Grounding in 2021

I have written about running in the past, and my view is still the same. Running is an activity that helps me focus on the present. I have to pay attention to my surroundings to stay safe from oncoming traffic and crowded footpaths. I have to pay attention to the weather. I certainly need to pay attention to the road so that I don’t slip or trip on a broken branch. I tend to focus on the future or dwell on past events, so running helps break this pattern by bringing me into the present.

Being present, being in the present, has recently become quite difficult given the uncertainty in my life. While I’ve become accustomed to a new level of not knowing – I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable, or rather my tolerance levels have increased. I’m experiencing anxiety in a way that I haven’t experienced in the past. So finding activities that keep me grounded has become a priority in my life rather than an afterthought.

So I’m actually making time to do more of what keeps me mentally healthy and grounded. This month I’m challenging myself to stick to a running schedule. Two weeks in, so far so good. The semester hasn’t started so I’ve got time to establish some good habits. My aim is to keep this grounding a priority and not to let work get in the way. Staying grounded is longer a option but a need.

7 days into 2021

It’s a new year and already I feel the need to lie down and throw the covers over my head. Like many of my family and friends, this mixture of feeling overwhelmed by uncertainty, anxiety about the future, and disappointment in how selfish society is – it’s a bit much. I’m not sure what I want to express in this blog. What I do feel is I hope it’s a space I can use that isn’t tied to my professional life. Less promo about work and more space for me. This pandemic has helped me realise how much of my life is centred around work, how much energy I put into it, and how much I’ve neglected my own mental and physical health. So this space is now less about the academic side of me and more, well , the other parts that I don’t actually get to put into words. I suppose this is my 2021 resolution. Amidst all this chaos I’d like to find my centre through some writing. So here we go.

There’s been a lot in the news and I’m not going to focus on that today. My intention, instead, is looking at what I’m able to control in my life, as of this moment. For example, today I’ve started the Quiet Journal by Suan Cain. I’m a fan of her book, Quiet, that focuses on introversion and what that means. This new book is a kind of guide, I think, for readers to apply the concepts and ideas discussed in Quiet. Today I started on the journal prompts and gave myself some time to think and write about things that weren’t work related. And that time felt well spent. I’m not sure where I’ll be going with this guide but my overall intention is to devote more time and energy on my life outside of work, and this is one choice I made for myself today.

Post-holiday fog

It’s been two days since my visit to Broughty Ferry (near Dundee, Scotland) and I’m still feeling mentally foggy. I don’t usually travel during term time, the perk of teaching at a university and all, but I wanted to catch up with my amazing friend. We don’t see each other often, maybe every two years, but this time there’s a lot going on so it was a much needed catch up.

The time away felt properly away. Usually I feel like there’s an axe over my head, hovering just enough to remind me that work is waiting. Nope. Not this time. My attitude to work has changed this past year and during my visit I didn’t feel the need to think about work, let alone do anything ‘just in case’ (hell no to checking email inbox). It was such a great feeling to be free. Well, free isn’t quite the word. I suppose more relieved, like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could actually be properly present with my friend.

That might explain why I feel so foggy today. It’s like I’ve been shoved back into a crowded Tube tunnel and I’ve got to make my way through the throng to get somewhere. Find my bearings. It’s noisy and dirty and I don’t have a lot of space to breath. Yet, this state feels familiar and disorientating at the same time. I suppose work is like that at the moment. I feel my mental state is on autopilot, set to cope with the work pressures. It’s jarring to be away in a state of calm, only to be thrown back into this level of stress. I suppose the mental fog is a good indicator that working this way isn’t normal.