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Are you always busy being busy and don’t know how to get off the treadmill?

I know that feeling well and particularly remember it from my 5 ½ years selling real estate in my family’s business.  I had never ending to-do lists and was always availableThere was never enough time to get it all done and I constantly felt like I was somehow pushing against time.  My full days off were few and usually never in a row.  Then when I did have time off my nervous system still felt wired and I didn’t feel truly relaxed.  I also felt disconnected from the deeper parts of me somehow.

I started to realise that although there were many outside demands causing me to be busy, my internal wiring seemed to now be habitually in the mode of busyness.  I realized I was busy being busy!

Do you know that feeling?  Have you ever wondered the same thing?  What came first … the chicken or the egg?

Fast forward nearly 15 years and I can happily say I got off the treadmill and now know how to press the stop button if I find myself getting caught in it’s clutches again.

While I wouldn’t know where to begin in trying to convey all I have experienced, discovered and come to appreciate along the way.  And to be honest, that understanding only keeps expanding and opening to new levels of subtlety all the time.  I reckon taking a few moments to consider and become aware of what is going on in our nervous systems on a daily basis is a very worthwhile exercise.

Very simply, and for many reasons, our nervous systems are generally and to varying degrees, chronically in the fight, flight or freeze mode, also known as the stress response.

This happens automatically and is triggered by the amygdala in our brain reacting to a perceived threat or change outside of our known comfort zone.

It is a very real physiological reaction that we experience.  It is designed to mobilise us and prepare us to fight, flight or freeze in an instant.  Many hormones flood our system including adrenaline and cortisol.  Digestion is put on hold, blood pressure increases, our heart rate increases and the immune system is suppressed.

This response has its place and is useful in situations where we really do need to fight or flee.  And when we do actually fight or flee, this allows our system to discharge the stress and come back to balance naturally.

Unfortunately, in todays modern world this response is mostly triggered in situations which we don’t physically fight or flee, and so the stress doesn’t get discharged and instead accumulates in our nervous system.  This is happening on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level.  Over time, it becomes normal to feel stressed and feel disconnected from our deeper selves, as we are essentially in survival mode.

In order to bring back balance and homeostasis to our system, we need to activate the relaxation response in our nervous system.  Also known as the rest and digest response.  This allows our bodies to release the stress and come back to equilibrium.  The relaxation response is a state of deep rest and allows healing on all levels.

Only after our nervous system finds this balance can we begin to feel more connected to ourselves and experience deeper relaxation and well-being in all ways.

So how do we activate the relaxation response?

The number one way to release stress is sleep.  So prioritising this is an easy first step and not to be overlooked.  Taking long, slow, deep breaths is also a simple way to activate the physiological relaxation response to bring a little relief during your day.

Otherwise, generally doing things you love is another way to bring back balance, as is spending time in nature which often goes hand in hand with these activities.

However, because the stress within us is often so deeply embedded, regularly doing more focused practices such as yoga and meditation can be very helpful in bringing about deep healing and lasting changes.  Creating a new normal for your nervous system.

The main thing to remember is it’s a matter of allowing time for your nervous system to be in this mode to release and counteract the effects of stress.  It’s not something you can pay lip service to and expect to experience the benefits from.

While most people would all love to reduce stress and busyness in their lives and the idea of feeling more relaxed, happy and connected is just as desirable, there is often an unconscious resistance to actually taking the time out for some time in.

One of the reasons for this is the stress response prepares us to fight or flee.  So it’s understandable that sitting still with yourself in this state is not very comfortable.  There is an underlying feeling of wanting to run.  But we can never feel at home in our bodies, peaceful, happy and relaxed if we are continually running from ourselves.

We need to break this cycle if we are ever going to get off the treadmill of busyness though.

Meditation gives us the opportunity to sit with the sometimes uncomfortable feelings and urge to run and allow the relaxation response to kick in.  Stress can then be released physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Over time this does break the cycle and new pathways are formed in our brain and our nervous system begins to settle and find a new normal.

We have to appreciate that this process can be an uncomfortable one though.  There is a myth that meditation is about sitting in bliss with no thoughts and feeling peaceful all the time.  People are often put off by this, thinking they can’t do it because when they sit they can’t stop their thoughts and they feel restless, bored and agitated.

As you can now see, it's normal to feel that way when you first sit still.  All that’s happening is you are feeling the stress in your nervous system.  If it wasn’t there, you wouldn’t feel it.

This is an indication that meditation is needed.  Not an indication that it can’t be done.  To think that way is like thinking you're too dirty to have a shower.

When stress is being released during meditation, much internal activity can be experienced.  This is a good sign and the more you can allow and not resist this experience, the sooner the stress can be released.

You won’t necessarily experience the benefits during meditation.  Usually they show up after meditation, during your daily life.  You become more responsive and less reactive to stressful triggers and develop more awareness and ability to process and release stress in real time as it comes and goes during your day.

Stress is the silent killer of our times and is a major contributor to many chronic diseases.  Most people would prefer a magic pill and a quick fix.  They want change without having to experience change.  I hope you can now understand the unconscious resistance you may have towards getting off the treadmill of being busy being busy.  Taking time out for some time in is not a luxury, but a necessity.

Stress accumulates everyday, and so a regular meditation practice helps cleanse and settle the nervous system.  It’s beneficial and can improve your overall well-being.  Just like having a shower, brushing your teeth, exercising and eating wholesome food does.

Meditation will enhance your quality of life and help you feel more connected to yourself and at home in your body.  Your need to be busy being busy will drop away.  You can still do lots of things, but you don’t need to feel busy doing them.  Instead you can just enjoy doing what you do and you can finally jump off that treadmill.

I am passionate about helping people develop their own regular meditation practice and understand why it has the power to change the quality of their day to day life.  I am now offering Meditation & Mindfulness courses, classes, retreats, coaching and Corporate Programs in Perth.  I am willing to travel to regional WA if there is a group interested in having me visit.

Jen xx

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