Ask me about mindfulness around a year ago and you would get a dead stare back. I have always tried to maximize the hours of my day and lived by the saying “you can sleep when you are dead”. I was making it a personal goal to achieve as much as possible daily. Every single hour had to be filled with something productive or “meaningful” or I wasn’t satisfied when going to bed at night. I would feel guilty when I was watching a movie (unless it was a documentary of course!) or if I had no real plans on a day. Does this sound familiar? Probably it does because somehow the only thing accepted today is to be an overachiever and to “live your life to your fullest” making sure that you accomplish as much as possible in as little as possible time. For a couple of years I was juggling an office career for 8 hours a day, training CrossFit 4 hours a day and studying all at the same time. I constantly added things to my life and agenda, never removed anything. When lockdown happened in the UK because of Covid-19 I had to put brakes on my hectic lifestyle. I was forced to slow down – I wasn’t able to do all the things that I normally did, and I couldn’t feel guilty about it since it was outside of my control. I got time back (from not having to commute to the office) and I was able to do something meaningful with that time AND have some down time every day. I started to go for daily 60min walks to be outside on a daily basis, I started to read more books, I started to watch tv series. And I even started with yoga.

At the beginning it was hard to slow down. I could even feel my body twitching and I had tingling in my fingertips. Symptoms that can be compared to withdrawal from drugs. How weird is that? That I was practically having withdrawal symptoms from not spending every waken hour with a task? And as with every habit it took me time to get used to. I had to put effort into actually relaxing and allowing myself to not be productive. For example when I first started going for my walks I was listening to educational podcasts – because of course, I didn’t want to waste that time doing nothing. But slowly, slowly I started to use my daily walks for engaging with people – walking with my boyfriend or calling my friends and family. And eventually I was able to just go for a walk and think – no headphones in my ears. And it was strange to be alone with my thoughts because on a normal day I don’t often have time to actually think, I just act on demand. Second habit I changed was my eating habits. For 15 years I have lived with eating out of lunchboxes. Yes you read it right, Monday-Friday for 15 years I have been doing lunch boxes and not put much thought into my food. It has been the usual “fitness food” or chicken/broccoli/sweet potatoes. For 15 years. I cannot tell you how wonderful and liberating it has been to make every single lunch from scratch in my kitchen. Using some different ingredients and flavours every day. And to add to that, I have also been having my lunch by the kitchen table without distraction. Not in front of my laptop working at the same time. Third new habit that I started was yoga. Something that I have tried in the past but never was able to engage in – 10min into the session I was always thinking about what I was going to do next or plans for the weekend. I was never able to fully complete a yoga session and I blamed it on that it wasn’t for me and I honestly thought I wouldn’t benefit from it. Doing yoga from my home following YouTube videos was also hard to start with. I wasn’t able to engage fully and I found myself bored with my thoughts drifting away quickly. But since I had all this time on my hand I didn’t want to give up. So I started small with 10min sessions twice a week, then 15 min sessions, then 20 min sessions, then 30min sessions and now I am at 40 min sessions. I wasn’t always doing it twice a week but I without fail managed to stick to once a week. And along the way I started to realise that I was more engaged, I started to be aware of my breathing and my body. My mind wasn’t drifting away and I didn’t look at the clock all the time waiting for the time to pass. I started to truly enjoy it and I started to feel great afterwards, completely relaxed in both my body and mind. I am now at a point where I am craving my yoga sessions!

Having to stay at home for more than 100 days in my flat in London due to Covid-19 forced me to slow down. It also has made me realise how wrong I have been in the past. Relaxing and having down time is such an important part of self-growth and to be healthy. I have achieved more during this time than ever AND have had more time for doing “nothing”. I can now honestly say that mindfulness is important and that as much as we want to progress and nurture things in our careers, in our training and in our social relationships our main focus should be on the progress and relationship with ourselves. And that cannot be achieved if you are constantly on the go busy doing things so that you don’t even have time to process your own thoughts.


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