The time is nowTwenty-four hours in a day, equating to 1440 minutes, which in turn equals 86,400 seconds. Sounds like quite a lot doesn’t it? And daily we all get the same amount, but for many of us, myself included, it often doesn’t seem like enough. I’ve lost count of the number of clients who come to see me, feeling so stressed out and tightly wound, because their never ending to-do list simply does just that – it never ends. They end up feeling like they are on a treadmill with no pause button and it has the knock on effect of depleting their batteries to a point where they a literally are running on empty every single day.
I was really struck this week by one client who told me that even before he gets out of bed he feels stressed. He confided that he gets that perfect one or two seconds of blissful ignorance upon waking and then the thoughts of the things he has to get done and of what he didn’t get done in the days and weeks before all came crashing in on him. Being the CEO of a large organisation certainly has its benefits, but he was beginning to wonder whether it was all worth it. In fact, the reason he’d decided to seek me out was because he’d started to get that terrible feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach every day before he even made it out of bed, and his anxiety was being compounded by the thought that one day he may not even be able pull back the covers.
It really made me wonder why it is, so many of us feel like the sands of time seem to run through the hourglass so much more quickly these days. I mean we are drowning in gadgets that are meant to help speed up those mundane tasks that took our grandparents so much time in the past, supposedly freeing us all up to have far more time on our hands for more important things. I remember seeing a TV documentary as a kid which made predictions about the future. In this vision of what we could expect, robots were doing all of the hard boring work for us, while we humans would be working one or two days a week on something interesting and creative, spending most of leisure time engaged in our hobbies or strolling on the beach or in the countryside. Well, the bit about the gadgets and machines might be true (although I’ve yet to encounter a robot that could run a large global company, while the CEO is putting their feet up!), but instead of helping us to slow down, so many of us seem pressed for time; spinning endless plates and keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn’t all come tumbling down around our ears.
As I explained to my client, carrying around that constant hum of urgency in the back of our minds triggers the release of stress hormones into the body, which in turn set up patterns of anxiety, poor eating habits and can also disrupt sleep to such an extent that you wake feeling exhausted rather than refreshed. These high levels of stress can also take their toll on those all-important supportive relationships in our lives, because when you feel on edge all the time you are more likely to snap at people and say things you don’t mean. Ultimately, constant rushing actually trains your brain to ignore the present moment and fixate on an imagined future (which you’d better hurry if you want to reach). Everything you do focuses on that, rather than enjoying life in the here and now. The irony being, if that imagined future does become your present, you’ll be too stressed out to enjoy it, fixating on where you’ve got to get to next, or what to do next, because you’ve forgotten how to be present with what is.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with planning, or thinking about the future. Planning is a valuable tool that we can draw on when we need it. But if you’re constantly rushing, and preoccupied with where you think you should be instead of where you are, you’re removing yourself from the most precious resource of all – life.
I think what I said resonated with my client, because when I showed him how to train his mind to become more present, how to manage his time by teaching him how to take back control of his life to rediscover the excitement and spark that made him so successful in the first place, and how to achieve that deep sense of relaxation that would help to heal his mind, body and spirit, he couldn’t wait to put it all into practice.
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