I woke at 4am, tried to pull my weighted eye-patches back on but the thoughts wouldn’t stop. I pulled my headphones out to listen to some calming Indian mantras, but the thoughts wouldn’t stop. So I pulled out my phone and started scrolling, my eyes were sore, stinging, my brain tired, but I couldn’t sleep.
The next day, same thing. This time, I woke up and made a cup of tea. Next day, same again. And so it went, sometimes for weeks on end. The higher my stress levels, the more sleep I needed, yet this insomniatic habit I got into, wouldn’t stop.
I used to have stress in my role in advertising as the responsibilities were high. Managing teams, CEO expectations, KPIs, sales targets, politics, client meetings, all came with stress but I never suffered from lack of sleep nor would I bring it home, like I started to do when I opened my own business.
With my own business, there is always more to do. There are always bills to pay and even if they aren’t technically late, they are sitting in my inbox waiting for me and sitting on my shoulders like a weight. There are always more ideas I want to activate and the impatient person I am, I want to do it now. There are emails to schedule, people to collaborate with, businesses to reach out to and a business to grow.
I know that workload is the same the world over and exists in every job, but the way I dealt with it and still deal with it, is the problem. It needs work. I needed to find a way to stem the stress, manage the wakings and mounting anxiety that was coming to boiling point.
In the very lonely world of the entrepreneur, I turned to social media and my phone to wind-down and switch off. I know the stats and articles on-end tell me it’s an unhealthy habit. Arianna Huffington talks at length about it, but I turn a blind eye. I don’t want to listen because I feel belonging in my screen of tiny, pretty squares.
Perhaps it’s the need for approval and someone to tell me ‘well done’ that comes in the shape of a like on Facebook or Instagram. To switch on the phone and see 22 likes and 3 new followers makes me feel good. But this feeling is shallow and I know holds very little substance in the real world. Yet it feels good, so I continue.
In an attempt to really slow the treadmill and to follow a long-time dream, my husband and I decided 2017 was the year to pack it up and pack it in for while, and to travel to France to live. We’d talked about it for a long time, dreamt of our kids learning another language, slowing the pace, the stress, living with less and doing less. We both knew life wasn’t about constant stress and could be different, slower, more mindful and intentional.
So we now find ourselves in the South-west of France doing exactly that. We arrived almost 1 month ago and are easing into slower living. I have never not worked and work for me makes me feel fulfilled, so it’s actually hard doing nothing. I don’t ‘do’ nothing well but I’m trying. It sounds ludicrous but I have to force myself to just sit and relax, not pick up the phone, tap on my computer, film my kids at every move.
Amidst the slow-living training and practice every day, I do feel a little lost. My business is on pause, in limbo, only kept active with my social media posts, my writing and my monthly emails to our subscribers. I yearn for new creative ideas but know that they won’t come until I truly give in and let my body & brain rest and then I will find them.
So I sit here in my chair in the backyard, with the sweet smells and sounds of birds, practicing my form of meditation. Relaxation. Doing nothing. Just being. I love that right now there are no emails waiting for me. No bills sitting in my inbox. No texts I have to respond to. Just 3 little people who demand and deserve my time. This conscious decision to slow down, treat ourselves well and soak up life around us will undoubtedly reap its benefits. Like a fine French wine, it’s just going to take some time.