Release the pause button on play…

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We do not stop playing because we get old; we grow old because we stop playing

George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever found yourself slugging through your day to day life and realized that playfulness is not part of it? Watching two neighbourhood children today, chasing each other while blowing soap bubbles and giggling so hard one of them began to hiccup, I felt like I had an epiphany. Play. That is what seems to be missing from my present “taking everything far too seriously” adult life.

It’s typically something fairly innocuous that alerts you to that dawning sense of something being amiss. But once you figure it out, you can’t unsee it.

Probably the state of mind most helpful during times of stress and strain, is a playful mind. But it is also the hardest state to transition to when everything in your immediate focus is through an intensely serious lens. And when it seems any spare moment should be dedicated to some task or type of work that needs to be completed, or at the very least, doing something “worthwhile”, play seems frivolous and far removed.

Knowing that there are adverse consequences to play deprivation, I have been trying to create a “play” list. (Pun intentional, ha – maybe I will get there after all!). Photography has always been my favourite way to play and I haven’t had my camera out for quite some time. Point of fact, the battery was almost dead. So as I write this, I can glance over at my camera on the charger and see that it still has a ways to go. Just like I do.

There are a multitude of ways to tap into this desired state of mind. A quick web search reveals a plethora of articles, blog posts, research studies on the importance of play to our overall well being and stock ideas about how to incorporate it into our busy adult lives. But it seems trite to assume that by playing video games, doing crossword puzzles, dancing in your kitchen as though no one is watching, could magically counter the impact of stress and burnout.

So where to begin. Reflection on this challenge seems to point to a sort of mind over matter type of thing. So it seems like if I can wrestle with the biggest barrier, attitude, I feel like I might just be on my way. And it also seems important to set goals to play, to do things with absolutely no purpose, to simply seek out moments for mindless enjoyment and fun.

How weird that part of responsible adulting becomes losing touch with that most important aspect of childhood. To be playful. Seems so simple when I write it like that. But I have a sense that I am going to have to work hard at my play goals. Wish me luck!

Stay safe, have fun!


Finding rhythm under pressure

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Rhythm is essential to a healthy body and a healthy mind. Every person in the world can probably think of something rhythmic that makes them feel better: walking, swimming, music, dance, the sound of waves breaking on a beach…

Dr. Bruce D. Perry

We all likely have experienced times where stress and pressure threaten to overwhelm us. Feeling out of sync, becoming isolated from those we care about, or paralyzed by low level fear are emotions that many of us have become more familiar with during the pandemic.

And as life continues on, there are those moments of stress that somehow seem to find us at our most vulnerable. They threaten to knock our ability to self-regulate off kilter.

And if we remain in a constant state of vigilant alertness, it begins to take a toll on our health. And chronic stress sucks that sense of joy out right of us like a super sonic vacuum. So finding our own rhythms again is necessary to help us regulate and come back into balance.

Discovering go to activities can be a bit of a process of trial and error. When walking, my preferred way to bring balance back into my life seemed to lack that regulating oomph, I found myself floundering. I tried knitting, listening to music, but couldn’t locate that thread of rhythm that I was looking for.

However, I began to notice what was having the strongest impact were conversations with friends and family members.

And the flow of those conversations also had a rhythm.

Push against that impulse to isolate from others. Reaching out and accepting the calming support from those people in your life who care about you is healing and restorative.

We are surrounded by natural rhythms which are deeply embedded in our biology. Taking the time to discover what may bring you back to balance is well worth the struggle to regain our footing when life pushes us off the path.

Stay healthy and safe!

Everything changes

If you leave a white fence post alone it becomes a black fence post. So if you want it to stay white, you have to keep painting it white. You want something to stay the same, you’ve got to constantly change it.

Joseph Finder
Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

The pace of change in our world at this time seems to be moving faster than the speed of sound. Whether the changes occurring are positive or negative actually seems to be besides the point. It is the impact of the swiftness of changes in our daily lives that seems to have a de-stabilizing force that we all must grabble with.

Whether it is the constantly changing information about the coronavirus at the heart of this pandemic, tectonic shifts in our geopolitical landscape, or simply how to negotiate a family barbecue in the backyard, we seem to be inundated with the need to reconsider many aspects of life. Trying to make good decisions and avoid either over estimating or under estimating risks to avoid contracting COVID-19 can be not just time consuming but confusing and anxiety provoking.

A part of me believed that because I had just transitioned from full time work to semi-retirement thereby causing seismic changes in my life, that I would be fine adjusting to all of the disruptions that seem to be predominating our current reality. Change often represents either a loss or an opportunity. Certainly when I retired, I experienced losses – loss of income, loss of identity; daily contact with colleagues, etc. But since then, it has proven to be an amazing time of opportunity.

My writing practice has evolved to where I had hoped it would be at this point in my “new” career. Pre-pandemic I had satisfying part time work in my profession that kept me in contact with my favourite parts of my “old” world. Courses, new activities, plenty of time for walking with a focus on my own health, and new friendships provided the icing on my cake. So why have the past few months seemed so challenging and fraught with overwhelming changes that are hard to understand and accept.

Journal keeping has been a sporadic practice all through my life but since the end of March I have kept daily notes of thoughts and feelings about the pandemic and so many other pivotal moments in our lives. This morning it felt important to pause and to re-read entries from the past few months. Clearly I was looking for perspective and understanding to ground me.

What stood out upon this reflection was the impact that the many current changes were having on my life and to those close to me. And of course, when I am longing for things to be “the way they used to be” I am inadvertently creating unnecessary stress in my life. It isn’t really a cliche to focus only on what we are able to control. Being able to recognize this is the first step to managing all of the decisions to be made and life changes that must be navigated.

Learning to accept change, and being able to nurture the ability to become more flexible is a critical life skill that helps us to adapt and thrive. It seemed clear to me this morning that this is important not just in these times of our changing landscape but at any point in our lives. Change is inevitable. Learning to cope with it effectively seems more critical now than ever before.

The one thing I believe I can count on is that…everything changes. And it is a comfort to know that with some effort, we can control our responses to that.

Stay healthy and safe!