Building balance to beat burnout

Last year I had a job I couldn’t quit. When I left the States, my plan was to leave the job as well, but I couldn’t resist leaving the door open (the job was online so I could work from anywhere). When I got a job in Wellington, I intended to leave the other job, but I told myself that making extra money was always good and it wasn’t like I was doing much in my evenings anyway. Essentially, I had two full-time jobs for most of my year in New Zealand. When I moved to Australia, I finally sent that “Sorry, I won’t be able to do the job any longer” email… but I still left the door open for a return.

It’s not because I love the job or even the pay; it’s because I feel like if I’m not constantly working, I’m doing something wrong. Right now, I’m “funemployed” as I look for work here in Australia, but I’m keeping busy in addition to job-hunting. I ran 50km last week, I’m doing yoga every day, I’m updating my blog more regularly than I ever have, I’m reading, I’m doing most of the grocery shopping and laundry and almost all of the cooking. I’m hardly just sitting on my bum watching Say Yes to the Dress reruns (I mean, that’s what I’m doing right at this moment, but in general).

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Creating with joy: my work is mine to love

September is flying by. Two months from now, Steve and I will be leaving New Zealand and heading to Australia (visas pending… should probably get on applying for those). In the meantime, we have two trips planned (well, one planned and one planning-in-progress… can you tell I’m a bit behind on my to-do list?), heaps of people to spend time with, and a couple more items to cross off the kiwi bucket list.

The weather’s also starting to warm up (yay!) which has meant that my Septemberwrimo goal has gotten slightly off-track. Only slightly, I’m at ~24,000 words and I expect I’ll hit 27,000 at least by the time the month finishes, but I have no desire to sit inside on my laptop when it’s sunny and there are mountains to climb. But that’s not important. Even if I only write one word in a day I try to celebrate it, because it’s one more word than I had on the page before.

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Ten Minutes of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a lifelong practice, and for most of us, it requires conscious effort. We wake up in the mornings bleary-eyed and in need of caffeine rather than serene and at peace with ourselves and the world. It’s easy for us to go about our days telling ourselves that we don’t have time to meditate or do yoga, no spare minutes to practice gratitude in between commuting and working and hitting the gym and cooking dinner and taking care of kids and doing homework and buying groceries and doing every other one of those essential things that seem to eat up every moment of the day.

The truth is, we do have time, and we choose to fill that time with reading and Netflix and sports and bar-hopping and every other one of those non-essential things, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. This isn’t a “social media is the devil” post, because that subject is beyond played out and anyway that’s not how I feel (perhaps a topic for another post). What this is, is proof that even with the few spare moments you have in your life, you can practice mindfulness. Even if you only have 10 minutes, here are 10 ways to bring more awareness into your everyday.

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Saturn returns & cyclical changes in life

I have friends who eagerly check their horoscopes each and every week, consulting the pages of Cosmopolitan or clicking into Refinery29 to see what the stars have in store for them. I don’t dis-believe in astrology, but I don’t believe in it in that way.

To me, it makes perfect sense that the universe has an influence on us; look at the way the moon influences the tide or the sun influences the temperature, how could it not affect humans the way it affects the world? And it makes sense that the influence can be emotional as well as physical; anyone who experiences SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or simply gets gloomy on a rainy day or excited about a warm summer afternoon understands. And there’s no denying that things like the full moon and the infamous Mercury in retrograde have a huge impact on many of us. But I don’t personally believe that the location of Mars on a certain date lets you know that you should buy a lottery ticket or whatever; I think celestial influence is much broader and less personalised.

It’s also not something I tend to seek out too much information about, so occasionally I discover something new to me that relates to my interpretation of astrology’s impact, and that happened for me last week when I learned about Saturn returns.

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Mindfulness in the Face of Life’s Little Annoyances

You know how some people just rub you the wrong way, even if they’ve done nothing to warrant it? Maybe it’s the guy who works at the coffee shop you frequent every morning, the one who always says hello but looks as though he’s just smelled something bad. Maybe it’s your coworker whose friendly attempts at small talk grate before you’ve had a chance to drink the coffee you just bought from the dour barista. They haven’t done anything to offend you; there’s just something about them.

There’s a girl in my yoga class who, until recently, was like that for me. She’s never said a word to me, nor I to her, but I was just not a fan. Most of the reason is that she commits one of my biggest pet peeves–getting up and leaving during savasana (or sometimes she does other, more energetic poses in place of this all-important final resting pose)–but the fact that she always seems determined to try to stretch herself into the fullest extent of the pose, form be damned, didn’t help either. Take your cues from your body, not from Instagram, girl.

So I’m in class, in savasana, while she’s doing pigeon pose or whatever, and suddenly I realise: if she’s beng a “bad yogi” by ignoring the niyama of isvara pranidhana, surrender, then I’m being a bad yogi by letting her actions dictate my feelings in opposition to the niyama of santosha, contentment. Whatever she is doing is not half as detrimental to my own well-being as what my own thoughts and prejudices are doing to me.

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The Joy of Small Progress

One of the most important things I’ve learned since starting a regular yoga practice about a year and a half ago is the power of small movements. It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of or desire for the most intense and difficult postures—sinking a millimetre deeper in pigeon pose or your heels a nearly imperceptible amount closer to the floor in downward dog just don’t bring the same adrenaline rush that dropping back into wheel pose or managing your first headstand. Social media does not always help either. The “simple” poses just aren’t as sexy as inversions, backbends, and splits. But they’re equally important, and it’s equally important to notice and acknowledge our progress, however small, in whatever we do, and to recognise that there are different types of progress which are all worthwhile. 

Many people have discussed the negative effects of social media on yoga, and I definitely agree with many of those critiques. I am beyond tired of Instagram yogis preaching truthfulness and honesty then making undisclosed sponsorship posts an hour later. But I love social media’s other impacts on yoga—finding inspiration from more advanced practitioners, participating in “yoga challenges,” and learning tips from teachers around the world. Still, I think one thing that’s sometimes lost, not only on the internet but also in my and probably many folks’ personal practice is the way small progress can enrich your routine. There’s a reason, after all, that yoga is called a “practice.”  

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One of the first times I ever tried wheel pose, a difficult one for me due to a ganglion cyst on my wrist.

In every aspect of life, I am a big fan of setting small, achievable milestone goals on the way to a larger goal. Yoga-wise, one of my New Years resolutions for 2017 was to get my splits; I didn’t achieve that, not even close. I’m not disappointed, but I realise that what I should have done is set smaller goals to work on, from one to another. From X to Y degrees (with Y obviously not being near 180 yet), for example. Reaching these small goals would be a good way to motivate myself to stay on track.

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