It's that time of year: Matariki, a time to reflect.
Matariki (cluster of stars which symbolise the beginning of the Māori lunar calendar) has dawned upon us and their visibility holds different meaning to various iwi (tribes) across Aotearoa. One of the interpretations is that leading up to Matariki, we go through a rigid process of reflection and deep internalisation to analyse the events and such of the previous year in order to plan appropriately for the season ahead. Similar to New Years resolutions? Put this whakaaro (idea) on the back element to marinade for a bit while we continue..
The way we recover, deeply affects our ability to perform. It doesn’t matter what we do, if we can’t recover effectively and efficiently; we’re in for a hard time. Sport/physical activity- recovering from injury, to get back on our feet after a tackle (physical) or a hard call from the ref (mental); work - recovering from a day/week/month of intense deadlines, hours and energy (mental/emotional/physical/spiritual/everythingal); family - recovering from giving ourselves to others in our company (emotional, mental), entertaining kids and big kids (mental/physical) and so on.. You starting to see the picture? If we can recover, restore, heal, refill, bounce back, return to full capacity as efficiently and effectively as possible - the better for us and anything we decide to concentrate our energy on.
We try to eat the right food to fuel our bodies, we try to drink the water and to breathe deeply when we feel overwhelm coming on.. We juggle our different priorities and extend ourselves to ensure we’re keeping everyone happy and in check. Everything’s going great, it’s all under control, we’re winning at life and we start feeling really good about how good our adulting has been, like I don't know why people complain about growing up - this is great! As if life is on standby waiting for that very moment!!! That one thing happens that tips the scales just enough past the threshold, like the jenga block you pull out before the whole structure comes tumbling down; queue WWIII, it's time for a breakdown.
Seriously hoping y’all can relate to this moment at least once in your life. If you haven’t, you’re missing out (on high stress, break downs and see-saw moods, it’s a real party). Parties aside, one analogy I’ve adopted to form a better understanding of these moments is; I’m not recovering as fast as I exert myself. For example; on Monday we fill up our car with $50 which lasts our daily trip of 500km. On Tuesday we only have $40 to fill up with, but luckily there's some fuel left over from the day before to pull us through, so we manage. The next few days go by the same way (decreasing daily budget) so by Sunday we can't even make the trip because the last day we refuelled was two days ago, and our car is had it! It's overs, burnt out and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. “How come my budget gets cut less and less? Why don't I take a shorter route? Is carpool an option? Do I have to take the trip?” in addition to other questions you might be thinking. Wonderful, now substitute the vehicle for you, and swap out the gas money for your capacity and wellbeing; “How come I can't give as much as the previous day? Why don't I do less? Can I delegate or work with others? Do I have to participate in life today?” Yeah we have to participate in life, but be mindful that we go through seasons and phases which require more or less energy from us. The reason recovery is important is because it will dictate the depth of our capacity to perform as we need to. Would you rather build the capacity to top up $50/full tank of wellbeing each day? Or are you alright with deteriorating midway through the week? Hint: it's the first option.
The past few months have been an interesting time for me, long story short; I hit that overwhelm point and became almost paralysed by anxiety and stress and this is my reflection of that. The daily load I manage had increased while the structures I had in place to manage such loads, hadn't catered to the change i.e. the demand increased but the supply stayed the same; not good for Hana.* As a result, I started to experience some mild anxiety (self-diagnosed). I’d be going about business as usual, then all of a sudden breakdown beneath the weight of it all.......... for about five minutes, snap out of it, then be fine again. It was weird. The first time it happened I was like, ‘alright, get it together, that’s enough now. You’re the bomb.com, you got this girl,’ (standard confidence booster) and be sweet. But it would happen again, then more frequently and I started to feel like I was losing it. After a few weeks, it became a little too ridiculous, and I found myself saying out loud, ‘what the heck is happening to me?!’ and there was no answer. For the first time in weeks, my mind didn't feel like it was in a hurricane with thought after thought being thrown around the place anymore and instead, it slowed right down to a gentle, peaceful flow. I felt at peace. I had regained control of my thoughts (pretty much my life) by letting go.. (ironic). The pressure had built up so much that the only option left to me was to let go of the yuckness I had somehow accumulated and make room to let the light in.. to restore a balance of control, and begin the healing/recovery process.
Take note of that 'somehow' in the previous paragraph. I somehow became overwhelmed, I somehow dug myself a hole.. Somehow. We usually don't one day decide that the world is too much and we don't want a bar of it, it's the result of small decisions that take us further and further from our optimal state or space to perform at our best. In the past year or so I've learned to practice and apply a process we'll call, ‘trace-face-replace.’ I trace the problem or whatever it is thats bugging me; face and address it; then replace the feeling or relationship with that event or moment with something positive and constructive. So that’s what I did, I traced back through the whakapapa (origins) of all the possible factors that contributed to my current stress party and analysed them. I didn't go all the way back to Io (creator) but maybe a few months ago where I started to snooze the alarm clock; I started going to sleep/waking up later (not in a productive way); I began consistently eating what I knew I shouldn't; I stopped practising the rituals to set me up for the day/night and so on. So, without me even realising it - I was making decisions (I thought were harmless) that were digging my hole deeper and deeper and adding fuel to the anxiety/stress fire.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this occurred around Matariki; the time to stop and reflect on what we're doing, how we process, if our actions and thoughts are aligned to our mission, what we've learned, what we want to learn or focus on, how we can apply that knowledge etc. Because everything is the way it has always has been, we get that right? The only difference is that now I have a different meaning/understanding for what I've been through i.e., in a state of high-stress everything seems too much and taxing. Whereas, when I stopped, took a breath to reflect and made a conscious decision to heal and recover - the problems and weight seemed to disappear (what are the chances.... didn't see that coming).
Let's take our whakaaro from earlier about meticulous and intentional self-improvement, it's been simmering long enough now. It's that time of the year whānau, and this first post is just to challenge us to understand the importance of phases in our life and how important recovery really is; not only as a phase, but as a deliberate and precise reflection (analysis/audit/planning) of where/who we are and where we want to go, who we want to be and why we're here. To me, that means taking time to sharpen our saw, to reflect on what's working or not, to recover. Does that mean making the least ideal choices to build up stress and anxiety like I did, in order to crash? Probably not, or maybe it does... here's something I bet you've never heard before; there's no one size fits all solution. How will you know what works for you? By being aware of what and why you do things, by reflecting and making the appropriate changes, by shifting it down a few gears to recover and refill the fuel tank now and then.. I mean, wouldn't it be great if we could be our best selves more often, as much as possible, all the time...? If you don't already, take a different approach and put more emphasis on improving your input (recovery) and watch your capacity grow more and more.
Kia ora rawa atu,
*Not good meaning challenging, uncomfortable, taxing. It would be naive to assume that any experience we have is positive or negative when we can't yet see the role it plays in the bigger picture.