Coasting and doing
With a lot going on, it is easy to get distracted by "doing".
As a chronic overthinker, it is difficult to know if I am caught up in the midst of overthinking. Or if I am coasting.
Spending time writing is an outlet for me to probe deeper. I use this medium, and my journals to write.
And the warning signs are when I avoid doing things I'd like to be doing. If my daily journals start showing gaps (as they are over the past month), or if my articles start to feel more disjointed.
The curse of the busy
It is easy to be busy nowadays. It is not the bane of only a few people but a curse that strikes all. It is easy to coast, and not realise you are coasting.
It is easy to lose work-life balance. In fact, almost everyone I speak with seems to be dabbling in this.
And especially with emails, it is easy to fool oneself into thinking you had a productive day. Even though almost everyone who got sucked into the email sinkhole ends that day feeling "Did I actually do anything?"
What the heck is checking in?!
Checking in with myself was a concept I was unaware of.
I didn't know that I needed to do this.
I didn't pay attention to how I felt.
I didn't pay attention to what my baseline was.I didn't correlate mood drops, sugar cravings, a desire to be alone, a need to vegetate etc with what was going on in my life.
In a simple environment, such as going to the gym, listening to your body is important. Based on what your body (and mind) are telling you, you decide if today's a day to keep it light or go heavier than planned. For 80% of the days, you stick to the plan. But to catch the outliers, you pay attention.
This concept applies to the rest of life as well. I'll share two places where I've found checking in with myself to be of great significance.
#1: Low on energy and motivation at the end of the day
I have a tendency to not pay attention to my energy levels or to check in on how I am doing and feeling. I behave in a grumpy fashion because of this. But I will be unaware that the grumpiness is a direct consequence of being emotionally or mentally or physically drained.
Having a daily check-in, at the end of my workday, has been useful. I have a simple routine, akin to brushing my teeth, that helps me reset.
First, a shower. As soon as I come back home, having a cold shower allows me to transition and start the check-in process.
Post that, doing some gentle movements and resets dramatically alters how I feel physically. Which spills over a bit.
Post that, ideally, I will do some pranayama followed by some Vipassana meditation.
I do not get around to all of them but I know they make me feel better. I might not reclaim most of my energy but I would've lost my grumpiness. I end up feeling calmer and in a better state.
This leaves me in a much better state to do whatever is next. Whether that is to read or hang out with my wife or go see a couple of friends, or vegetate in front of the TV. Too much TV also means that my recovery is not adequate i.e. I need to take a couple of days off.
Note: This is not a judgment on watching TV. This is my personal learning that when I watch too much TV, it means I need to figure out why.
#2 Waist, sugar cravings, and motivation to lift
I am not perturbed by the weigh scale. Most of my daily habits are dialled in that I keep my waist-to-height ratio under the safe limit of 0.5.
It is not easy to do this. I am not blessed genetically. For example, my buddy who trains with about the same regularity as me but pays no attention to what he eats has a much better body composition than I do. But that's how it is.
I can (and periodically) undo a lot of the work that I put in at the gym and the kitchen. When stress levels get high, I don't recognise the drop in motivation.
Or put in the increased time for recovery. Or see that my cravings are going up.
While I do use the Daily9 system over the longer term, it is easy to avoid looking at it when I know things are going the wrong way.
Over time and repeated ups and downs, I have come up with a few guidelines. The big one is to keep my waist between 71 and 79 cm. The daily habits I focus on are
- eating (at least) 2 cups of protein and 2 cups of vegetables
- being active 5 days a week
- sleeping well
And when I find my waist trending on the higher side, I know it is time to take a closer look.
When I stop doing the daily stuff - which tends to happen around the same time the waist starts to go up - I know I need to pause for a bit longer. And zoom out and see what's going on.
Most often, the problems are related to work-life balance, not doing my daily check-ins, not seeing what energises me (or drains me).
Nothing is as isolated as it seems. While how my mood is, and how crazy work is might seem unrelated to each other and how consistently I am going to the gym - you are one. Your mind and body are one, and insanely complex at that.
What I've found is the better I am at listening to myself and doing this, the better I am as a person to be with and around.
What I do are:
- Basic evening routine - shower, resets.
- Daily energy check-in, at the end of the day
- Regular journal writing
- Daily D9/D3 logging, to keep a long-term view of my habits
And ensure I do enough things that add energy. For example,
- date night, once a week
- catch up with friends, once a week
- stretch / mobilise
- lift weights
- meditate / breathing
I am not a fan of tracking. But it is a simple and necessary task that's required. It is impossible to know how things are going if you don't have a system in place.
To me, the daily and weekly checks let me know if I am doing the bare minimum that I know I need.
Every time I find the balance, and I do these things, I find my life spiralling upwards.
Every time I stop these actions and I lose track, I find my life spiralling downwards. When that happens, I tell myself to begin again. It gets easier every time to catch myself earlier and begin again.
Finding out the right questions to ask yourself can change how you lead your life.
For me, one of those is "How do I feel?" and checking in with myself. Especially because this was an alien concept. For you, it could be something else.