The latest from our columnist, transformational counsellor and blogger, Lisa Bent.
As I write this I am in the Cayman Islands. By the time you read this, I will be back in the UK. The trip was spontaneous but definitely came at the right time. How did I know? Let me tell you.
I was on my way to work recently and decided to get a coffee. We have great coffee at work and there are three different ways to make it. The one that tastes the best, is the Barista style that takes 5 steps to make on a beautiful yet intimidating machine.
Whilst all those steps are worth it, I don’t have the patience or skill that makes it taste great each time. So for the past two weeks I have either attempted but failed, or succeeded, only because a kind person took pity on me, or I asked and they kindly made it for me. It is a serious skill which I respect and the machine and I will have a great relationship at some point, but that day, I just needed good coffee handed to me, with no instructions or small talk
So I went to the coffee shop. I stood in line. There were five lines of customers waiting to be served and five free servers. I shouted “Hellooo!” whilst gesturing for everyone to move forward. As they did, I mumbled “Jeez” under my breath. One guy who moved forward turned around after he ordered and said “We are all busy love”, I retorted “Yes, I am not denying that, but none of you are awake”. He sniffed and turned back around.
The woman in front of me calmly said “What’s the problem?” I was ready to snap at her because not only is there something irritating about that question in general, the problem was obvious. Opting for the easy route I just said “There is no problem”. She responded with “You can go in front of me if you are in a rush”. “Nope it’s fine. Thank you” I said. She smiled and walked to the next free server.
As I stood waiting next-in-line to be served, I realised her question “What’s the problem?” wasn’t about the queue that now moved forward, because that problem had been solved. The question was posed because she still felt my energy which was pure irritation, even though the irritating situation had been resolved. I declined her invitation to be served before her, because I wasn’t actually busy. I didn’t need to rush, so what was I rushing for? What was really going on?
I ordered and whilst I waited for my coffee to be made, I went over to her to apologise for snapping and to say thank you.
She smiled and calmly said “We all have those days, just remember not to sweat the small stuff”. We wished each other a good day and I felt heaps better. She made me realise how I was coming across and I had to check in with myself. This was about coffee but not about the coffee at all. it was all about my tiredness.
When we are not aware of where we are at, we have the potential to create situations and blame the situation for our irritation, which is what I did. Lately, I have been having interrupted sleep, which means I wake up at silly o’clock and cannot get back to sleep again.
I have felt tired and sluggish so much so, that going to the gym has been a chore, which is not good as I already spend far too long looking at my computer screen and do not move as much as I should. This over a two-week period brought me to the coffee shop interaction. I was on auto-pilot and didn’t even notice.
I was giving too much time and attention to one thing and not carving out time to incorporate the other important aspects that help serve mental wellness. So when the invitation to go to Cayman Islands came, I took it with both hands.
I walked off the plane and the sun-kissed my skin, it is the best feeling in the world. I made myself at home in my friend’s place and had the best sleep I’d had in a while.
When I woke up, I made my way to the balcony in a spritely fashion as I was excited to see the sea and palm trees and breathe some pure oxygen. However, I nearly knocked myself out bumping into the invisible second door that keeps the mosquitos out. My friend laughed at me and I soon joined in as I figured out what happened. “Slow down” she said. “You are not in London now. Take your time”.
It took me three days to adjust to the slower pace and I have to laugh on reflection at the speed I was walking just to get milk from the fridge. I must have looked crazy to her, speeding around like a fly, zipping and darting in all different directions to get things done. So I ask…
How many things do we miss because we are speed walking?
How often do we sweat the small stuff?
How often do we hold onto irritations even though the moment has passed?
How often do we rush around even though we are not late for anything?
Having to slow everything down, gave me time to process my thoughts in a more considered way. My walk is slower but it is still with purpose accompanied with mindfulness. My stress levels are reduced and I can feel my body talking to me I adjust my posture or grab a glass of water as a result.
I am still able to do everything that I want at a slower pace. It is still the same amount of time I have in London. Instead of charging through the day, I am gliding like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings r working with time and not feeling like it is against me.
Slow down. Breathe. Pace yourself.
Try and find a recent scenario of your own and work out what was really going on for you at the time. It is our responsibility to acknowledge how we are behaving, understand it and have the willingness to change our mind-set and behaviour.
It’s not about the coffee and you don’t need to jump on a plane to figure anything out. Carve out the time to process. And if an opportunity arises to get on a plane, always say yes and carve out time to process. The mantra will never change but you cannot shortcut the process.
Good luck on the journey to your best self. You got this.
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