You wake up at 4:30 AM panicked. You forgot to send that email, register for that event, respond to that text message. Were you rude when you looked at your phone while that friend was speaking to you? What about when you said that off-hand comment, because your thoughts were elsewhere? Your mind starts racing and the next thing you know it’s 5:30 AM and you’re throwing on your sneaks because you can’t sleep and you have to burn off the anxiety – the racing thoughts.
Okay, maybe not the running part, but you know what I’m getting at. The all-consuming thoughts, fears, questions that keep us awake at night. That impede upon the sleep we need in order to be productive members in society.
Why does this happen?
Psychologically, I have no idea. Not my area of expertise. But, I can say that this happens to me quite frequently. And what’s worse is when my mind races and then I think about all the sleep I’m missing out on, which in turn makes it impossible to fall back asleep. Counter productivity at its finest.
How do you deal with this misfortune?
I recently started listening to the book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, which, from what I’ve gathered so far, is a book that teaches you how to overcome self-doubt and be fully present in every situation – honing in on your true self and using that as leverage for confidence when you can’t quite seem to find it.
This sparked a thought.
As I rush through my days trying to get everything done, make everyone happy, make myself happy, and still have enough time to eat and run, I’ve realized that I’ve let the busy-ness get in the way of being present. Being truly present in each and every conversation, meeting, menial task, what-have-you. I’ve noticed my attention span has dwindled as my mind races through my to-do list trying to plan out my days making sure I can squeeze as much out of it as possible.
I had a theatre director in high school who I still look up to to this day. I noticed over the years that no matter who she was talking to she was fully engaged in the conversation. People would try to get her attention, but she was so focused on who was talking that she would sometimes miss the attention-grabber.
Why have we lost the ability to do “listen with every muscle of our being”?
Fast-past life, especially in a fun, growing city, is easy to succumb to. Wanting to do as much as we can, further our careers, take care of our families, keep up with the Jones’s, the thought that we can multi-task, etc. has cost us the valuable time we have in the here and now. And, don’t even get me started on the detriment of the cell phone. I know that’s what has caused the majority of my short attention span.
How do we fix this?
Again, no perfect answer here. But, what I do know, is running calms my thoughts. Running – a portion of the day that is dedicated solely to putting one foot in front of the other – gives my brain the chance to run wild with my thoughts. The only thing I have to focus on is, well, not falling flat on my face, and my mind is free to roam where it may.
After a run, with endorphins pumping, my mind is at ease. I find that after a run, I’ve figured something out. Whatever it may be, something I was unsure, confused, lacking confidence in, is a bit clearer. Letting my thoughts run wild, while running, regulates my mind. Just as I’m regulating my breathing, I’m also regulating my thought process, which helps in every day life. It helps keep my mind at a steady pace, so that my thoughts aren’t racing when I’m trying to be present and still.
I can’t give you an answer on how to not wake up in the middle of the night and think about a million things. I can’t give you a magic button that will help you be more present in your daily life. But, I can tell you that running can help put your mind at ease, so that when you’re in a conversation you can be fully immersed. When you’re at that meeting you’re not just physically there, but mentally there, as well. You can stand with both feet on the ground. Present. Where you should be.
Give it a try. I dare you.
Then, let me know how it goes.