Finding the balance between mindful nourishment and depleting activities
Do you feel that your life is in balance or are you constantly in a state of exhaustion? Maybe each day is different, see-sawing between the two but slowly moving towards overwhelm without you realising.
When you’re really busy, maybe looking after the children or working full-time (or both!) it’s easy to start putting other aspects of your life on hold. Missing that weekly yoga class a few times until you miss it out altogether. Making less time for old friends until they stop calling. Never taking the time to read a book or listen to music. Basically reducing the time spent on activities that nourish and make your life a richer and happier place.
Once you start reducing those nourishing things and spend more time doing joyless, tiring, draining activities, you become less resilient to stress and the challenges that life throws at us.
We are increasingly left with work or other stressors that often deplete our resources, and nothing left to replenish or nourish us – and exhaustion is the result – Mark Williams and Danny Penman, Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world
All work and no play?
Giving up joyful, nourishing activities and letting stress, busyness and pressure take over has been likened to an exhaustion funnel. The funnel is something you slip down as you give up seemingly ‘optional’ activities that nourish. The more you give up, the narrower and less enjoyable your life is until you reach exhaustion and burnout.
Part of mindfulness training is to look at getting your life back into balance and realising when you’re letting stressful demands take over. All of us have good, bad and routine things to deal with on a regular basis. How you look after yourself is key to ensuring your well-being and in turn how well you cope with the boring or not so good stuff.
How’s your day looking?
MBCT courses suggest making a list of your typical daily activities – no more than 15, including things such as getting up and eating breakfast, taking the kids to school, reading a magazine or checking social media.
Note which are nourishing – those that make you feel energised, happy or calm, and those which are depleting – those that drain your energy, make you feel tense or unhappy or merely just existing. Some activities might be neutral and often there’ll be things that are depleting to you but necessary – your commute to work for example.
Take time to think about how activities make you feel. Checking Facebook may seem like a nourishing activity, after all you’re connecting with your family and friends but have you noticed just how much FUN other people seem to be having ALL THE TIME?
Social media is a place for people to show off the best bits of their lives – the photos of their giggling babies or a sunny walk in beautiful countryside. Or what a great time they had last night out with friends. Or how brilliant their new job is. But not how crappy their day has been, clearing up after the kids, hanging out yet another load of washing or dealing with another tantrum.
It’s not surprising then that many people feel mentally worse off after checking their social media. Reading how great other peoples’ lives are can lower your self-esteem according to researchers. So perhaps checking social media is a depleting activity.
Some activities might appear depleting. Walking your kids to school might be physically exhausting or just another chore to fit into your busy day before rushing off to do the shopping or housework. But think again – this could be a nourishing activity – the physical exercise plus spending time with your kids. It won’t be long before they’re teenagers and doing everything possible to avoid walking with you anywhere near school. It might be cold and raining, but you’re never getting this time back, so value it instead and it might become a more nourishing aspect of your day-to-day life.
Check your list and see how many nourishing and depleting activities you have on a typical day. Can you turn some of the depleting ones into positives like the walk to school? Or making your weekly shop more interesting by listening to calming music on your iPod as you go round the store? Even if you have depleting activities to deal with such as boring housework or tasks at work, Williams and Penman suggest being extra mindful while doing them as this helps you become more accepting of both the good and bad during your day.
Accepting that there are some aspects of your life that you simply can’t change… can you consciously increase the time and effort you give to the things that nurture you? Michael Chaskalson, Mindfulness in eight weeks
Make time for mindful nourishment
It’s also important to do some nourishing activities every day, no matter how small. It could be enjoying a cup of tea without being disturbed, or taking a hot bubble bath when the kids are in bed. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out and don’t make excuses! You’re busy but remember – tiny mindful actions make such a difference.
Have you made a list to see how balanced your life is? Are you going to make time for nourishment this week? Let me know below!