My “Word” (mantra/focus) for 2021 is “Remember The Pause”. I’m sharing a personal story that helped inspire my mantra for 2021.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post at the beginning of the year, called: “Who Will Be Your Teachers in the Year Ahead? The gist of that post is that we will meet people, hear/see things, and have experiences that will inspire us, teach us, maybe awaken us to new possibilities and growth. These ‘teachers’ can be intentionally sought out, or perhaps come seemingly out of the blue – from anyone, and anywhere. Sometimes, they show up within some of our toughest, even unpleasant experiences. Say, something like an illness, job insecurity, financial duress — and maybe even a pandemic?
A lot of people will look back at 2020 and say it was a tough (horrible) year. Many will also concede that they learned something from it. Perhaps they learned how to tap into their resilience and become more adaptable; maybe they learned new skills; and/or re-connected with parts of themselves that had faded sometime before the pandemic. I am hearing lots of this during the many online conversations and workshops I’ve been facilitating, especially those related to resilience and mojo in times of a pandemic.
2020 Was a “Teacher” for Me Too.
This past year, was a teacher for me too. Not the kind that gently nudges you towards new learning. Rather, an aggressive, pushy, tough sort of teacher. One you want to run away from but only much later you realize that this tough teacher imparted important messages and useful lessons.
My “tough teacher” of 2020 was not quite because of the pandemic but amplified in its challenge because it happened during the pandemic, with so many other limitations and factors at play.
Some brief context: While my story is to some degree still in play, and has many more details, for purposes of this post, I’ll share a ‘Coles Notes’ (abbreviated) version.
I’ve always been very engaged in both my work and life pursuits. I work hard (and love my work), and always have lots on the go (personally and professionally). Being self employed, there is always something to do. I have often pushed myself within what I thought were my limits and seem to manage well. I was strong, fit, and healthy — so life was good.
However, just prior to the pandemic (late in 2019 and in the early weeks of 2020), I’d been experiencing an achey back. I didn’t think much of it because I’d been traveling a fair bit and with heavy bags, lots of sitting (work, and long travel), I just figured it would pass. Then in February (2020), I had a more acute (and painful) back strain. Pulls and strains can happen, so again, I thought it was no big deal.
But the pain didn’t heal as it normally should. It persisted, moved around to new spots, and became increasingly uncomfortable. So I saw a physio (virtually at first, then in person), then another, then Osteopath, doctors, X-rays, MRI’s, etc., Different ideas and assessments from all, lots of mixed messages, so it was quite perplexing.
By summer and into early fall, the pain became more disruptive and increasingly uncomfortable to sit, stand, exercise, and just do the things I do for work and life! I got increasingly anxious as I worried about when I’d get better — or even if I’d get better. This actually makes things worse (so I learned). So within the forced pause of life in a pandemic, my life was put on a different kind of slow down and pause.
Fast Forward to Feeling Better (hurrah!)
In this ‘Coles notes’ abbreviated version, I’ll hop over to the good news (yes I can now ‘hop’:). By late fall (towards the end of Oct 2020), I thankfully, did start to feel increasingly better (hurrah!) and was able to get back to work (and life!) more vibrantly and comfortably. I’m beyond grateful to just be able to do the ‘stuff’ of life and movement without the constant pain. So much so, I can do cartwheels (well, maybe….I haven’t tried yet, but I used to be able to do them….even as recently as a few years ago:)…but never mind…keep reading!
The Gift of Tough: Lessons Learned…
There were many lessons from this journey. And I’m still learning. One that stands out, and even more so when I reflected on my annual 12 questions for the year past and the year ahead is….
I really need to do a better job at slowing down, at self care, and ensuring I take more frequent, meaningful, restorative breaks (rest) for my body, mind, and my inner core (mojo, spirit). I need to be a little more generous and gentler with myself:). And I need to tune in more, to remember and recognize when it’s time for a ‘pause’.
Anyone relating to this too?
(When life gets excessively busier and complex, some of the good habits we know we should do, can fall by the wayside.)
The “Pause” is both a ‘container’ (of many strategies) and a ‘catalyst’ (prompt/reminder) to remember….
(Constant busy/rush can really squeeze out the space within our minds, our lives, and our better thinking self!)
Looking back I can see that in the months just before the pandemic and just after it started, I had an even heavier load than my usual very busy work-life, coupled with a lot more stress. I did my best as I always do but I am quite sure I just may (definitely) have over-taxed myself. I was tired – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally worn down too. I didn’t own that as much as I needed to.
(When we have commitments, obligations, responsibilities, we march on, and perhaps don’t pay attention, until…)
Our bodies (and brain) do pay attention – and they will shout out till we hear.
(Pain can sometimes be a signal. When we don’t heed the message, it gets louder.)
My body spoke out when my thinking mind was too busy doing stuff, and convincing myself that I can keep up with these heavy loads. Add an additional, lengthy dose of worry and fears about a bunch of stuff (and more so, because fear often accompanies persistent pain that doesn’t make sense), and the alarms will escalate a message of threat — and pain. A vicious cycle.
The mind-body connection is powerful. When my thinking mind chose not to heed the calls to slow down, my body took up the task and sent its own messages.
Eventually, I connected some dots; got the right supports (and education) that I needed, and learned a lot about the brain/body/pain connection. There’s a ton of science around pain and neuroplasticity emerging that is VERY helpful to understand. Oh I wish I knew before. There were innocent mistakes made but the lessons I’ve gained were valuable and will be put to good use.
This all brings me to my “Mantra” for 2021: “Remember the Pause”…
My annual year-end questions, always asks what your word, phrase or mantra will be for the year ahead.
“Remember The Pause”….
A catalyst to remember to pause, and a big container (i.e. toolkit for different ways to pause). My mantra is also meant for me to remember this time of ‘pause’. This time woke me up to a renewed commitment to be more mindful, and attentive to my own wellbeing. And for that I’m grateful.
What may have been enough self care in the past, may not be enough for life in today’s context. Perhaps a lesson for many of us?
I think for all of us, it is important to remember that what may have worked in a time past, may not be enough for what one’s life needs now. Work and life in times of a pandemic (or other stressful, chaotic time) calls for more diligence and self care. This includes our physical needs, mental, emotional, and more.
For me, this means more self care; setting more personal boundaries for enough (and timely) rest and recovery; more spaciousness for white space, for reflection, meditation. And, I’m (re)learning how important self-compassion is and how much of a pathway to resilience it can be.
Whether in micro moments, or longer durations, when we pause with intention and attention we expand potential for:
- More awareness, opportunity for clarity and insight, fresher thinking and even better decisions and choice-making
- More resilience, more access to happiness (yes, even in tough times)
- More compassion – for ourselves, and others — also known to be a huge gateway to resilience and wellbeing
- And so much more…..goodness!
My “Pause” commitment will continue to dip into my already plentiful toolbox including strategies from my book, Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy. AND, I am continually expanding my toolkit as I learn and experiment with new practices. I’m pretty sure that my renewed and deeper commitment to “The Pause” will mean that 2021 will bring me new ‘teachers’ to help me grow (again). I feel a beautiful stretch ahead.
Some of you reading this post might relate.
Your details and circumstances might be different (or some the same) but in this very difficult and historic time in our world, life can be hard. I get that.
If this idea of ‘remembering to pause’ is resonant to you, start by reflecting on these questions:
- Where in your life and work do you need more “Pause”?
- What might that look like?
- What’s a tiny step or two you can start with?
- What do you notice in others – perhaps people you work with (teams, direct reports), or family? And how might you help — even in our physically distanced world?
- Where can you use some more support? Who can you tap in to get this?
And perhaps get in touch….?
If you have a group, team, or organization that is struggling with the challenges of work/life in a pandemic….
I will continue to facilitate virtual conversations and workshops on ‘resilience and mojo in times of a pandemic’ . I am now sharing from an even deeper well given my own personal (and professional) experience. As well, I also coach individually (availability varies).
For now, I’ve gotta get out for my walk and get my fresh air! I wish you all a healthy, spacious, hopeful time as we continue to march on resiliently in the year ahead.
Back again soon!
Eileen Chadnick, PCC, ACPC, ABC
Eileen Chadnick, PCC, ACPC is an award-winning ICF* credentialed executive coach, workshop facilitator, and writer specializing in executive and leadership development, culture-building, career navigation, and communications. Principal of Big Cheese Coaching and Chadnick Communications in Toronto, Eileen draws from the disciplines of positivity, neuroscience, emotional intelligence – and Conversational Intelligence®(C‐IQ®) in her work as a coach, trusted advisor, and facilitator. She is author of the book, Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy. Eileen became one of the Globe and Mail’s Careers contributing freelance writers in 2007, contributing articles frequently for more than a decade. See more at www.bigcheesecoaching.com
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