No Control

Things had been going pretty well. I was meditating daily, keeping a record of my distractions and negative thoughts. I was attending mindfulness workshops, paying attention to my relationships. I was feeling good, my experiments were working, and my data was looking interesting.

Then one morning I finished analysing the next batch of data and something didn’t quite fit. I didn’t know how to explain anything anymore. In short, it was all a mess.

I thought that all my hard work on myself was the explanation for my happiness. But in a matter of minutes, I realised that was bullshit. The main reason for my happiness had been my data. Once I realised that the “quality” of my work was on a down turn, my mood swiftly followed.

I really don’t know what else to do to protect myself from bad days.

Stormy Seas

Yesterday I had a missed phone call from my real-estate agent. First thought: “Oh great, the owners have decided to sell and they want us to terminate the lease early.”

I ran a routine stats test on my data and it spat out a p value of 0.0001. First thought: “I must have put the wrong numbers in.”

I got some data back which suggested that all of the work I was planning on doing for the next six months would have to be completely altered, and that I had no idea where to start. First thought, “I don’t have time for this.” But then, “I won’t have time to finish my PhD.” And then, “I am going to have to forfeit my visa. I am going to have to go back to the UK. My boyfriend and I will probably end up splitting up due to the distance. Everyone will talk about me behind my back, my friends will all forget about me.”

As you can imagine, these negative tendencies can make things a bit more difficult than they necessarily need to be.

I genuinely try and do everything I can to put myself in a position of strength so that when the worst does happen, I can try not to panic. Of late, this has meant that I have been attending a mindfulness workshop, provided for free by my university. The techniques themselves aren’t exactly ground-breaking. Anyone who has been in counselling, or even just to a yoga class, will most likely have tried meditation. They will probably also know how much of a pain in the arse in can be and how much discipline it can require.

Two weeks into the course, I had a bit of a break down at work, which just happened to bleed into my whole weekend. In my head (luckily, not out loud) I was so pissed off with everyone at the workshop, and all the concepts they had taught us. How ridiculous that you can be expected to sit down and meditate when (excuse the cliché), it feels as though your world is closing in around you. What’s the point in practising for a raging storm, when all you’re equipped with in preparation is a kiddy pool?

Somehow, with the help of time, friends, some fresh air, my supervisor and my family, I was able to pull myself out of that particular rut. I’ve “recommitted” to the concepts of mindfulness and meditation. I think that the concept of weathering a storm still stands here, and yes, maybe we are only equipped with limited tools in order to prepare for it. One of the most basic tools that we have, however, is our capacity to take care of ourselves.

Self-care is a preventative measure, like exercise, brushing our teeth or not smoking.  Yet so often, it gets swept under the rug. How often do we take time to check in with ourselves? When things start to get rough, and I can feel a panic attack pending, there might not be an instantaneous resolution. But I’m pretty sure that if I commit myself to self-care on a regular basis, I will spot the signs of negativity far in advance of a panic attack even happening.

Being mindful and taking time out to meditate regularly is a way of looking up at the clouds, checking for icebergs and performing a stock check, so we can decide whether to change course, call for help, or restock our supplies.