Catch a few minutes of tense sleep knowing that you need to wake up.
*Alarm rings again* Hit snooze again. It’s okay, there won’t be any traffic today.
*Alarm rings again, a little more aggressively this time* Okay, your eyes won’t open, but you know the excuses have run out. You begrudgingly drag yourself to the bathroom because this is it. You brush your teeth whilst thinking of what has life become. Why have you turned into a machine bound by time. You get dressed, get some morning fuel in the form of coffee and you’re out. You curse yourself for not sleeping on time. You enter your office and it’s constant chaos. Work is piling, deadlines are closing in , your boss isn’t exactly happy. You’re not doing enough, you feel. Someone is always doing more. Someone is always doing better. You take work home. Some of you smoke to keep yourself going. Some of you smoke because your boss smokes and important discussions are happening whilst people are smoking outside. Some of you are on your third cup of coffee by 12. Competition is hardcore, so you work harder. It’s not just about the work you’re doing, but by how well you’re selling yourself to your superiors. Are they noticing the right things? Work politics is weighing on you too. You come home after sitting in a boxed cubicle, and then a tin box in a myriad of similar tin boxes honking all around you. You sit on the dining table, your parents ask you similar questions about work. You tell them work is good (read: pressure is unbearable, but I’m coping, I think). Like they would understand what is going on! Your personal life is suffering. There’s just too much to do. You stay up late catching up on work. Or you stay up late catching up on your social life.
You tell yourself you want to get fit. Nobody has time for that! After a certain point, you’re just running. Cardio is just your mind running in continuous spirals. There’s always something to do. And something you couldn’t do. They say take a break, you need to relax! But who are they kidding. Holidays are a luxury you can’t always afford! And even you take one, you lose a notch in the work politics race. One day off from that constant neck to neck elbowing, and you’re down a point. Suddenly you’re a slacker.
People are either always telling themselves that the struggle is now, keep running now and you can relax later. Somehow that later keeps getting postponed till you forget what you’re running from or running to. The transitioning years are especially difficult and without the right guidance, you get caught up in fields that you don’t necessarily like. But the running never stops.
Someone asked me to give a general profile of the clientele I see everyday. Statistically speaking (without actually running any numbers), I have to say that about 60% of the cases are regarding anxiety or anxiety related problems.
A client came in the other day. He complained of an off and on headache and complained of difficulty in falling asleep. Now, I did my routine rapport formation and then moved on to my favorite circular questioning approach to get a detailed interview. This is always interesting because it facilitates in excavating problems that the client isn’t truly aware of or is hiding underneath the ‘this is acceptable carpet’. I recited the most obvious symptoms of anxiety and he told me that none of them fit. I could see the symptoms on him, a slight tremble in his voice, a shiny forehead in a very cold room, words coming out so fast that they were falling on each other. When he had entered, I had shaken hands with him and knew that his palms were sweaty. He disagreed about feeling any shortness of breath, but it seemed a little bit shallow. I asked him to stop and take a deep breath. He said nothing was wrong. I asked him to humor me. He was adamant on refusing to admit he had any symptoms of anxiety, and I understood that he wasn’t ready for it. He spoke about work pressure a lot but that it wasn’t really a problem to him. His problem was just difficulty in sleeping. I gave him basic interventions for that but asked him to again next week.
He called me on his way. He had had a panic attack. He was a lot more receptive in the next session. His lifestyle was about 10 times worse than the picture I have described. He seemed to be stuck in a cemented circle of what can I do next, always jumping from one goal to another. He was the perfect picture of anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities). Our conversation went as follows:
Me: Why are you doing this? Working like a drone and taking no time for yourself?
Him: To be comfortable.
Me: Are you? Comfortable.
Him: Yes, I am.
Me: Then, if nothing is wrong and you are truly comfortable, then why are you here?
Me: I have been telling you that the way you’re going. The speed at which you’e going, you will burnout in the next few years. Your physical health is deteriorating. You’re brushing your mental health off like it means nothing.
My point in sharing this is in the hopes that even if a tiny amount of the above vignettes resonate with you, you take a pause. You pause to take a deep breath and evaluate to see what life truly means to you. Inculcate some “me time” and ensure that you’re not aimlessly running. Find time for what’s important to you. Find true time for what’s inside.
I’m going to leave you with an acronym that really helped me: WALK
W– Witness; look outside. Enjoy the scenery of your life whilst you work to get ahead. Don’t miss out on moments or allow life to just pass you by.
A– Accept; the good, the bad and the ugly. Accept you cannot control or know everything. Relinquish the control you’ve been trying to hold on to so hard. Exhale.
L-Love; send out love around you. Love all the moments around you. Love isn’t necessarily a romantic partner or for family. Send out positivity and love everywhere. See how it changes your life.
K-Know thyself; Take moments each day to understand your true self. Not the self you emulate to conform to society or do better. But your true self; the flaws and the parts you don’t truly like.
There’s a reason why we all love sunsets or looking up at stars. Those moments make us quiet. For those fleeting moments, we are one with who we truly are. In those moments, we pause.