The “bedtime story”: An unfortunate series of time drains
My friend Chris says it’s because I have a lot of fire energy…
But for whatever reason, I seem to have been plagued with more than my fair share of technical failures recently.
In the past two months alone I have faced hard disk failure TWICE, keyboard failure and now, the latest technical misadventure is that my brand new Apple MacBook has developed a mysterious, intermittent fault with the space bar.
Always looking for ways of logistically maximising my time, yesterday I decided I could fit in an appointment to get this issue fixed after a meeting in London.
After my meeting in South East London, I headed to the West End to the nearest Apple store – Regent Street.
The underground line that should have taken me directly there broke down and a 30-minute journey turned into a one-hour journey.
I finally arrived at Piccadilly and discovered the Regent Street Store was closed for refurbishment. So I identified the next nearest store, Convent Garden, and started walking there. I got lost – because that’s how I roll – so the half mile walk became 1 mile.
I arrived at the Apple Store and booked my appointment. Despite having a business service plan for technical support, which is supposed to guarantee me an appointment within 15 minutes of requesting it, the Convent Garden store was so overwhelmed with people that the guarantee failed to deliver.
I waited as long as I could, eventually giving up as my time ran out: I had a train to catch home.
The naughty space bar magically started working on the train home – hence me writing to you now – but I’m sitting on a time bomb until the problem re-occurs. So after writing this, I will have to drive to my nearest Apple store – a two-hour round trip.
I am not holding my breath for an instant fix when I get there. The riveting saga of the dodgy space bar, will, no doubt, be continued…
Sh1t happens… for all of us
You might be thinking of a similar experience you’ve had: Something “small” goes wrong in your life and the solution never turns out to be quite as simple or as quick as you’d hoped.
This kind of “spanner in the works” inevitably happens when you’re busy, when you’ve got an important and urgent deadline; when you really cannot afford the time.
Let’s face it: Sh1t happens.
It seems that life conspires to see how much more nonsense you can take. And the less time you have, the more time the issue will take. It’s almost as if there might be an additional Newtonian Law we haven’t yet proven: For every problem, the amount of time it takes to resolve is in inverse proportion to the time available.
Not so long ago, this series of time drains would have made me into a foul, angry, bad-tempered, slightly unhinged, highly stressed harpy. My knickers would have been in a right old twist.
However, I have *mostly* kept smiling…
Amanda, are you on drugs?
I believe that there is ONE thing that has made a HUGE difference to me being a less stressed out woman. Whilst I’m certainly not sitting here with a beatific smile on my face, a halo over my head and a zen-like aura of calm, I AM taking most of this in my stride.
- I was able to be philosophical about the train that broke down, doubling my journey length.
- I was able to laugh at myself and appreciate the extra walk after getting lost even WITH the aid of Google Maps.
- I refrained from taking out my annoyance on the guy in the Apple store because the service I’m paying for failed to deliver
- Whilst the LAST place I want to be today is in a large, windowless shopping centre trying to get the problem fixed, I’m looking forward to borrowing the bloke’s car (decent acceleration) to drive there: Silver lining!
- And I’m very aware of how LUCKY I am to have a problem like this : First world problem, innit?!
So what has made me calm and philosophical about a frustrating series of time drains?
And do *you* want some of what I’ve been taking? 🙂
Drum Roll Please…The best thing ever for stressed out women is…
No, it’s NOT drugs. Or Prossecco. It’s not even coffee.
And no, it’s not regular……………exercise.
The one thing that is the best thing ever for stressed out women is **meditation** – also known as mindfulness. I’ve been practicing meditation reasonably regularly for about 2 ½ years.
In the past couple of months, I resolved to make my meditation practice the ONE SINGLE HABIT that I do, without fail, on a daily basis.
And I’m convinced that it’s changing my brain for the better!
What if this could help YOU to cope better?
If a barmy, fiery, electrical-breaking disaster-zoned fruitcake like me is able to remain calm(er), then how might meditation help YOU?
- What if this made you less critical of yourself and more accepting?
- What if this helped you to shout less at your kids and feel like a better mum?
- What if this helped you to remember more and forget less? And let’s face it, you have a lot to remember!
- What if this helped you not to take a snide comment from a co-worker to heart and you were able to shrug it off more easily?
- What if this helped you not to wake up at 3am worrying about your project deadline?
- What if this simply helped you to roll with the punches more?
The Scientific Proof That This Works
The Washington Post published a fascinating article last year showing how meditation not only reduces stress, but also changes your brain. A neuroscientist from Harvard conducted brain scans demonstrating the changes that meditation makes to many areas of the human brain.
Long term meditators have increased amount of grey matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex, the frontal cortex and the prefrontal cortex.
None of which will mean much to you unless you’re a neuroscientist! However, what all this does mean is that meditation can improve your memory, your sense of equanimity, your sense of perspective and your ability to empathise, to name but a few.
And as for the impact that meditation might have on your stress levels: The area of the brain associated with stress – the amygdala, responsible for our fight or flight response – got smaller for the people in the group who went through an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction programme.
You can read the whole article here.
“But Amanda.. I don’t have time to meditate”
Wrong, rubbish, incorrect! If I have time, so do you!
We carve out time for the things we value. If you think you don’t have time to meditate, it’s because you don’t value it.
The tricky thing is, you won’t value it until you experience the benefits. And you won’t experience the benefits if you don’t carve out the time on a daily basis and do it for several months. Bit of a catch 22, isn’t it? I completely understand that, as it’s taken me years to get to the stage of committing to meditate on a daily basis.
Which is why I’m writing to you about it today. I’m hoping to convince you.
If you read the Washington Post article, you might think that you need to find a meditation teacher and carve out 40 minutes a day. This is not my experience. I meditate for 15 minutes a day. When I’m really pressed for time, I reduce that to 10 minutes.
And as this Buddhist Monk will tell you in a 90 second You Tube video, you can spend just a minute meditating and still experience benefits.
Here’s how I make time to meditate…
And the only way I can possibly keep the promise to myself to meditate on a daily basis is by doing it first thing, before I get up. Before coffee, before kids, before anything!
The difference is that I’ve set my alarm 15 minutes earlier and I committed to myself. This happens, no matter what.
I open the blinds, sit up in bed, grab my phone and open an app. The one I use is called “Get Some Headspace” and I pay a subscription for it. However, you don’t have to pay for an app. Try a few of the apps for free or type in “10 minute mindfulness” into YouTube. You’ll find plenty of free lessons.
A Baby Step Challenge to help you get started
Tomorrow is the start of a new month, the perfect time to start a challenge.
Baby steps are always the best way to create positive new habits. So here’s my simple and gentle challenge for you:
1. Set your alarm 5 minutes earlier.
2. Sit up in bed
3. Set a timer for 5 minutes
4. Close your eyes
5. Put your hands on your belly and focus on your breathing for 5 minutes.
6. Try saying “in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out.
7. Do it for 7 days straight, no matter what. Commit to it.
If you find this easy, try 10 minutes for the next 7 days.
Meditation doesn’t have to be hard – don’t overthink it and don’t worry if your mind wanders. All you need to do is gently bring yourself back to focusing on your breathing.
Let me know how you get on, and please share this post with all the busy, juggling stressed out women (and men) you know. It might just inspire them to give it a try.
And now, I’ll leave you, as – guess what? My space bar has started missing a beat again!
It’s off to the Apple Store for me…with an ever so slightly beatific smile on my face. 🙂