"Your book is stressing me out!”
This is not the typical response I receive and, admittedly, it stopped me in my tracks. Let me back up.
I was out to dinner (pre-social distancing) with a good friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Catching up, R. recounted the intense, months-long work project consuming sixty-plus hours each week. In order to regain some semblance of leisure, she said, she had once again begun reading at bedtime, recently diving in to her dust-covered copy of BREATHE, EMPOWER, ACHIEVE. I smiled appreciatively, curious to hear her astute impressions. My kind friend then leaned in and somewhat hesitantly confessed that, after just a few pages, she was left feeling more stressed out than when she had started. Whoa. Not the reaction I was going for. Obviously.
I am guessing I blinked a few times, momentarily stumped, as I digested this bit of unanticipated feedback. Hmmm…. Perhaps reading about work-life balance uncovered the uneasy awareness that hers had been chronically askew? Maybe she was harshly judging herself that she should know better and do better? Perhaps the thought of adding a bunch of mindful breaks to her overflowing to-do list was the last thing she wanted to consider at bedtime? R. and I pondered and theorized together.
I want to pause here to say that R.’s honest feedback is exactly the kind I most appreciate. Not that all of the critique I hear has to be negative. Please no. However, if someone is overwhelmed with the mindful breaks or finds them counterproductive, I absolutely want to know so that a.) I can help uncover and remedy the block and b.) I can use that information to help others. One thing I know for sure is that if one of us is challenged, others are as well.
Though initially taken aback, R.’s reaction also deeply resonated with me, as I, too, love working and its attendant buzz of productivity, often skewing more toward over-work. I must continually check in and assess the need for balance when I recognize an underlying sense of unease that I am not attending to my loved ones as much as I’d like. Deadlines, projects, overfilling our plates with responsibilities can leave us feeling exhausted, with little energy to figure out how to adjust. It is painful to admit and not always easy to make the necessary changes, at times seemingly near impossible.
We all find ourselves stuck on the hamster wheel of busyness at times. Some of us have been sprinting nonstop for years, while others hop on and off periodically. Or, we live in relative balance until life throws a curveball our way, sending us reeling. We look around at everyone else seemingly all-put-together and expect entirely too much of ourselves, eventually giving up and falling back into unhelpful habits and old routines.
What I told my friend is this: Start with one mindful break. Just one. If you are feeling overwhelmed, choose one Breathe Mindful Break that piques your interest. (If suffering from analysis paralysis, I prescribe the Coffee Mindful Break. You can sign up for my email list and get the guided version or find it in both books.) Read only that 5-minute passage and implement it once a day. Offer yourself a high-five for the effort. That’s it.
It took courage for R. to admit how my book affected her. She took a leap of faith that I would appreciate, and not be offended, by her feedback. That trust warms my heart and offers me permission in the future to share my own difficult admissions with her.
Ultimately, what R’s reaction reinforced for me is that it’s hard to go it alone. Now more than ever we need community, support, and honest feedback. The ability to kindly uncover our blind spots and empower each other to thrive is exactly what I aspire to create in The BEA HIVE online monthly membership.
If you are ready to level up and balance out in 5-minutes a day, I hope you’ll join us. Together we will create small, manageable shifts, uncover our blocks, and lift each other up. Head over to The BEA HIVE page and become a Founding Member. Enrollment closes April 25th!