a quiet week: finding stillness in times of anxiety

I would like to start this post with a quote that has really stuck with me this past week:

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

A person who sips their tea too quickly can be only scalded; rushing through life will cause you nothing but suffering.

The present moment is beautiful, and we often find it too easy to forget that.

I’m writing this post from my bed, window thrown open, however-many-eth coffee in my hand, thoroughly exhausted.

Granted, these past few weeks might not have seemed extremely busy from the outside. But, as with all work, as with anything that takes concentration, creativity, and hours in front of a screen every day, things become very taxing very quickly – both physically and mentally.

We are in the hottest week of summer so far in the UK, and it is sticky! The house is stiflingly warm, moisture has sent my hair skywards, and it’s lucky that I don’t have a sunburn (I’ve been picking a lot of fruit lately). Needless to say, I have not really been looking after myself properly in these times. Drinking 3-4 gigantic mugs of coffee a day, snacking endlessly, and staring at my phone late into the night. Put into perspective, these problems of mine are miniscule, and I am so grateful to be blessed with the safety of my home and the freedom of my work in these times. Yet, somehow it feels as though I’m on a treadmill, running as fast as my feet can carry me and getting nowhere, achieving nothing but exhaustion.

“You cannot pour from a cup which is already empty.”

My mum recites this quote to me all the time. As freelancers, we both tend to lean on each other for reassurance and support, but one thing that neither of us are very good at is RESTING! In particular resting when we need to and not just saving it all up for ‘a period of recovery at the end of the week’. Resting doesn’t always look like a lie-in or reading on a sunny afternoon (although both of those things can be extremely beneficial). Resting can also look like remembering that those ‘little’ unfinished tasks at the end of the day don’t really need doing. It can look like resisting the temptation to keep working, head down, bustling away until the sky is dark, and you’re left sitting there wondering where the day went.

As of lately, I feel as though I don’t have enough time for anything. The reality is that I’m just not making time for what really matters for me. And all of this is so hypocritical of me. I created Rhythm & Green to spread awareness about the importance of simple and intentional living, encouraging others to take it slowly each day. Yet here I am, spending all of my time on my phone, drowning myself in the lives of others, weary from my workload. Really, I have plenty of time, I’m just not using it for the right things.

As of lately, I’ve been working from a place of toxicity. Everything I do has become a matter of ‘feeling like I have to be productive today’ or checking off everything on my to-do list and getting everything done as soon as possible. I compare myself to the other small businesses and content creators, every day comparing my success with theirs, trying to be more like them and less like myself. The result is that I feel I have lost my authenticity. Nothing in my head feels original at the moment, and my creativity lacks to no end.

Slowly, I am learning the value of my own work. But there is still so much to learn.

Because of all this, I have decided that it’s time for a rest. A proper rest (not just a period of recovery at the end of the week). Time to cultivate stillness in these times of anxiety.

So, I’m taking a quiet week, or two. I’ve already deleted the Pinterest app from my phone, along with all those other pointless applications that I seem to be able to waste away the days with. It’s become an addiction. Social media is the black hole in my life; always hungry, always taunting. An addiction that cannot be satiated.

For this reason, I am setting myself an intention.

For this week of rest, I am removing all apps from my phone that I deem unnecessary. I’ve done this in the past: turned my phone off and given it to someone else to hide for a week or so (I feel like I need to do this for a whole year right now!). Digital detoxing, as least from my phone, always helps me to feel so much more free and a whole lot more focused. My creativity spikes and I find myself with a lot more time for the things that I actually enjoy. Often, I can ‘justify’ the use of my phone for ‘inspiration’ (ahem, Pinterest honey, you’re so distracting) or checking my emails (usually it’s just the little green Duolingo owl angry at me for not practicing my Italian yet today) or doing research (which I know I can do from my computer). All of this OUTSIDE OF ACTUAL WORK TIME!

A lot of the time, we’re simply using our phones to numb some of the realities of everyday living.

For me, Instagram is the greatest energy grain. For those of you who follow @rhythmandgreen on Instagram, you’ll notice that we don’t have a perfectly curated theme or colour scheme. As much as I aspire to be THAT aesthetic and ‘put together’, it’s actually exhausting to curate something so consistent and so beautiful (to those of you who have accounts like that I RESPECT YOU!). I myself am very much a beginner when it comes to photography and editing (and writing if I’m going to be 100% honest here). Perfectionism gets the best of me a lot of the time, and more often than not I’ll end up scrapping a post (both blog and Insta) because I don’t deem them ‘good enough’ or ‘aesthetic enough’ or ‘it won’t get enough likes’.

Without apps like this, my days are so much more free, and I find myself, instead, nose-deep in the books that I’ve put off reading rather than having an endless screen-induced headache.

For this reason, I am setting myself a second intention.

For this week of rest, whenever I feel ‘bored’, I am going to pick up a book.

Currently, I have about 5 books on the go. Honesty, this is too many for me. Even in our hobbies, we can feel rushed and that we are bestowing too much upon ourselves. I’ve always been a ‘one book at a time’ kind of person because I’m just not the fastest reader. It takes me a while to fully understand what I’m reading sometimes (no shame here). I like to take my time when it comes to books, soak in what’s properly going on, understand the words on the page, get into the characters heads. I find I cannot do this when reading multiple books at one time.

Wow… if this isn’t a metaphor for the suffering that comes from a busy life then I don’t know what is!

By juggling too many books (too many tasks) we forget to take our time with the words (tasks) and forget to read them thoroughly. We forget to learn from them and properly understand the book (the quality of our work decreases). This can be different for everybody, as different people can manage different numbers of books (tasks) at once. We all have our own pace, and we shouldn’t be comparing how much other people might be working to how much we are.

“Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.”

This is a quote that I have been living by recently. The judging of others and the comparison of myself to others. These feelings are what drive the pit of uncertainty in my stomach and the mush in my brains. Setting up this business is one of the best things I have ever done, and it is such an honour for me to be able to build this community with you all. How exciting it is, and it proves to be so rewarding. I am evermore grateful with each passing day that this space is here and that I have this opportunity. I am so lucky and so grateful to have the time to start such a business.

But I want to be working from a place of intention. I want to be mindfully creating original content, and not losing my authenticity. It is taking me a long time to realise that I don’t have to act on anything right away. This is what I keep telling myself: I don’t have to do it all.

Is it better to act on everything immediately, or is it perhaps better to let your ideas sit for a while? To write them down, let them sit vacantly on the page, and come back to reflect on them later? The list will never be finished, accept that, but we can gradually start to work through each idea one at a time, eliminating the ones that don’t prove to be true to ourselves, and giving our all to those that do.

This is how I am aiming to work, and I feel that I will gain a greater sense of peace with my work and purpose in my every day, and the quality of my work will be so much better this way.

With all that said, here’s to a quiet week.

Salud to a period of rest.

“I never saw the point of wanting what they wanted. I couldn’t do the dance, the daylight waltz through a meaningless existence. For a check, for a four walled office where two were windows. There had to be more, and if there wasn’t then I didn’t want any. I never wanted what they wanted, so I’ll never have what they have. But I found the more, and now I waltz whenever I wish.”

Tyler Knot Gregson

One thought on “a quiet week: finding stillness in times of anxiety

  1. Pingback: On My Bookshelf: what I read over the summer | Rhythm and Green

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