Mindfulness and the mad rush of everyday routine might, at first, appear worlds apart. For many students, balancing the pressures of studying, part- time jobs and social events can mean their own needs are placed at the bottom of the priority pile. With the introduction of virtual learning during the pandemic, motivating yourself has become even more difficult. For me, the intensity of a last- minute deadline rush increases the urge to self- sabotage. My tendency to procrastinate coupled with heightened anxiety meant that days avoiding my work were interspersed with all-night essay writing in a state of peak stress. I might have been getting things done (eventually) but at what long- term cost?
The mess I was in last year is why an intentional slowing down has become such an important part of my working week. Though this may seem counterintuitive to some, I have found it prevents me losing sight of myself and my own wellbeing in a sea of external responsibilities. As term-time begins again, I thought I would share what has (and hasn’t) worked for me when building a weekly plan.
I do not find ‘to-do’ lists therapeutic by nature; for me, they are intimidating. I could not understand how those around me balanced their lives so effortlessly when I still had no idea where to begin, even more so when I was at my lowest. To have any chance of fulfilling my day-to-day jobs, I realised I’d have to start afresh. My recent changes in mindset are not the result of a dramatic epiphany, more so a thousand instances of trial and error. I have settled on viewing my body and mind almost as you would a pet or a troublesome child you might be babysitting for a while. Each day, I would take ten minutes to relax and ask myself some questions: am I answering some of my body’s needs today? Have I fed and watered it? Has it moved around a bit? Am I taking pleasure in the small joys that come my way, like a child would? Am I able to get it to learn or experience something today?
Looking after yourself can therefore take on a more objective quality: you have this thing to look after, and that’s just the way it is. You wouldn’t begrudge a pet or small child for having needs so why would you deny yourself the same patience? From what I’ve found, your mental health should have its own to-do list – like this one above – that can be met without shedloads of pressure or worry. This way, you have a more stable foundation to build on when facing tasks that do provoke some stress (deadlines, shifts at work, meeting new people.)
Looking for perfection always been a tendency of mine, and it has taken me hitting a huge low during lockdown to redefine what this means. I have learned that not everything in life has to be an achievement, sometimes going through the motions without any external reward or even being particularly proud of it is just as valuable. It sounds ridiculous, but a more intuitive approach over a goal-orientated one has actually resulted in more ‘success’ and I now have more mental energy to give to difficult situations. Relieving myself of this emotional baggage is obviously still a work in process, I am the first one to admit that I don’t have all the answers yet, but it’s a step in the right direction towards true productivity.