contingent: hope
I like the first part of this definition, and especially the third part of it, an assured reliance on the truth of someone or something. I see this as an invitation to look deeper into our own truth. Who are we really? What is the true essence of our being? Once we can get an understanding of the truth of ourselves, it will be a lot easier to develop and nurture self-trust.
Finding out your own truth is a journey that you will have to take on yourself. Nobody else can do it for you. However, there some tools that you can use to get to the truth of yourself. Some of my favourite tools are meditation and journaling. Meditation, because it provides that necessary stillness which can open the space for something deeper. It’s so easy to run with the wild thoughts our minds produce. Did you notice that they go and come very fast, changing topic all the time? One second, you were thinking on how to do the yoga pose your teacher demonstrated and the next, you are thinking about what to get for dinner. I know, I’ve been there.
Trust yourself, but not your monkey mind
Unfortunately, allowing the so-called monkey mind to run the show, does not get you any closer to discovering your inner truth. Sometimes, it’s easier to do meditation in a group, but this could be a little restricted with the pandemic still active. I like to combine meditation with journaling. Listen to a meditation on YouTube or some other online channel and have your journal ready. When you feel as relaxed as possible and the monkey mind has lost its grip on you, you can gently open your eyes and start writing. Just let the writing begin (remember to use handwriting not typing). It’s almost like something deeper than your conscious mind writes the words on the page. Try not to make meaning out of the words, but let it flow until it’s complete.
Then, go back to your meditation and wait. If there’s any more to come out, it will let you know. Repeat the process until you are completely complete. Everything that needed to find its way on your page is there. Don’t judge any of your early attempts doing this exercise. Be patient and keep practising. If you need support, please let me know. I’m happy to guide you through a meditation exercise and if need be, in the virtual space. There are some good aspects of technology, and meeting with people that are not local is one of them.
Of course, there are many more ways to access your inner truth. For some, you may need a guide 🙋♀️, others you may discover in your regular meditation practice or other de-stressing activities. One thing is clear, your stress needs to be reduced before you can get anywhere. Do what you can in this area. Maybe a walk on the beach, yoga, sitting down with a cuppa and not looking at your smartphone would be some smart ideas to try out (pun intended 😉).
Wishing you a wonderful rest of January 2021, stay relaxed and I’ll ‘see’ you again in February,