As I sit to write this piece, that is exactly how I feel right now. My house is upside down. The furniture and closets have been moved to allow for painters working inside the house. The kittens are jumping all over the mess and wanting to go outside. My husband is watching the live streaming of the Virgin Galactic space trip with Richard Branson and trying to share the historical moment with me. Loud noises enter from outside as we keep doors and windows open to dissipate paint smells. And I’m on a deadline to submit a paper.
Where and how do I start?
Well, in the same way I tell my yoga therapy clients: Pause!
I went to my office, put some soft focusing background music on, closed the door and settled down with my breath and myself.
Take a Break!
Of course, my messy weekend pales in comparison with the challenges we face as life changes in front of us while we grow older and wiser. In my yoga therapy practice, I see women feeling overwhelmed as they navigate from perimenopause to menopause and finally post-menopause. Usually, the most pressing items on the agenda are to lose weight, to avoid developing diabetes, to deal with body aches and pains, to control blood pressure, to be able to keep doing the same things they used to do and of course, to maintain sex drive and energy levels.
And just writing this down feels overwhelming. Soon stress goes through the roof, anxiety and depression start dancing as our bodies start yelling at us to take a break. So why not take a mindful pause and re-assess priorities before stress and anxiety take the lead? Especially if you are already feeling overwhelmed.
What does that break look like?
Of course, we will get to that but, first I will tell you what “not pausing” looks like: We start all kinds of crazy diets. We enroll in boot camp. We start taking all kinds of medications, vitamins and pills. Whatever well-intentioned friends and Google recommend, we go for it.
At the end of the day, when nothing seems to work, when we start running on empty, extreme measures pop into our minds and the downward spiral takes a life of its own. Sleeping patterns are severely disrupted, which by itself triggers a lengthy set of maladies, the heat inside our bodies reflects in our relationships and the list goes on and on.
When chaos sets in, we need to pause for a day, a week, a month, or even a year! Pause, reassess, and continue.
What does that pause look like?
Well, it looks something like waking up and sunbathing for at least 10 minutes looking at the early morning sunlight to reset our circadian rhythm and hormones, while taking deep, slow, and smooth breaths.
It means enjoying our cup of coffee or tea, feeling grateful, or taking a mindful walk without being umbilically corded to our phone.
It means being present with our feelings, emotions, and thoughts without becoming too attached to any of them. Taking 20 to 30 minutes to stretch our body and mind and strengthen our inner core. It means being attuned to our inner wisdom, our internal voice.
It looks like ending the day with 5 to 10 minutes gazing at the setting sun. It will signal our central clock to start the process of winding down for a restful and restorative sleep after a final refreshing shower before bed.
Pausing is not about coming to a full stop; it is simply inserting a comma or a semicolon to keep writing our story. The pause is putting the brake on our stress level, our worst counselor.
Go all the way to the root first!
For years, my mango tree was not bearing fruits. I kept trimming its branches hoping to strengthen the trunk to see greener and healthier leaves. Four years passed with no luck. Last year I decided to go straight down to nurturing its roots and voila! This season I finally tasted some sweet and juicy mangoes.
The root of our chaos and suffering is the level of stress that we indulge ourselves on a daily basis. If we do not hit the brake, going all stressed out to the gym and dieting will not bear any fruits. On the contrary, it will continue to add more stress. If we see no results from our efforts, we grow grumpier, more tired, and more overwhelmed.
A good night’s sleep
It all begins with a good night’s sleep, but the trick is that a good night’s sleep starts as the sun rises. If you are planning to force yourself to go to the gym, first force yourself to rise with the sunlight and at the end of the day, settle down with the sunset. Take that time to just breathe! Those two little pauses will do magic to counter our stress level, the root of our chaos. Then, and only then, make decisions, work out a plan to figure out what is next and what is best for you. You will be in control, instead of leaving stress, anxiety, and depression at the wheel.
As it turned out, while I was pausing, Richard Branson and his space crew landed back on earth and I missed that historical moment with my husband Luis. But, after I finished writing this post, we watched the replay together. Life goes on… after a pause!
Lifestyle. Meditation. Menopause. Mental Wellbeing.