“Don’t believe everything you think.” ~Unknown
My self-dubbed overthinker is me. I can spend hours wondering and trying to solve all kinds of problems.
Around ten years back, I suffered from burnout. For twenty-two and a half years, I worked as a nurse. It was the only thing I knew. I loved it. As they say, “A nurse is always a nurse.”
This makes leaving nursing something hard to do, even when it’s unhealthy.
I’ve always worked in high-stress areas like intensive care and trauma emergency rooms, but burnout made it impossible to be there physically and mentally. Unfortunately, it was at this point that I couldn’t give any compassion.
I was physically drained, couldn’t focus, crying all the time, and the anxiety of it all was unbearable. This was why I felt so helpless. This led to a lot of overthinking.
Before this I was an avid goal-setting planner. The only thing that I was able to plan at the time was to just sit down on the couch and ponder.
It was literally like I sat and analyzed my entire life. This only led to more regret, guilt, and despair.
This was when I lost my faith, making it even worse.
The sad part about burnout is you don’t realize you are in it until it’s usually too late, so you tend to go back into jobs you know, and for me that was the high-stress environments. It was what I felt comfortable doing, and not what I needed to do.
It was my second failure.
It was my fifth job that I quit due to burnout. My income was now dwindling. From yet another unsuccessful job, I drove over a 4-lane bridge thinking that my bridge was larger.
In my case, I couldn’t see the water’s edge or future on the other side.
Was that the point?
I was devastated and quit work, using my savings for survival.
I would sit on the couch “strategizing,” which meant overthink everything for hours.
I was filled with regrets, lost dreams, uncertain futures, and bad career choices. My couch was my refuge, and I began to plan for my future.
Even my navel was contemplated in the hope that a divine source would assist me.
Someone told me that I should get out my head at the time and be mindful.
Here is where the truly amazing moments would begin.
Mindfulness appeared to be elusive and I was forced to examine it.
I wasn’t even mindful. The more I thought, the more it gave me to focus on. It was my attempt to bring mindfulness back to the couch.
Until one day…
After a while, I was ready to get up and go on a short walk. The stream was right in front of me, so I took a seat and watched this leaf for about one minute.
As it floated along the river, it turned and twist. It wasn’t struggling like I was. The water was carrying it along, and it wasn’t trying to stop it. It would only swerve if it hit a hard rock. if it got stuck, it would become unstuck by the water’s gentle movement.
The little leaf was oblivious to the events.
It was that moment when everything fell into place. As I experienced this feeling of spaciousness, peace overcame me.
It was in the presence.
The struggle is over. I must let go of my past.
It was an unforgettable experience. It was worth it.
It was brief.
It was a constant struggle to choose between being aware and overthinking.
I wasn’t going with the flow; instead, I was fighting it, trying to control the direction of the stream.
I then realized a few important things…
It was possible to be grateful for even the smallest moments of mindfulness. Five seconds, or even a minute of mindfulness were valuable.
To stop holding onto mindfulness, I had to give up trying. It wasn’t something tangible that I could hold, grab, or pull within me. I was just waiting to release my resistance.
It was easy to be mindful anywhere and anytime. It didn’t have to be a big thing. It didn’t have to be a big deal. I could just pay attention to my surroundings and take a moment to wash my hands or pet my cat.
The meaning of seemingly simple actions began to grow.
However, it was fleeting. It was only then that I stopped analysing mindfulness.
I wanted to experience the state of being aware, however I experienced it through a memory perspective. I then would look forward for the next experience.
It was then that I realized fleeting was perfectly normal.
The present moment will always be fleeting as it’s a point of time between the past and the future. The best way to live in the present moment is not to worry about what the future holds.
Now I see all of my thoughts as a flow of consciousness, which I, much like the leaves, can glide on as long as I am calm. This is not a struggle. There is no resistance. All you need is a moment of awareness.
In the two years that followed, I saw my burnout disappear, anxiety and overthinking decrease, and was finally able to return to nursing.
It was a slow start. First, I worked in a small nursing center, then I moved on to home care. Finally, I returned to hospital, although it was a less stressful setting.
Finding peace in simple things was what I found. I could share my small moments of happiness with patients and colleagues. My career was finally enjoyable for me.
Mindfulness is a big part of my life, and I’m grateful for the lessons this situation has given to me. It would not have been possible for me to experience the mindful moment that has changed my entire life.
Because I am that little leaf who guides down the river of life one minute at a moment, I can now see the value in following the flow.
Fleeting or not, it’s perfect the way it is.
Cheryl J. Reynolds
Cheryl is a mindfulness coach, and the podcaster of One Minute of Mindfulness. Easy techniques and simple mindfulness practices help people find peace. Walking, quilt-making, writing and reading are her passions. She lives in North Carolina, You can also follow on Instagram and Facebook.
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Tiny Buddha’s first post, How One Minute of Mindfulness Completely Transformed My Life appeared on Tiny Buddha.