The other day I woke up with an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. You know those days where it feels like everything is an effort? Living with chronic diseases, managing my own businesses, caring for family and being about to return to my PhD, you might say, well hello!! And yes, life is very very busy. But some days it is more than that.
The continually connected world does not help. Reading, hearing and seeing all the time, what everyone else is up to, as well as the tragic and the sad, builds up a sense of hopelessness in your head and heart. It is easy to start to feel that it is not even worth trying to make a difference. Yet all of your actions matter, and anything you do for the greater good is always worth it. Creating community and connecting with people who share your values is a great way to make sure you can hold onto the motivation to keep going when things get tough. I also think it is important to turn off the outside world each day. Don’t stay connected to all of the negativity that seems to have taken hold of social media and the media at large. Stay grounded in your immediate and daily life.
If you are running on empty or overloaded, it is easy to let things slip. This includes your self care. You might eat more takeaway foods, stop exercising, or forget to do things that make you smile. This might also be the times when you resort to actions that make you feel uncomfortable about your actions. Perhaps you stop composting for a week. Maybe you forget the reusable bags and have to resort to plastic bags. Guilt is the killer of all things great. If you allow guilt to creep into your daily life at these times, it is an easy spiral into giving up.
We are all human and it is totally normal to have times where you feel more motivated than others, in whatever area of life you are trying to work on. If you are trying a new exercise regime, you will have days where you let it slip. If you are on a new eating plan, you may choose to have the cream bun on the weekend, or eat the chips. If you are trying to live a more sustainable life, you will have times where it is harder. And that is all ok.
If your overall intentions and actions are given in good faith, if you have the right values, if you are on a journey in your life to make a difference – that is what matters. Not the day you forgot the green bags, or left all the lights on at home. Every action you take matters, and the days where you choose other than your valued direction do not really matter. Allowing yourself permission, cutting yourself some slack at these times, will help keep you steady and get back on track.
Mindfulness is a very important part of this for me. The other day I realised how much plastic I was actually taking home from the supermarket, despite taking green bags and reusable produce, bags and using the remarkable Swag Bags to preserve our vegetables. Things like cherry tomatoes and strawberries – 2 of my staple foods – seem to always come packaged in plastic containers. As I looked down at my trolley, horrified at all of this plastic, I noticed my produce bags and took note of all that I am doing, rather than what I am not doing. I also made note to see how I might reduce this plastic – such as taking my own containers into the supermarket for things like cheese and meats from the deli; or calico bags for the bread.
Looking and listening to my 8 year old Maxwell as we walk to school every day, waxing lyrical on the meaning of life, whether we will ever live on Mars, how many years will it be until we have flying cars, how much animals are important or what he wants to do when he grows up, always pulls my life into sharp perspective. It reminds me that my actions now will make a difference to his life and to his children’s life and so on. It reminds me of the great joy of having a life and the great joy of living in a way that allows others to have the same.
Whatever it is you want to do in your life, here are some tips on how to stay on track with the actions you take
- Remember to be proud and happy of the steps you are taking, rather than the ones you aren’t
- Know your overall direction in your life and the values that underpin these, and revisit these when you feel overwhelmed
- Use mindfulness daily to stay anchored in the present
- Connect with people who share your values, create community
- Notice what your are doing in your life, really notice it
- See your loved ones and remember how your actions are impacting their lives and vice versa