2020 is the year of better mental health for me. I ended 2019 feeling incredibly burnt out and stretched thin. I spent all fall and the holidays on GO GO GO mode, not ever taking time to pause or even appreciate wins before I jumped onto the next thing.
As a type 3 personality, I’m naturally a workaholic but I didn’t realize until Christmas break (when we took a week off from work, the first full week for over a year) that I needed to change my lifestyle.
So, the past couple of months Robin and I have been practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and surroundings. It’s basically focusing on how you feel RIGHT NOW and what’s important to feel RIGHT NOW versus rehashing past events or imagining future ones.
I’ve been loving the Daily Stoic book, which each day gives you a small passage to read and think about. I read it in the mornings, usually while still in bed, and highlight the lines that stick out to me. I then mull over the lesson while picking out my outfit or brushing my teeth. It sets a great tone to start the day.
It goes against my Type A planning side, but another way I have been incorporating mindfulness is by paying attention to when I want to do something and when I don’t, and then giving myself the permission to pursue what I’m in the mood to do. For instance, if I’m in a creative mood and just want to make TikTok videos for 3 hours, I give myself permission to feed my right brain and just do it.
If I’m in the mood to tackle accounting for some reason (which like, rarely happens) but it isn’t on my to-do list until next week, I do it anyways. Or, if I want to stop working at 3pm and read, I try not to feel guilty about that. Again, as a type 3, I have a tendency to equate my value with my productivity which is so unhealthy. But I know that I can’t work 24/7 and a burnt-out Kara is not ok.
If you haven’t taken the Enneagram test yet, stop reading this post and go do that right now.
Robin and I have also been prioritizing taking walks, especially when I don’t want to take a walk. When I get stressed out or overwhelmed, my reaction is to distract myself with more work. And those are the times I need to move my body the most.
This afternoon we took a stroll around the neighborhood and ended up in Golden Gate Park’s Botanical Garden, one of my favorite places in the whole city. And, the crab apple tree was finally in bloom!! It was such a nice surprise. We grabbed ice cream on the way home and I kept thinking about how “this is what happens when I practice mindfulness”
I open my mind and heart to the magic of little things happening in front of you, like flowers and sunshine and ice cream.
I think that’s what the key to a happy life is. Finding joy in small things. I find it hard to notice and FEEL the magic of small things when I’m replaying an interaction with a client over and over in my head, or getting caught up in the “one days” I say to myself a lot.
On top of walks and daily stoics, I’ve been taking Ashwagandha to help reduce anxiety. This is an adaptogen root that has been used for over 3000 years. It works by lowering cortisol levels which in turn balances mood, helps healthy sleep, reduces fatigue and a load of other benefits. Robin and I both love this brand of Ashwagandha if you want to try it.
I kind of took the whole month of January to ease into the year, in the sense that we didn’t take on any new partnership projects that month and I spent those weeks just going with the flow and nurturing my mind. I had this day once, where I realized I hadn’t been stressed out for a few days in a row and that was the first time since childhood that I could remember feeling totally relaxed for an extended period of time.
How crazy is that?!
I’m by no means an expert in practicing mindfulness, but even trying a little bit has been a huge improvement on my mental health (Robin’s, too!) If you are looking to work mindfulness into your life, here’s some ways to start:
- Get that Daily Stoic book and read it each morning.
- Pay attention to what envokes a stressed reaction in you. Ask yourself if have control over that situation in any way. If you don’t, let the emotions go.
- Also, figure out what you can totally cut from your life to reduce stress. This can be anything. People, tools you use that are designed poorly, obligations that you really hate, anything.
- Take daily walks and NOT look at your phone during them! Instead, observe what’s around you. Smell the air. Get grounded in the right here, right now.
- Start therapy. Go in person or use something like Talkspace (we use the later!)
- Instead of latching onto the bad parts of your day (ie late bus) latch onto the good (sunshine, a good meal, etc)
- Indulge yourself. For me, that means cooking with Robin while drinking beer and listening to podcasts. Meals may have a lot of butter and not exactly healthy but it makes me HAPPY and that’s healthy.
- Use Ashwagandha or CBD (I love this brand) to take control of your mind and body.
It’s not easy and I’m not perfect but it’s been a huge help. How do you practice mindfulness and self-care?