Simplify

My doctor told me last week that ‘change management’ is no longer the term du jour; it’s now called ‘managing ambiguity’. The theory goes that the rate of change is now so rapid and changes in our modern life are so frequent, that each kind of rolls into the next creating this maelstrom of ambiguity rather than clearly defined changes that we can manage through specific techniques.

It certainly rings true for my life this year. And it made me feel a little bit better about the level of overwhelm I’ve been feeling lately. Not overwhelm on a day-to-day level, but more on a birds-eye, information overload level. Life is just taking up a lot of my emotional energy and I don’t have a lot left for anyone else. It’s caused me to make even more changes in an attempt to really simplify things and preserve as much emotional energy as possible.

Firstly, I have taken a break from wellbeing coaching. I love it and I’m good at it and I know there is a strong need for it in the world. But it requires a level of physical and emotional energy to hold space for clients that I just don’t have right now. I always want to show up for the people I’m working with and I can’t show up right now. That’s not a perfectionist, overachiever ‘I can’t give 150% so I won’t do it at all’ decision, either. It’s an ‘I’m struggling to even give 70%’ feeling and I know it’s the right decision for me right now.

Secondly, today I moved out of the office I’d been sharing at the local coworking space. I liked it there and I love my office buddies, but just being there at the moment was taking up too much mental and emotional energy. I was finding it difficult to concentrate on all but the most mindless of admin tasks, and with the amount of writing work I’ve been getting recently, I needed all my mental energy just to get those tasks done. While I enjoyed being in the space, I just feel the need to be at home in my own space with no other human drains on my energy while I’m working.

It’s an interesting feeling. I realise all this talk of energy might sound a little woo-woo. It’s the only way I can describe it. My bandwidth for interpersonal interactions at the moment is just really narrow and I can’t explain why. The important thing I’ve realised is that I don’t need to explain why. This is just what I need at the moment. So I’m listening to my body’s signals and going with it.

The third way I’m dealing with this ambiguity is to get really boring and repetitive with a number of aspects of my life so as to avoid decision fatigue. I already had a bit of an unofficial uniform but I’ve been wearing the same 4 – 5 outfits on high repeat lately. I’m getting back into eating really habitually. Unless Stuart cooks, I’m eating the same plain few meals over and over. Chicken and veg, pork and veg, boiled eggs, green smoothies, strawberries and yoghurt. Repeat. As little thinking as possible at the grocery story or in the kitchen.

I’m going to yoga more instead of the gym or even going jogging on my own. When I’m at yoga, not only am I getting meditation moments which means I don’t have to add meditation in as another thing on the to-do list at home, but I also get to just follow the instructions and not think. I like jogging and I like going to the gym, but they both take mental energy I don’t have right now in that I have to be self-directed. I want to move my body, but in a way that doesn’t require mental energy. So I just turn up, do what I’m told and allow my body to receive the beautiful stretching it so enjoys.

I’m reading more formulaic romance novels than usual. I have always had a few laying around but I’m churning through them at a very fast rate lately. It’s an escape for my mind and I don’t have to think too hard. There’s very little suspense or anxiety about the outcome of the plot.

I’ve also taken huge steps to disconnect from social media. This is probably the most drastic change. The more Facebook has been something I’ve had to use for ‘work’, the less I’ve felt like using it. Also, the more time away from it I have, the more I can look at some of the content that comes through my feed and see that my reading it does nothing but upset me, changes nothing for the better in the world and my not reading it also makes little difference to the causes I follow but has a huge benefit for my mental health overall. So, I’ve unfollowed and in some cases unliked a bunch of people—in particular some activists whose work I really admire but is in areas that are generally depressing to think about, e.g. domestic violence, disability rights, LGBTI, refugees—and anyone that triggers me.

I’ve also removed my phone from the bedroom and that led to me being much more aware of and intentional about using it when Stuart is around too. All in all I’ve broken the huge need for it to be with me all the time and I just feel far less urgency about the online world altogether. I’m just letting those little red numbers increase as the notifications add up, and I’m freaking loving it. I know there’s a bit of Obliger Rebellion in there but I don’t care! It feels GOOD and that is reason enough.

I’m also working on outsourcing what I can in my life, too, where finances allow. I’m investing in some software to help me with the transcribing work I’m doing, I’m getting a VA to help with some menial online admin tasks and I’m going to outsource my websites as soon as I can. I’m also going to get a cleaner at home as soon as I can, and get my eyebrows done more often too. It might sound strange, but my thinking about making the effort to pluck my own eyebrows right now is just too much. I just feel a strong need to take some things off my plate to free up space for the more important stuff. And I know that having groomed eyebrows is hardly a massively important, life-or-death kind of thing, but they’re a priority for me right now because it takes up mental energy so I might as well get them taken care of and remove those thoughts from my brain.

My laptop is getting fairly old and slow at the moment, and in many ways my brain feels like that too. The software and programming was built for a different time. I can keep up with the demands of the modern world, but the rainbow wheel of death is popping up more and more often, forcing me to shut down and reset a couple of times a day now. I can keep working but I just can’t do everything the world tells me I should be able to do because the operating system just can’t keep up. With the laptop, I know an upgrade is in order sometime this year. With my body and brain and life, I’m fast realizing that in fact the upgrade is in not listening to the messaging of the world telling me to keep up and let life become ever more complex. In fact, the antidote is to become more and more focused on simplicity.

How about you? Where can you detach, unfollow, disconnect and simplify in your life?

The New Harmony Agenda

When I started this blog in January 2014, I wrote a post called The Harmony Agenda, explaining what it meant to me and why I chose that name for the blog. It was mostly about choosing the agenda for my life, as opposed to following the paths and goals other people had set for me. The harmony part was about the way the many different facets of life (work, health, family, love, money, hobbies, etc) can come together to create a harmonious whole. It was also a play on words because at the time I was working as a music teacher so I liked that it alluded to that part of my life and the importance of music, and over the years my mind has extended upon the harmony metaphor in many ways that I never ended up writing about here. I plan to change that in the coming months, if only so that I have actually gotten those ideas out of my head and onto the page.

I’m writing this at 9.50am on a Monday morning from my living room table, after having been for a long walk at my favourite park, listening to one of my favourite podcasts, stopping at the shops on the way home and putting a chook in the oven to roast. It will be ready when Stuart comes home for lunch, and then we can start the week with leftovers ready to go, which is part of my current agenda for getting my health back on track.

It’s the most productive morning I’ve had in a while, and also the most well I’ve felt in about a month too. On Saturday I posted on The Harmony Agenda Facebook page that I’ve been feeling fairly unwell for about a month, but went to get my blood work checked on Friday to find out what my thyroid and other hormones are doing, to rule that out. In the last month I’ve also had a cold virus that seemed to take forever to fully shake, and have been eating really poorly, and not exercising much. Anxiety has also been more and more present lately, and I have dramatically changed my social media habits to try to combat that, and the impact it was having on my sleep. I’ve also been pulling out of things I’d signed up for and cancelling things I’d promised to do in my Self-Care for Teachers business because I just don’t have the emotional or physical energy.

I’m feeling a strong urge to hibernate, retreat, go within and reset. So this morning is kind of the beginning of that. It’s also the first day of the new moon cycle, which I feel is a bit symbolic and a lovely new beginning.

I’m writing this before I’ve checked any social media for the morning, which is part of the new harmony agenda. I went to the Toowoomba Writer’s Fest on Saturday and the urge I’ve been feeling all year about how much I need and want to write more regularly just for myself and for The Harmony Agenda was reignited. Then somewhere over the weekend I heard mentioned on a podcast something called The #500words Project, where you write 500 words of any kind before you check social media in the morning.

I thought it sounded like a perfect idea, and a perfect time to start it given my recent change in social media habits anyway. So it feels like everything has come together for me quite well at the moment and it’s finally time to start the new harmony agenda for my life and actually share it with you.

Don’t waste the opportunity of a good crisis

My Mum said this to me the other day when we were talking and I was telling her how physically and emotionally exhausted and mixed up I’d been feeling lately, and how that was sparking some changes in my direction which were quite exciting. Clarity has been coming thick and fast. I wouldn’t really say I’ve been in complete crisis—it doesn’t feel nearly that dramatic or dangerous and I don’t want to belittle true crises—but the sentiment of using this low point as fuel really rings true.

So, in no particular order, the following are the different aspects of the new harmony agenda that I intend to cover as topics for The Harmony Agenda blog, and that are already pretty big parts of my life.

  • Extreme self-care
  • Creating
  • Curating, learning, teaching, sharing
  • Money, business, personal finance
  • Fun, Ease, Rest, Flow
  • Cycles, Rhythms and Rituals
  • Decluttering, clearing and healing
  • Collaborating, Connecting, Directing, Producing, Conducting cool and interesting and useful things
  • Work/Life Harmony and Melody
  • Connection with myself and with others, relationships and family, intra- and interpersonal dynamics
  • Giving back and dreaming for others (inspired by Naomi Arnold and her beautiful Dream for Others Podcast)

So expect more about all of these individual topics in the weeks to come. If I explained them all here and now the post would go forever and I’d not get any work done today. I’m planning to build a daily habit of writing so all will be explained in due course.

Now, I think I’ve earned my first Facebook fix of the day… 😉