You’re in your new place. Your classes are scheduled. Your friends are back In Eugene. The fire smoke has cleared from the air (at least, for now). It is going to be a great year . . . maybe.
Many of us at the University live in the fast lane, and we may measure our worth by what we accomplish. There is nothing wrong with staying active and achieving things. The problem arises when we forget the person who is driving the car. If we don’t have time to ask: what is it all for? What do I really want to get out of life? What makes me thrive?
The signs and forms of self-neglect are many. We neglect ourselves when we routinely do not get enough sleep or don’t pay attention to a healthy diet. Another form of neglect is not making time for close friends — or perhaps, to make a new one. Irritability is one indication that something is amiss. Another sign is insomnia when you are unable to wind down at the day’s end. Another is a sense of listlessness, the feeling that you are plowing through your days, getting things done but not enjoying any of it.
We often look to others to measure how well we’re doing. Everyone else, it seems, has it all together — or maybe not. Henry Thoreau spoke of lives lived in quiet desperation. Said Thoreau: Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.
Walden Pond seems miles away from our hectic, Twenty-First Century lives with our smart phones, messaging apps, Twitter and the 24 hour news cycle. Recently I watched a movie made 2002. Even though it was a thriller, it lacked the frenetic pacing of so many Hollywood movies of late. It seemed as though the camera had dropped down into a different century. Rather than losing my interest, the film's slower pace permitted greater emotional engagement. It spoke to my soul, not just my senses.
Of course, our needs are not all the same. If you are an extravert, you gain energy by engaging with others in a variety of settings. If you are more introverted, you probably need to retreat regularly in order to recharge. The point here is to identify your unique needs and discover what fulfills you on physical, emotional, intellectual, creative and spiritual levels.
Here are some questions that I hope can guide you in your quest.
• What did I do today to live in balance?
• Have I been getting enough sleep? Am I enjoying food and does my diet give me energy and make me feel good physically?
• What people and activities bring energy to my life and enhance my well-being? What people and activities drain me? How can I arrange my life to spend more time with the former and less time with the latter?
• Whose life did I touch and who touched me today?
• Am I able to say “no” when I feel overextended? If not, why not?
• What can I let go of that is no longer meaningful or fulfilling?
• What did I do today that connects to my sense of purpose and inner calling?
• Where am I finding inspiration in my life right now? How can I bring more of this into my life at the present time?
While there is no single map to get you to your ideal destination, the key is cultivating self-awareness. By attending to your essential needs and making conscious choices about the use of your energies and time, you will set yourself up to thrive this year and well beyond.
Mark Evans, Ph.D.
Senior Staff Psychologist