Most days I can be found perched on the edge of my chair, my setup most definitely ergonomically incorrect and my posture something that would make any yoga teacher cringe.
I type and click my mouse and do my work. My brain buzzes with ideas, answers and is quick to manage whatever task comes up.
If I’m lucky, I’m in the flow state where one thing leads to the next with ease and I never do consider the time. Next thing I know, it’s evening and I’m standing up to stretch for the first time in hours.
I treasure these times, when I hit that groove. I’m blissed out and lit up. I feel all my creative juju flowing.
And yet, there are many times I’d still end up burned out and fried up.
The day after a long jam session, I’d sit in front of the computer pretending to work but really spend too much time on Facebook or writing longwinded emails to far off friends—even as deadlines loom. Or I’d wake up to puffy eyes and an exhausted body even after a full night’s sleep.
But wait, I thought I was all creative happiness and flow…what’s going on?
Answer: I’d neglected my body.
As I blissed out in productivity, my body would beg for some attention in ways I could easily ignore and put off. The truth is, though, when the body isn’t happy, the mind can’t quite hit its best groove either. So taking care of the body is not only kind, but essential.
The body speaks to us the only way it knows how: in the way it feels and how it functions.
It sends us messages in the form of cravings, body aches, skin problems and headaches. It signals the need for rest, for movement and for nourishment.
When things get too far along and we can hardly stand ourselves any longer, when we’re cranky and achy and bark unnecessarily at the barista, we’ve gone too far in neglecting our bodies. All systems are on alert and the consequences of neglect are starting to show.
Usually when that happens we’ll swing the other way and binge on body tending to make up for lost time (or is that just me?)
Like treating ourselves to an extra-large chai latte and—why the hell not?—add the whipped cream (we deserve it), and a pastry to quiet the body and make it through the evening. Or going for a run, a yoga class, exfoliating the skin and downing a gallon of green juice all in one day to counteract the extreme neglect of the previous five days.
It’s exhausting, this ping ponging back and forth between the neglect and care for the body. And it has its way with our brain and creativity, too.
Before I learned to integrate body care into my hour-to-hour work routine, I played ping pong like the best of them.
Here’s a few ways to reconnect the mind and body on a more regular basis and keep your own productive and creative mojo moving at a smooth, steady pace:
1. Set A Timer
It’s easy to lose track of time, especially when you’re doing something creative or brain straining. When I’m in that mode it’s easy to think that staying with it is the best idea. It’s like “Don’t move, you might wake the baby.”
The truth is, though, reconnecting with the body keeps the flow going. So, set a timer to remind yourself to reconnect at least every hour. Use something like Mindful Clock on your computer or Insight Timer on your phone for gentle chimes or gongs (versus the grating sound of an alarm).
2. Get Up and Move
When the sound rings, stop what you’re doing and stand up. Even if you’re on the phone, stand up. Even if you’re in the middle of writing a sentence, stand up. It shifts your mindset and opens up new ideas. Breathe deeply. Raise your arms over your head. Do a few neck rolls. Walk down the hall and back. It returns normal flow between the top and bottom half of your body, moving oxygen and blood and creative juju.
3. Feed the Senses
After you’ve reconnected with your body, move your focus to your senses. Reconnecting with your senses is like organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed fresh juice for the soul. It’s nourishment of a different order and brings mind, body and soul into one, which gives you the juice you need for creative work.
Look up and find three beautiful things. Look at them, enjoy them. Take them in: their color, texture, light and shadow. Be witness to the grandiosity of simple light as it illuminates your landscape.
Or, close your eyes and feel what is touching you or reach out and touch something right in front of you—the keyboard, desk, your shirt, or your own hand. Notice the texture, and the way it makes your fingertips feel, the tingle of connection. Feel the sensation seep into your skin and deep into your system.
Notice the sigh that emerges when you reconnect and align. Notice the sense of opening that occurs when you reconnect with the body. Notice that when you’re engaged with the senses tension wanes, you breathe deeper and relax.
Those spaces are where the good juju gets in and tension and stagnated energy in the body get out. That’s what gives you sustainable flow. No burn out. No shut down.
So make it a habit to reconnect, move and care for the body. It need not be complicated or on the binging side of things. Just pay attention. Be kind. Listen. And flow.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman