Multi-tasking madness

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I used to pride myself on my ability to multi-task. I can eat meals while working, having conversations through Facebook messenger with friends who need a little support and snuggling my cats.

Just because you can do something though, doesn’t mean you should.

The chaos of juggling multiple things at one time left me too anxious to go on by mid-day. What I had accomplished wasn’t done as well as it could have been, kitty cuddling included. No one and nothing was getting my full attention, meaning I wasn’t doing a good job taking care of myself, writing, being a caregiver or being a friend.

This wasn’t something I acknowledged as being an issue until I got a concussion. For weeks, I couldn’t even knit anything that didn’t have the absolute most basic pattern while listening to music or my brain would fritz.

Learning to focus on one thing at a time was difficult, but it paid off in that I was able to get more done in the end. As I heal, I can see how beneficial this light on multi-tasking life will be.

In this go-go-go, busy, hyper-connected world, it’s tempting to cram as much into as little time as possible. Here’s what is helping me change my mindset.

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Photo by Bonnie Tsang.

1. I want to be my best self

If you can get something done with only part of your attention focused on the task, imagine what you could do with your full attention?

I can write an article in fragmented pieces between answering emails, but it’s often only after 10 or 15 minutes of struggling with words that the sentences suddenly begin to flow and the writing feels natural and unlaboured. It’s pieces written like this that don’t need much proof reading by me and that editors rarely send back with major changes. In the end, focusing my full attention on this one task saves me time, but, much more importantly, it allows me to put out into the world the best of me.

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Photo by Daniel.

2. I want to have real experiences

Ever have a conversation with someone and later not remember what you chatted about or, worse, in the moment realized that they’ve paused for a response and you don’t know what to say?

Beside being rude, it’s proof that you’re missing out on real life experiences. I don’t even want to think about the countless times I’ve returned home from spending time with a good friend, regretting that I was too focused on watching my phone for an email to have really enjoyed their company. Instead of having the memory of a rich interaction and the positive feelings that come from that, I was regretful. But also a little too busy looking at my phone for another email to register this fully.

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Photo by Home Thods.

3. I want to enjoy life

Always listening to podcasts while walking through the forest, how will I ever hear the birds? Looking at my phone on the park bench, I might miss an otter swimming passed in a nearby pond. Working while chatting with a friend, I might not notice the subtext of the conversation.

I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness throughout my days lately. Noticing the sounds, smells and sights of my surroundings has enriched the most mundane moments of life, including standing on a downtown street corner waiting for my shopping buddy to arrive. And pulling my mind into the moment—rather than dwelling on the to-do list, financial issues and odd social interactions—reduces how much anxiety builds up throughout the day.

It’s hard to fully enjoy all the rich complexities of life when the brain is trying to do too many things at once. It’s been through meditating that I’ve discovered how beautiful life is when it’s simple. From the concussion, I learned how focusing in on one thing is kind to our overworked brains.

Like what you’re reading here? Then you’ll be interested in my new newsletter! This summer, I’ll be launching a weekly newsletter sending motivational words to freelancers and creatives who struggle with anxiety. It’ll be similar to the blog, but more tailored and concise, with action steps you can take to better your life and career. Sign-up now and don’t miss out on even one!


Featured image by Daniel Lobo.


Concussion update

img_1172.jpgAs I get better, it’s been more difficult to gauge what is pushing it too much. Earlier this week, I had an amazing day with no symptoms. The next day, after scooping dog poop and weeding in the back yard, mopping the floors, making lunch for Lucas and I, working 1.5 hours and sitting in the sun listening to podcasts about finances without a hat or sunglasses, it dawned on me that I’d only had such a good day because I’d spent most of my time between 15 minute stints of work sitting still with a hat and sunglasses, even when in the shade.

Sigh.

Having a successful day requires so much mindfulness. It’s a great lesson, but one that I’m slow to learn. Maybe I’ll get it down by the time my brain is healed and ready for full action again. In the meantime, a couple of the musicians from Cottonwood Club, a band my partner is in, gave me this lil’ fellow to keep me company on my side of the car. They also gave me a container of homemade vegan cookies, but I might have already eaten them…

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Letting thoughts float away

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I’m not a patient person. I’m okay with that. I don’t want to waste my life waiting for things to happen or mulling over decisions; when I get an inkling that something might make me happy, I jump on it without second thought. That’s how I wound up going into CreComm, starting Cockroach and taking in three lovely cats.

Dealing with anxiety takes patience, which I haven’t been prepared for. I thought getting it under control—at least to a point where my joint pain isn’t debilitating and my breathing is not regularly laboured—would take no time at all. First, I acknowledged that it’s something I struggle with. Then, I monitored my thought patterns and took note of what was causing the anxiety. Following this, I expected to immediately have the ability to stop thinking in ways that were causing me all the issues.

“I haven’t heard from this person in a few weeks because I’m boring and they don’t want to spend time with me anymore.”

Dwelling on thoughts like this is anxiety inducing. Suddenly chopping them off and beating myself up for thinking that way is almost worse. Still feeling rejected, I’m also feeling like a failure.

Dealing with my anxiety is forcing me to be patient. It’s also teaching me to be gentle and kind to myself. Over the past three months, I’ve completed the free 10 day trial of Headspace, a meditation app (as well as being inpatient, I’m a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to anything that involves taking care of myself). I’ve tried meditation before, but it was never helpful. At least, I didn’t think it was helpful because I didn’t understand the purpose. Headspace was different in that it explains what meditation does for those who practice it. It also gave a few helpful visuals and metaphors.

While doing the 10 minute guided meditations, the speaker suggests we calmly push away thoughts as if they are white, puffy clouds. Thoughts aren’t good or bad; there’s nothing to get upset about when one comes about during a meditation. Just acknowledge their existence then encourage them to float off. This visual has helped immensely when it comes to dealing with my anxious mind.

Some of my thoughts need to be dealt with and shouldn’t be blown away.

“I haven’t heard from this person in a few weeks because I’m boring and they don’t want to spend time with me anymore. Or maybe they’re busy with their child, their parents, their work, their own life. Maybe they have a lot going on and haven’t had time to get in touch. Maybe they’re waiting for me to reach out first. Perhaps they tried to send a message but it didn’t go through. Or maybe we’re just drifting apart and that’s okay.”

Some don’t need any of my attention.

“That cashier was so rude and snappy to me. What did I do to make him dislike me?”

Those thoughts can simply be pushed aside, like cute, fluffy white clouds, without emotion or further thought. Something about this image makes ditching the harmful thoughts easier (and cuter).

I’d expected that acknowledging these thoughts are causing my anxiety would lead to me not having them anymore. That’s not a realistic expectation. At least, it’s not realistic that I’ll immediately be able to stop them. Hopefully I can learn to have a bit more patience throughout this process. And find a few more adorable visuals to keep me smiling along the way.


Concussion update

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Not high. Just hiding from the headache-inducing bright lights!

This is going to be a long, slow healing process. As I’m popping my head back into the virtual world, I’m getting a lot of lovely messages asking how I’m doing. However, being on a screen for more than short periods of time sporadically throughout the day gives me The Headache Of All Headaches, so I’m having to leave most unanswered. Instead, I’ll add little updates to the bottom of my weekly posts until I can send my thanks and love to each online well-wisher individually.

Over the past two weeks I tried out some work and learned a lot about my limitations. At the suggestion of my doctor and physiotherapist, I started back two hours a day. We all decided that I would work 15 minutes at a time with 45 minute to an hour breaks in between. I only lasted one day of this. I was in so much pain, the fogginess returned along with the dizziness and its accompanying nausea. All of this had me wanting to go to bed at 5 p.m. when I closed my laptop for the day.

Turns out that 1.25 hours is all I can tolerate. And I can only work that much and continue cooking for myself, going on short outings and taking care of some of my own housework if I leave two hour breaks between sessions.

This is frustrating. It also ties me more to my home, making it difficult to see friends for the short morning and afternoon walks I was being taken on before I started working again. A few lovely folks have reliably been here for me though and others have popped into my life from time to time, either via my IRL mailbox or by taking me on short outings, so while I feel even more isolated now, I’m not quite so lonely.

Thanks for all the love being sent my way.

xoxo
Meg


Featured photo by The Aucitron.