Following my decision and execution of the plan to put a halt to my business, after twenty years of total dedication to it, I felt like I was free falling into the abyss.
Previously, taking risks and diving into the unknown was familiar to me. Making decisions in business means there’s always fifty percent of unpredictability of the outcome. Which means that there’s a fifty percent chance of alignment of the outcome with how we envisioned it to turn out. The vision we have of an outcome is essential in our decision making. It is the compass that guides us towards the destination we desire to reach.
That vision was not – and still is not – clear to me when I decided to embark on my Sabbatical. My only reason to follow that calling was a much need time off. No plans or calculated risks were taken into consideration. Just a desperate need to pull out of a toxic environment that was wreaking havoc on my physical and emotional well being. So naturally, it was a dual unfamiliarity. First, I had nothing to do and so much free time. Second, I had no vision or plan of what to do with all that free time.
That hamster that was running on the same wheel for the last twenty years in its very familiar cage, was suddenly thrown out into a forest with no limits, full of so many activities, beautiful scenery, elements and beings that he had forgotten how to interact with. It was a sensory overload that the hamster was too uncomfortable to experience. So he chose to retreat into a small corner, close his eyes, and try to understand what this huge forest represented to him, and how he wanted to stroll through it. The first step he could do, was to sit and contemplate the new reality around him and just BE…
The only way I could approach my new way of life for the next twelve months was to just exist without effort, to rest. That required though a LOT of effort in the beginning. I had to force myself to remember that every time I had the urge to write my daily to do list, and every time I had a new idea for my business that I was tempted to start working on. Overall, it took me three months to perfect the art of “just being”. By March, I let go of my daily planner, and started enjoying my daily existence in a different way. But to get to that state of mind, I had to apply the following guidelines daily as a first step in my recovery.
- No daily planning:
Wake up every morning and not make any plans for the day. This was very hard in the beginning. First thing I used to think of, when I woke up, was the tasks of the day, and planning the sequence of those tasks. I had to train my brain to wake up to being grateful for everything and everyone in my life, and stop at that.
If I did not have a plan for the day before I got out of bed, my brain was reprimanding me for being silly, lazy, unproductive and unorganized. I learnt to recognize those thoughts, accept them, and silence them eventually. It was very critical for me to learn to rest body and mind. The only way of doing that was to avoid committing to any tasks that I did not have the energy to do at any given time.
That is the main reason why planning tasks when we’re trying to reset is a No no! When our mind and body are tired or overwhelmed, they need to be resting fully. Any planned assignment becomes a burden and stresses and tires both body and mind. Allowing ourselves to just sit and do what our body is capable of doing is the most we could ask of ourselves at this point.
- No future planning:
If daily planning is a burden on the soul when we are recovering, future planning is even more of a nuisance. It creates even more anxiety to be working on achieving a deadline. All that does is weigh us down daily while we’re trying to rest, reminding us that time is passing and we are not accomplishing anything useful by resting. So while our body is yearning to just lie down and re-energies its depleted resources, our mind is hammering it with guilt for not working on completing a goal set in the future. Our body mind relation is in total conflict, and we end up feeling extremely disappointed in ourselves and thus more anxious and tired.
- Do activities we enjoy:
During the time of rest, I found that I needed to just go with the flow and do only light activities, like reading fun novels, painting, drawing, watching comedies, or just sipping tea while window gazing. Anything that doesn’t require mental effort, or prior planning. Cooking for instance was enjoyable, only if the recipe did not have more that 5 ingredients and not many steps to perform. Some days, the only activity I was able to do was lie down and read children’s books, because they are written with a simplistic style and carry a brighter perception of life. I steered away as much as possible from unnecessary drama or exertion, which I found to be very beneficial in the process of rejuvenating my inner senses. Nowadays, when I feel that I’m hitting a little slump, I slow down and take a day to refresh my soul by following that guideline. The next day I wake up with more energy and a positive attitude.
- Practice deep breathing:
It is general knowledge now that when we’re stressed, our breathing is shallow. Which decreases the flow of oxygen to our organs and of course causes a multitude of complications in our body. Therefore, taking time to breath is not only a meditative form of relaxation, it is also a physical healing motion that replenishes our oxygen starved organs. I felt that deep breathing helped me to restart my inner furnace. At a time when my body was too weak to exercise, deep breathing was a good start to inject my body with the much needed O2. Only few days into my deep breathing practice, I started feeling the benefits of a more alert brain and a good physical sensation. If I miss my deep breathing for three days in a row, I feel the effect of it on my body and thoughts right away. It is a crucial practice for an overall well being.
- Last but most important: Sleep:
I used to come across so many articles that described the importance of sleep for our mental and physical health. I knew it and understood it fully. I always needed seven to eight of hours of sleep. My sleep routine for the past twenty years has been from ten at night to six in the morning. But my sleep was never constant. I would wake up at one, then at three, then at five. So I was definitely sleep deprived, even though I always stuck to a strict routine. It was a vicious circle. The more stressed I was, the less sleep I got, and then the more stressed I became. So during the “step one” phase of rest, my priority was to get as much sleep as possible. With no planned tasks ahead, whenever my body needed to sleep, I would lie down and drown it with as much REM as I could get. That was my number one healing principle. We often mask our need for naps during the day with caffeine intake, which aggravates our sleep deprivation problems. Of course we can’t afford to nap when we have meetings and deadlines scheduled, but on our days off, when our body needs that much needed rest, we must respect its cry for help and give into sleeping. I wish I had practiced this prior to my Sabbatical, I believe it would have helped me cope with situations differently.
All these above guidelines were pointed out to me by several professionals in the health and well being fields. Some were family members that reached out to me when they recognized in me signs of distress, and some were professional healers I sought help from. If not for all of their advice, I wouldn’t have known how to deal with my situation. I am blessed to have a strong family support. My husband, parents, siblings, in-law family have all contributed to guide me towards a more pleasant journey of self restoration. We are never alone even if we feel we are sometimes. We all have an invisible support net that only appears if we need it to hold us when we stumble. Sometimes falling is a blessing, because it makes us realize how many hands weave that net that warmly carries us. The journey to discover ourselves is not just about ourselves, it is also about everyone else around us. That is one of the many elements I am understanding as I take the time now to see what else exists around me besides my career.
Step one helped me pick up the broken pieces. But the journey is still long. Next is to glue all these pieces together and make me whole again. That will be step two…