Happy new year or is it

Lockdown 3 of Pandemic parenting edition
Happy New Year!…Or is it?

You know what? It’s not. I am a coach and professional who majors on talking about psychological wellbeing, but I am really feeling it right now. Day 2 of the return to crisis-schooling merging seamlessly into the end of the Christmas holidays…and I’m not really a very happy bunny. There. I have said it. 

The business of Christmas feels more depleting than ever. Even my most ‘tiggerish’ friends who normally spread the joy online by sharing the silliest of online finds or humorous reflections have gone strangely quiet. Over the festive period we are so busy spinning all the plates of Christmas (not to mention original, revised and even moderate plans falling through) that even though you’ve spent longer ‘resting’ ie being passively hunkered down in front of the TV with chocolates at arm’s length…you’re not ACTUALLY rested. 

I enjoy that time, but I almost always start to look forward to getting back to a routine and for life to become ‘normal’ again. I was particularly looking forward to being able to have solitude to work…and then LOCKDOWN…

And once again being in the default of looking after everyone else, especially helping our 10 year old manage her disappointment and grief at the promised start of term receding into the horizon. Helping her get set up with a new work station and equipment. Facing my nemesis. Having to get her a new laptop and set it up badly…

I found myself looking at the front page of the Breathe magazine in the supermarket bleakly. “Breathe and make time for yourself” is the title and banner…Yeah right…(Fill in strong expletives into the gaps!!!).

I won’t silverline the impact of this lockdown on me as a parent, professional, or person. I feel kind of scattered. 

One of the most centring things I do as part of my ‘normal’ routine is take an early morning walk along the banks of the River Wye. It is a meditative time to walk by water, and focus my attention on nature.
It is something that energises and inspires me – and is something that I must return to now, more than ever…

To the mind that’s still, the whole universe surrenders…

                                                         ….the I Ching.

One of the things I have noticed in these ‘slow’ moments where I might stop and really observe the river, is the texture of the water. It sounds bizarre, but there is a thickness, and a texture to the action of flowing water, that reminds me of the mind.

This link is by no means an original idea – the literary phrase the ‘stream of consciousness’ calls to mind the notion of our myriad thoughts flowing like water. 

What have I been seeing in the water that links to the flow of our thoughts:

  1. There is always a momentum, our minds always want to race on and are constantly responding to millions of stimuli or bits of ‘data’ that hit our brains. 11 million bits…per second from the body to the brain. The conscious mind is only able to process 50 bits per second. Our attentional focus is TINY relative to the full capacity of our brains. 

    1. We have 60-70 thousand thoughts per day. Many of those will be themed in terms of mood, focus, especially sensitive to our negativity bias. Like with gravity and water, that’s the direction our thoughts naturally flow to. It’s connected with our survival instincts…but often prevents us being our own best friend in times of stress.

      1. When water hits an obstacle, a bridge, a fallen tree, a rock, it is disrupted – its flow is faster and more turbulent. You can see this so clearly and hear it in the stillness of the countryside. Once more this pandemic has – like life so often does- caused us not just one obstacle, but has created several linked obstacles and so our thoughts, like the river flow faster and more chaotically.
  2. Water is surprising. It does not always flow in a straight line, or what one would assume is the line of least resistance. There are hidden obstacles that cause eddies, swirls, little whirlpools and back-flows. And so it is with the mind. We often intend to be a certain way, do something we need to do to feel better or gain the mastery / sense of satisfaction we need for our psychological wellbeing. But so often unseen and unacknowledged fears and feelings that lie beneath our conscious thinking surface and disrupt.

    1. In moments of stillness, and also along the way of the river’s flow, fish exuberantly leap out from the depths and splash back down, leaving concentric circles of ripples as the only trace that they ever appeared! There are flashes of inspiration if we are able to observe and hold into them…or catch the ripples of them as they recede. Amazing things can surface from the unique connections our unique minds make.

Grounding methods:

Come back to the present – instead of back to the future (fears) or the past (failures). Our capacity to think, overthink, and rethink, is unique in nature. It’s a superpower…and often in the mundanity of our day to day lives, it can be the source of a lot of distraction at best and self-sabotage at worst…

Savour the good stuff. Find it, and hold onto it in your mind…the natural opioids of pleasure are essential to the brain’s recovery and movement from stress / anxiety circuitry and return to balance. Give yourself more time to hold onto and grow the good. What are the good things in your life right now? How can you dial up your perception and awareness of those so that they are your screensaver instead of Boris in press-conference mode?

Seek nature – natural settings and sunlight work wonders. For me, being near water is hugely refreshing. What is it about nature that you love? How can you access it more?

Get moving…what has the most impact in lifting your spirits, slow, strong, fast, intense movement? What takes you out of your head, into your body and helps re-set your energy? 

Check in with yourself…what’s the story that your stream of consciousness is telling you? What are the trends in your thinking….’All will be well?’ vs ‘Shitty New Year’? 

Enjoy creativity and ‘flow’…from cookery to poetry, painting art to repainting a wall or DIY…get going with a project and commit to it in your routine. Set calendar reminders…what could you do to get off online shopping?

What works for you?
What’s NOT working for you?

Want to create some thinking space to think about the obstacles that are keeping you stuck – those that are visible, those that are hidden and lie beneath the surface? 

Get in touch. Coaching and training spots are available in the New Year. 


AS always, with love, gratitude and all the best for the challenges of this brave New Year ahead…Emma.

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