Getting off of the Hamster Wheel

We are running faster than ever, carrying fear in our bones and tightened chest. The stress and the need to go on is taking an emotional and physical toll on us. Here are some simple tips to slow down during a pandemic.

By Jenny Dsouza ~

Getting off of the Hamster Wheel

Let's face it. We've been living on the hamster wheel (we've all heard the hamster wheel metaphor one too many times). Running a race at a break-neck speed, trying to just hold our ground. We do this because the world keeps spinning, with or without us. But lately, there's been a rude awakening.

A shock that has gripped us so tightly that we've been paralyzed. Unable to move, let alone, run a race. Even though things have come to a standstill, we are far from okay. We are carrying the fear in our bones, our tightened chest, and bated breath. We are unable to release our clenching jaw and just let it all go. Afraid to lose control. Afraid to break down. But that is exactly what we must do.

We must let it all go.

The stress and the instinctive need to continue on the same hamster wheel are wearing us down. Lowering our immunity and making us more susceptible. We need to get up from our stupor and slow down. Lie low. And let this bitter weather pass. Bide your time.

Here are some tips to help you navigate through this time:

Accept the reality

The first step towards change is accepting where we are. Accepting that this is really happening and that we are caught in the midst of it. Accept that this is affecting us. We are living in unprecedented times. And we need help coping with everything thing that's going on.

Calm your anxiety

Once we accept where we are, real healing can begin. Sometimes, that can also bring on panic attacks and anxiety. As we come to terms with reality, seeing a shift in our identity or feeling like "I don't know who I am" is possible. Taking time to feel these emotions can go a long way. Expect to feel overwhelmed and proactively take steps to calm down. Here are a few tips to get started on that journey.

Take time off

As we process and accept where we are, we need time and space to get through it all. To process it. Take time off. Asking for some time off at work can be a good first step. Employers are understanding and going out of their way to help employees post the pandemic. Being authentic and honest with the people at work can go a long way in not only getting time off but also in building a support base at work.

There is no recipe that tells us what to do when we take the time off. We all cope in different ways. Sleeping, going for walk, spending more time with friends and family, pursuing a hobby, listening to uplifting music, reading books, watching funny shows on Netflix are all acceptable.

Collect moments of happiness

Another way to get off of the hamster wheel is to start reflecting on our lives and identifying the moments that made us happy. Once we have a list, identifying the patterns across them can help in understanding what really gives us pleasure. Here are some ingredients of happy memories that can help.

Turn towards religion and spirituality

We understand that this step may not be for everyone. But if religion or spirituality is important, taking a deeper interest in it can help. Lean on it to cope with the uncertainty. With religion and spirituality also comes a community. Talking to others who share the same common spiritual base can be therapeutic. 

Reading self-help books, podcasts and articles can also help greatly. Be it books from the self-help section or understanding the science of how our brain works, there are many ways to get a deeper understanding of ourselves.

Cultivate a practice of gratitude

Countless religions and sciences have proven the importance of gratitude. Practicing gratitude has a wonderful effect on our minds and bodies. We recommend starting here:

Practicing gratitude centers us and calms our anxiety. It may not ease the issues that life throws at us, but it will help us in get through them.

Work on your financial freedom

Let's face it. We are not just worried about our health and wellbeing, we are also worried about our sustenance. We want to ensure that we have the financial means to support ourselves and our family. But before we start with any of these, we need to ensure that we have the right mindset.

Once we have the right mindset, we need to become real about our income, expenses, debt, assets, and investments. If this is hard, talking to a financial advisor can help. Financial certainty is a big reason why we continue on the daily grind. Taking control of our finances and figuring out alternate sources of income can play a huge role in getting off of the hamster wheel.

Believe that this is it

Believe that the time is now. That this is the wake-up call. No matter where we are in life, knowing that we can take small steps towards our goal can be liberating. There may not be the liberty to change our lives completely just yet, but we can begin to slow down the pace a little. We can do some self-care and work on ourselves. Change can begin at any moment. And this moment, right here right now, is as good as any.

But don't rush to make life decisions. Don't get off of one hamster wheel and on to another. That is usually our first instinct. To keep things as they are, to seek comfort in the things that we've done for years. We wrote about it in Breaking the Patterns of Life. Take the time to zoom out and look at the life patterns before taking that leap.

Slow down a little.

We will leave you with his beautiful excerpt, taken from John O'Donohue's book, "To Bless the Space Between Us. A Book of Blessings". The book is also published under the title of "Benedictus" in Europe:

This is our hope for you. We hope you get the time and the space to slow down and recalibrate life. We hope that you find what you are truly looking for in life. We hope that this time that we are all going through is just a pulling back of the slingshot.

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