Slowing down

Hey everyone! Happy Easter! Or if you don’t celebrate Easter, then Happy Apocalypse.

My desire to make little chocolate Jesuses has again gone unachieved, but there is always next year – it is good to have goals.

What I have been able to do this Easter is slow down.

When the Coronavirus hit and the various restrictions came into place, I hunkered down at home and did my job.

I was so thankful to still have employment that I pushed myself. In many ways I am glad I did. It has been a very rewarding experience. Last week I got to do a number of firsts, running an online lecture, moderating an online wellbeing program, starting an online topic within the Flinder online teaching infrastructure.

I managed to kick off some projects that I think will yield good outcomes for students (and selfishly me) in the months to come. I pushed my thinking forward. I tried new things.

But I hit Thursday with a powerful fatigue – a mental fatigue.

It got me thinking about how building mental fitness is in so many ways incredibly similar to building physical fitness.

When we take up physical training, we are implored to consider not just the training itself (i.e. the exercise) but the rest and the nutrition components as well. There is no point pushing oneself in the weights room if we then don’t give our muscles time to recover and the nutrition required to rebuild.

It is the same with exertion of mental energy.

So what does rest and nutrition look like for the mind?

Well there is sleep. That is important for many aspects of mental functioning.

Then there is what we eat, which doesn’t just influence our physical health. It influences how our brains work. Google the “Food and Mood Centre”.

Then there are the activities that rejuvenate the senses and the soul (sorry for using such a strange word for a psychologist, but I don’t have a better word for it). These will be different for different people but for me they include drawing, reading, gardening and playing guitar. These activities don’t have a deadline or a life goal attached to them. They are just expressions of a connection with something more than me. I do them because they take me away from the thinking that characterises my everyday existence.

These should be distinguished from activities that at first glance might seem as though they would be restful and rejuvenating (e.g. plonked in front of TV), but actually may end up leaving us feeling flatter or more depleted than before.

One of the cool things about being alive is discovering what of the many potential experiences are the ones that leave us feeling re-energised and connected.

So that is what I have done this Easter. I’ve drawn and gardened and played my guitar. Every now and then I get a pang of guilt that says I should be working. But I remember that next week I will be working, and the energy and enthusiasm I bring to that work will be prefaced on having slowed down a little.

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