As I sit here feverishly typing away on my laptop, I am reminded of how finite our time is on this planet we call Earth. This last year has been a daily reminder of my – of our – limited time here. And so, how do I spend my time? To do this question justice would require pages and pages of written reflection. Instead of going down a rabbit hole of how I spend my time, I will take a moment to share two very different ways I have been able to better utilize my time over the course of the pandemic and how that has helped me balance my energy.
Moving in Place
When I worked in-person at my institution, I was constantly moving. Moving from meeting to meeting. Moving from one side of campus to another. Moving from office to office, hallway to hallway, building to building. And then one day in mid-March 2020, everything stopped. COVID-19 shut down how institutions typically operated and shut down the way I had come to experience life as a young professional. Rather than constantly moving, I was stuck in place. At least, that’s what I thought.
While working at home has not been an easy transition with no shortage of challenges, there are certainly unexpected benefits that exist. I had to reframe what moving during the workday looked like for me. Instead of moving from meeting to meeting or taking a stroll down to a colleague’s office, I had to create new opportunities for how I move during the day. I reflected back to walking 1:1s I had in-person as former students or staff and I would move around to different parts of campus while simultaneously talking about life, work, school, and more. Why can’t I replicate a version of this in a pandemic? And so, the walking 1:1 was born.
It is important for me to keep moving. Moving my body, moving my mind, and moving in place. I took advantage of being a renter of a room in a quiet neighborhood and was able to take walks (masked up and maintaining at least six feet of distance, of course!) while simultaneously having 1:1s or any meetings that did not require additional documents or access to a laptop. This helped break the monotony of feeling stuck in my small room in the basement of a house and allowed me to look forward to non-traditional meetings.
Moving in place allowed me focus on my health as well. I became more conscious of my daily, weekly, and monthly steps. I gamified each week to try to best my previous week’s steps and miles. It broke the routine of hours of sitting in place and empowered me to get up, move, listen to a podcast, take a break, have an active, moving 1:1, and energize my body.
At the same time, this pandemic and the privileged position I was in by continuing to be able to work allowed me to focus on other aspects of my life I avoided. Because my pre-pandemic life was all about moving and being on the go, I rarely allocated time to breathe, to sit in silence, to be still. Throughout the pandemic, I learned to recognize the importance of being still.
I always shrugged off mindfulness as something I didn’t have time for or something that I would try later on. Well, I ran out of excuses after a few months in the pandemic had passed. If I was going to try mindfulness, meditation, or being still, I had to lean in and actually practice it.
I was not a fan. While I remained quiet and still, my thoughts took over in deafening fashion. How am I supposed to do this? Why will my mind not shut off? I must be doing this wrong. I threw my hands up in frustration day-after-day, but at least I kept trying.
A couple months later, the daily practice of being still started to take off. I was finally able to sit in peace, to have a moment of reflection in silence, to have the opportunity to listen and be in-tune with my body. What a feeling! I don’t know how I was able to go nearly thirty years in life without mindfulness as a daily practice. Things I internally tried to repress were finally being addressed. Thoughts that came and went for years were being managed and worked on. Creating pause allowed me to re-focus my attention and energy to matters of importance. And, I was finally able to sleep without a host of thoughts interrupting me throughout any given night. Most nights, anyway. I still struggle every now and then.
A Balanced Approach
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me anything over the past year, it is that life has no guarantees, and everything can change in a moment. Given this, how am I able to focus on areas that I have control over to create healthy, positive outcomes for my health and well-being? For me, I am fortunate to have been able to adapt by spending time moving in place while also focusing on how I am being still from time to time. Striking a balance between the two is critical for me not only from a school and work standpoint, but especially when I think about my life as a whole.