Continuing my work-through of The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. Yes, it’s taking me ages. Yes, we’re nearly finished. Yes, it has worked on getting me to live wholeheartedly.
The subtitle of this chapter is “Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifetstyle”.
So many things nowadays get pushed as a ‘lifestyle’. Even hygge, back in 2016, was being pushed as a ‘lifestyle fad’. The problem is that lifestyles, and lifestyle fads, are prone to fashion, to change with the seasons and not to hang around. Anxiety seems to be rather more than a lifestyle, as we let it make its home in our lives, hog the best seats at work and home and let it eat all the biscuits.
Anxiety is, forgive the word, a bitch. And it’s one that bites. Some researchers suggest that a minimum of four in every hundred of us experience debilitating anxiety, and many more live with the low level anxiety that gnaws at our soul, nibbles at our health and, ultimately, can cause trouble for us in the future if we don’t learn to cope with it. Anxiety is, as journalist David Wong described it, The Plague of the Modern World.
Brené Brown argues that the best way to escape from worry is to create a plan that lets you release your worries, or shrink them down to a manageable level. In her research she found that the wholehearted people she interviewed were aware of their anxieties, but they were committed to a way of living where anxiety was a reality but not a lifestyle. They’d found a way to handle the physical and mental affect anxiety has on you, and they found that by cultivating calm and stillness.
To me, calm is what I aim to be when the disaster hits and people around me freak. When coronavirus began to be talked about in the papers and on TV, calm (for me) was adding extra to my shopping for the next few weeks, placing an order with Asda early February for storecupboard ingredients and buying a pack of toilet paper every week instead of every other week.
Calm is the person who, when a car accident happens, collects names and addresses, takes photographs, rings insurance companies and researches no win-no fee 100% compensation lawyers (try that in the UK: hopefully when you enter 100% compensation in Google this website pops up near the top. I got that site there. I like computers). It’s the person who, once the initial shock fades, makes lists, looks up details and plans a way out of the situation. In teaching, I found a calm exterior so useful in creating a class that could respond to unusual experiences with excitement, but without losing it.
And feeding that calm, cultivating that ability, is enhanced by finding a way to be still. Brené isn’t alone when she says she found stillness difficult. I really do find empty mind meditation just makes me feel…. empty. My brain doesn’t stop. Of course, once I realised that the point of meditation is not to ’empty’ my brain, but to stop reacting to the thoughts, acknowledging them and watching them float past like clouds in the sky or leaves floating on a lake. They’re there, but they don’t need to disturb me yet.
Stillness (and calm) take time. They require us to take a step back from life and let our inner self relax. They ask us to gift ourselves time, free from guilt and free from interruptions, to place ourselves first. If you’re not used to it, you need to find the method that suits. For some, the stillness can come in crafting, for others movement like running or swimming will do it. Persevere. Try allsorts. Find your still place. It’s worth it.
Other posts in this series:
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As the UK slowly slides out of Lockdown (even just temporarily) I still don’t want to push all my books in every blog post every time, but if you’d like to support me in any way possible, you can find all the information to do that on my If You’d Like to Support Me page.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t point out that you can read about, and gain inspiration for, Summer Hygge in my book, How to Hygge Your Summer, available in paperback and ebook version now. It’s full of the little things that I found useful in creating a cool, relaxed and happy summer, with chapters on hygge in the garden, by the beach and under the wide open sky.
I do actually reread my own books, not all the time but at least once a year, just to nudge my memory and remind me of the things I have planned in the past and really enjoyed… or the big failures I never want to do again!