I post a lot about work life balance because it’s so important in being able to both work hard to earn a living (kirat karni) but also being able to find the time to Naam Jap and remember God throughout the day. I feel like even though I’ve been balancing pretty well the last few months, no matter what has been happening, this week was an exception. I found the external pressure from others to be rushing around just increased my stress excessively. Worst of all was the expectation that we don’t need to eat, sleep, or take breaks. Life is work.
Halfway through the week I decided to do the little experiment and just see if this extra stress of running around really does make a difference at all. I was supposed to have a meeting, however no one showed up so I ate my lunch. Suddenly, my co-worker showed up to say the meeting was moved to another building and we all needed to hurry. The urgency in the tone is like always, multiple times a day- do it now, do it fast, be there now. Yet there was no real urgency to this situation. For some reason, in that moment, I had remembered something I had heard about speeding on the highway. There are studies that show that it doesn’t actually make a significant difference in how long your trip will be, despite what you might think. There are so many factors involved that you are actually increasing your risk and not getting much benefit. I don’t know why, but I thought that it would really apply to my situation and I didn’t need to rush. I took a breath, I didn't want to live constantly panicked, running from one place to the next. I finished my juice, gathered my belongings, and started walking over. Everyone was gone. I knew there was no real urgency, but rather just a perceived one. I took a shortcut through an outdoor route because it was such a nice day. Somehow, just as I show up to our meeting, I arrived at the exact same time as everyone else (!), but a lot less stressed, a lot less overwhelmed, and having gotten some sunshine. I really have no idea how that worked, but instead of a knot in my stomach, there was a huge smile across my face.
I have said it many times, but stress comes down to perceived demands and our abilities to meet them. In some environments, others can constantly try to fuel anxieties, make things time sensitive when they aren’t, and just push us into an unhealthy mode of living. The truth is when there is less stress, we have better communication with our teams, we do a better quality job, we are healthier physically and mentally. I know some days no matter how much I did or how fast I did it, the work just piled up more and more, and the quality deteriorated. It makes a huge difference to our health to be able to take a real lunch break verus scarfing down a sandwich while you work. I guess I really just learned that I need to focus on myself and not what other people are pushing me to focus on. I may be restricted in what I have control over in my environment, but I do get to control what I think and how I manage my day even if its in small ways.
The thing that really held me this week was being able to recharge at the Gurdwara on Sunday before this all started. I do notice that it’s harder to do Simran now. I wondered how, after all this practice, it could be this hard now. I think that as the sleep deprivation and physical pain of being constantly tense kicks in, I find it increasingly harder to sit in one spot, focus, keep my thoughts on track. That’s why I think its really important for us to sit in Sangat and do Simran together. It helps us keep on track and the benefit is a thousand fold more than just doing it on your own. Not only is this important in building so-called “resilience” but it’s simply the whole purpose of our existence in this world. We are meant to meet God and we should spend as much time as possible, as much effort as possible doing it, even when it is hard. While it is hard to be consistent in a new routine, like doing simran daily or reading Nitnem in the morning, if we keep practicing, then it will become a source of stability and strength.
I think in each experience there is something to learn. I definitely learned more strategies about stress management, and how to take care of myself this week. I would encourage you to think about what you learned this week and share those strategies with other people in your life.
Don't forget Simran at the Gurdwara upstairs 1-2 pm every Sunday!