Busy, the road to bad health

Busy, busy and more busy. That seems to be a constant theme in modern day life. Have you recently tried to plan a get together that involves more than two people? Forget about it. By the time everyone pulls out their calendars to look for a day when everyone is available, chances are you are at least a month out maybe two. Call someone up at the last minute to see if they want to grab a cup of coffee or a beer? Forget about it. Busy.

Lately I have found myself pondering the price we pay for being busy and based off a strange experiment I found myself in the middle of; I would say that this national anthem of busy is making for an unwell nation.

I no longer think it is just coincidence for many of us that the busier we get, the worse we feel. My own experience is that busy creates a slew of bad behaviors that because we are too busy to notice creates an absence of good health. Then we get caught up on the hamster wheel of poor health except again we don’t realize we are in poor health because we are too busy to actually know our bodies.

In the past year as I have moved my yogic lifestyle off the mat and into all areas of my life, I can no longer deny the correlations to how I feel and the choices that I make. Prior to choosing to be mindful of seemingly simple things like my diet and sleeping habits, I felt like shit most of the time. It turns out that when I go to bed by 11pm, and get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep, I don’t need the steady IV drip of coffee that was a staple for most of my adult life. Now, coffee past early afternoon is no longer tasty. You have to understand that I have been essentially freebasing coffee since I was a teenager. Up until a few years ago, putting away a pot or two of coffee plus a daily latte (or two or three) was my norm. The times when my coffee consumption was unintentionally cut were absolute disasters barring pregnancy when my body clearly was trying to send me a signal.

For more years than I care to share when it came to my diet, my only concerns were the numbers on the scale. I would alter my eating habits just enough to make the numbers on the scale went down along with the number on my clothing tags. If the number on the tags said 4 or 6, I was ecstatic and if it said 12 or 14, I was ready to stuff myself into a large Hefty bag and stay hidden until the numbers went down. Weight Watchers which isn’t a bad program helped me keep the numbers acceptable as long as I ate in a manner that was my incompatible to who I really am but as I have lamented before in this space, I often felt I needed something more.

Turns out when I stop being busy long enough that I can be mindful and present I recognize why I am eating and I am naturally mindful of the choices that I make. I don’t snack much if at all anymore and when I do, it generally stems from the fact that I am bored, anxious or suffering from PMS. If I choose to snack, I want to know why but when I am too busy, I can’t ask those questions and as result when I am busy, I often mindlessly overeat which creates a whole other set of issues. Sluggish and stuffed for starters.

Even being mindful of what media I consume seems to have an impact on my health. When I am too busy to settle down with a good book and instead choose to feast on the non-stop media buffet of bad news and social media, I now notice that it is harder to quiet my mind and that what I am consuming in those moments affects me deeply. News is good (a complete lack of awareness about the world around us isn’t the answer either) but a non-stop diet of upsetting and at times gut wrenching news and shallow surface connections in lieu of moments spent in the presence of loved ones is just bad for me.

I am a broken record these days and I know it; but allowing my mind to actually be quiet enough that I am alone with my true self feels like the miracle drug to me. Does it solve every problem, of course not? It does however allow me to see what is really an issue and what is just more of the mindless hum in the background creating unnecessary stress and strain.

I didn’t know how good mindful living was until the past couple of weeks when I consciously and intentionally chose to slide back in to my old safety blanket of bad habits. After the bombs started dropping in my professional and personal life, it felt like too much work to be mindful. It started out innocently enough, but it quickly snowballed and the end result is I feel bad. Real bad and yeah, I am busy.

My choice is clear; I cannot allow myself to get so busy that I stop being aware.  No matter how rough things are allowing myself to stop caring enough to take care of myself is simply not an option. In order to live fully and completely even in the midst of life’s storms, I need to be in good health and for me good health demands that I stop being too busy to make time for myself. Universe, I have received the message loud and clear, now let me go back a cup of ginger tea.

I choose happy, it feels better

Someone recently told me they were surprised to find out that when I first moved to Maine that I absolutely hated it. I was surprised that this person didn’t know that I actually hated Maine, hell I still have days when I am ambivalent about this place. Let’s be honest, Maine is many things, but for a Black woman from Chicago who is actually pretty fond of Black folks, this can be a challenging place. Sure, the state has changed in my decade here, I no longer go days without seeing another person of color, my life is fairly settled, all reasons to have a better attitude, but what really changed is me.

A number of years ago I was faced with a decision, I could either walk around with my half empty, cynical perspective about life which only fuels my anxiety or I could let shit go. I reached the point in my life where the amount of energy it takes to get fired up about every injustice is simply more than I can afford.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have setbacks. I still have moments when I get caught up, generally after talking with someone or reading something that reminds me of how fucked up this world can be and all of a sudden, I see nothing but sorrow and pain. Then I am riding the life is shitty roller coaster, trying to figure out how to get off. I don’t presume to speak for others, but that roller coaster is one of the worse rides at the amusement park of life. I would much rather ride the carousel of joy, that finds peace and joy in the midst of storms. On the carousel of joy, I can see the bad stuff, but I also see the good stuff.

For me giving into the anger and frustration long term creates a less than mindful me that finds myself acting up in ways that I am not proud of. I admit this post is a tad more woo woo than usual and probably more for myself than anyone else. Yet as I read this piece over at the Purpose Fairy this morning, I was reminded of the value of seeking joy. In a recent post I did on “us versus them” I heard some feedback that left me feeling uneasy, I momentarily felt bad that I wasn’t angry enough at the powers to be that are no doubt trying to oppress people. As someone whose first political action happened at 17, I have always been keenly aware of how fucked up our political system is. In the 22 years since I first got involved, the system has only gotten worse and I wish I could say I felt things are going to get better. I just know that for me, anger doesn’t serve me well anymore. I think anger isn’t serving anyone well, angry people become scared people and scared, angry people do irrational things.

In the end, while there is a lot we can and can’t do; how we choose to view or react to any given situation is often within our control.