During 2019 on Write of the Middle there has been a very strong focus on ZEN and ways to obtain it …. even if for a little while. You may wonder why I have done this? If not, then I’m going to tell you why anyway and if yes then this is your lucky day!
What does Zen mean?
Firstly, let’s look at what ZEN actually means. It can actually mean different things to different people (for example the meaning for a Buddhist monk would run a lot deeper than how we think of it here) but it will always have the same general undertones.
Here at Write of the Middle we think of Zen as
achieving a state of calm where we are feeling rested and peaceful.
It’s where we can find joy in just ‘being’.
So let’s have a look at why I decided to put the focus on ZEN this year.
1. There is too much stress, depression and anxiety in today’s society
…and these are some of the reasons I think this is the case.
TOO MUCH BUSY
For a long time, being busy has been celebrated as a signpost for success. Being busy has been something to declare proudly! How often do you hear conversations like this:
Person 1: “Hi! How are you?”
Person 2: “Hi. Good. So busy! Barely have time to scratch myself!”
Of course there are times that being busy can be good – to keep your mind occupied, to reach a sense of achievement/accomplishment, productivity, learning new things, doing activities you enjoy, keeping occupied is better than being bored, etc. However, if you’re busy ALL the time with little or no down time or time for self-care, then that is not healthy and can lead to chronic stress. If you’ve been visiting this blog for some time, you’d know that I learnt the hard way what the consequence of always being busy can be. I do not think that being busy is a signpost for success nor is it something to declare proudly, and I think that slowly society is starting to come around to that conclusion too. Being busy ‘all the time’ can be detrimental to our mental health and ultimately also our physical health. You might like to read this guest post as part of my Zen Tip Tuesday series by my friend Monica – ZTT #17 – Becoming Unbusy. Also you can read here what too much stress can do to your body, and here is a post I wrote at the height of my Dad’s illness –Stop the glorification of busy.
PEOPLE PLEASING AND IGNORING YOUR OWN NEEDS
Many of us try to do too much. We try to be everything to everyone, the best: mum, friend, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin, work colleague etc etc. Too often we put the needs and wants of others before ourselves, and let the expectations of others and what society dictates come before what we need and want ourselves. We try to be good mothers, work and earn money, help out at the schools, get involved in the kids interests and sports, have a beautifully clean and well run household, keep the garden looking well tended, all while trying to achieve an acceptably trim figure by fitting in regular exercise and watching our diets. We cook up wonderfully nutritious and interesting meals for the family, make sure the pet/s are well cared for, look after our parents, help out family and friends in need, and on and on it goes. But what about us?!! When do we rest? When do we do things for ourselves? You know the quote that come to mind here, and of course it’s:
You can’t pour from an empty cup
You also would be aware that in the event of an incident on a plane, they always tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. There is a reason for this! You have to look after yourself first in order to be of any use to others.
Additionally, I need to touch on the term ‘people pleasing’. People-pleasing can erode your sense of integrity and you can start feeling bad about yourself. Experts say that being yourself and risking people not liking you is better than experiencing the stress and tension that results from bending over backwards to please others!
People pleasing hides the real you
DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is great. It allows you to keep in touch with family and friends all over the country and world that otherwise you’d lose touch with. It allows you to connect with like-minded people worldwide. It brings the news to you instantly! It allows you to have a voice like we have never had before. You can even connect with celebrities! You can share your life and messages in whatever way you like. Apart from a little bit of Facebook usage, before I became a blogger, I really did not do much on social media. I’ve been blogging for 7 years now and social media has become a part of my daily life. I love it, but I also hate it. I’m well aware of some of the negative effects social media usage has had on me, and know that I need to put some steps in place to combat these effects.
As a visual person, my favourite social media platform is Instagram and that is where most of my ‘social media’ time is spent. I also use Facebook. I am not a fan of Twitter (though posts links automate through to there) and not really much into Pinterest either. Here’s some negative effects of social media, many of which I’ve experienced myself:
- Time wastage – mindless scrolling, social media can become an addiction.
- Reduced self esteem. Feeling inadequate, less than, not as good as, envious of – others with better bodies, better clothes, exciting holidays, more success, and so on. Getting caught up in other people’s ‘highlight reels’.
- Increased anxiety with the constant streaming of news and specifically with natural disasters or acts of terror.
- Feelings of overwhelm – keeping up with it all. Responding to comments, writing the posts, doing the hashtags, posting across all the social media, doing the right thing and showing some love to your peers by reading, liking and commenting on their posts.
- FOMO (fear of missing out) – it’s a thing! FOMO is basically a form of anxiety that you get when you’re scared of missing out on a positive experience or emotions that someone else is getting. This fear is constantly fuelled by your social media engagement. The more you use social networks, the more likely you are to see that someone is having more fun that you are right now. And that’s exactly what causes FOMO.
- Isolation and Loneliness. Online connections keeping you away from real face to face connections and social interaction, resulting in loneliness and feelings of isolation.
- Reduction in quality sleep. Too much time on social media can lead to poor sleep. Numerous studies have shown that increased use of social media has a negative effect on your sleep quality. This ties in also with the fact that the blue light from screens can suppress melatonin levels and affect your ability to sleep.
- Affects on our attention span and concentration – these have been proven to be affected from too much time spent on social media. Too much information and constantly being switched on affects our brains to the point they are overloaded, overwhelmed, swirling masses of busyness and unable to slow down and switch off! While it’s incredible to consider the amount of information readily available at our fingertips thanks to social media, it also means that people have become far more easily distracted. Social media has provided a means of constantly giving in to the temptation of instant, easy-access entertainment. This can lead to reduced attention spans and ability to concentrate.
- Cyberbullying and Trolling. I’ve been fortunate to not have experienced this myself but it is very real in the online world and can be very dangerous. Before social media, bullying was something only done face-to-face. Not anymore! These people say things in anonymity that they would never say in person face-to-face, and these online attacks often leave deep mental scars and far too often we have sadly seen people even driven to suicide.
2. To help women in my own demographic who are experiencing symptoms of perimenopause and menopause which include elevated levels of anxiety, depression, memory problems, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, feelings of overwhelm, etc.
As well as topics Zen related, a good portion of 2019 has also been dedicated to my 50+ sisters, with The Gorgeous 50’s series. A topic very prominent for those of us women who are 50+ is perimenopause and menopause. It’s unavoidable, we are going to experience these things. Still, to this day, I don’t think these subjects are talked about enough, nor are they well enough understood. Without going into all the details of the myriad of possible symptoms one might encounter during this time, there’s no avoiding that it will generally (for many of us) have a detrimental affect on our mood, sleep, and minds. So more than ever before, we need to know ways to help ourselves through this period. We need to introduce new self-care habits to bring some zen into our lives that will help us manage our symptoms.
3. We need to have tools to better equip us to handle life’s challenges.
Some of us get through life with less challenges than others but none of us get through life without challenges. Having faced some life challenges myself (the most recent being the passing of my father), I realise the importance of having some tools at hand to help us to better cope during these times. I’m talking about ways to self-soothe in the form of self-care practices and this is where I hope our Gems of Zen will come in handy as a resource to refer to. Even if only one of the Gems of Zen posts resonates with you and it becomes a helpful tool for you, then that is fabulous news to me! What might seem ‘airy fairy’ or ‘far fetched’ to one might just be the perfect thing to another. I wanted to hear from people from all walks of life, from different professions, living in different countries, different ages, different experiences, so that we could see how Zen is achieved from many different perspectives and hopefully cater to all different personality types so that there is a Gem of Zen (or two) for you!
4. I had a case of corporate/trying to be everything to everyone burnout and I am passionate about helping people to avoid the same thing happening to them.
I touch a little on this period of my life in my About Me page but prefer to not go into any detail about this phase of my life. Onward and upward is my motto and I’m hoping that by using the lessons I’ve learned, I might help others. Also, if you too have had an experience like mine, I’m hoping that one or two of our Gems of Zen might be helpful for you.
5. My catchphrase here at Write of the Middle is ‘Snaps, Crackles & Zen with Min’ and I felt the Zen aspect of that was quite thin on the ground. It’s a lot healthier now!
No further explanation required! Next I will need to put more focus on ‘Snaps’. Snaps of course represents the sharing of photographs as I have (or had) a very big passion for photography. Somewhere along the way I lost my passion for photography. I know it stems from when I was trying to make photography my new career (a business). Poof … the passion went. I’ve spoken about this before. In fact you can read more about my ‘photography journey’ on my About Me Page. I hope to get the passion for Photography back again and bring some more of my ‘Snaps’ back to Write of the Middle. Maybe 2020 is the year!
Benefits of bringing some zen into your life
- Slowing down your busy mind will not only bring more peace, but also clarity, and improved self awareness.
- Improved productivity and ability to make decisions.
- Mindfulness – living in the now and not missing out on what is going on around you. Being more present for yourself, your family and your friends.
- Reduced stress – resulting in a multitude of health benefits
- Enhanced mood and positivity.
- Less fatigued. Better sleep!
- Improved physical health and resistance to disease.
- Improved resilience and ability to cope with all that life throws at you.
When you realise nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you ~ Lao Tzu
So these are the reasons I decided to open up my blog to hear from people across the world, from different walks of life, on what they do to bring a bit of zen into their lives.
The Zen Tip Tuesday (ZTT) series of guest posts commenced in late January and was weekly up until mid June. ZTT posts are now ad hoc – just whenever I have one to post and will be no more regularly than fortnightly (no longer weekly). I’ll be taking my foot off the accelerator for ZTT a little in 2020 but it will still continue and remain open to anyone who wishes to contribute.
Stress, Depression, and Anxiety – it’s becoming an epidemic. We need to take better care of ourselves and not feel guilty about it. We are important too! Me must prioritise ourselves and self-invest.
You gotta nourish to flourish!
Here are all the Gems of Zen we have so far as part of my Zen Tip Tuesday series. If you would like to jump on board and contribute your very own gem of zen, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ciao for now,