I don’t know about you, but I find that the more I respect Nature and its cycles, the better I feel.
Humility, and the acknowledgement that Nature is the greater force, can do a lot for our wellbeing. Considering ourselves evolutionary animals rather than some grand super power can ground us, both literally and physically.
The trouble is, 21st Century Consumerist Life doesn’t respect natural cycles. When it gets dark we don’t sleep, we create artificial light and keep going. When we get tired we don’t rest, we consume artificial stimulants and keep going. When circumstances tell us to re-evaluate, we push them aside and stubbornly stick to our plan. We must keep going.
When you stop and think about it, really think about it, it’s obvious that our constant on-the-go lifestyle does not fit in with the nature around us.
Back to Basics
Here’s a Statement from the Ministry of the Blindingly Obvious:
Pain is a signal.
After I injured my meniscus (a tendon in the knee) in a kitesurfing accident, I could barely walk. The pain was a signal that my knee was damaged, and I wasn’t to use it until the body had had time to repair it. Ditto the current discomfort in my Achilles tendon after running — it’s my body’s way of telling me to rest up and let it heal.
Given that pain is such an obvious and useful signal, why are we so arrogant as to think we can just ignore it and push through it, especially when that pain has no obvious physical cause? That could mean anxiety or depression, but in my case it was frequent and debilitating migraines.
Pushing Through the Pain
For over 30 years I pushed through the pain, dishonouring it, getting angry with it, trying to ignore it, and stubbornly carrying on with what my life SHOULD look like with the assistance of medication. I tried to blame my migraine triggers on certain foods or chemicals such as milk or caffeine, but glossed over the uncomfortable truth that my dream job, the job that I absolutely loved for 23 years, was detrimental to my health. The shift work pattern could be cruel.
Even after quitting this job, the migraines continued, but after a couple more years of hating them, getting angry with them, and despising how they ruined my life, I experienced a change of mindset.
First of all, my dear friend Shanna (who writes an awesome newsletter which you can check out here) put me on to an app called Curable. The principal behind Curable is quite simple: Stop ignoring or getting angry with your pain. Instead, acknowledge it, honour it, and deal with it.
It’s not an overnight process. You need to work at it. A damaged knee might require you to rest and work on rehabilitation like physio. Less obvious damage needs similar care. But while friends and medical professionals can offer you the resources to aid recovery, only you can actually do the work. You might not think it fair that you have to work so hard to overcome adversity, but here is another memo from the Ministry of the Bleeding Obvious:
Life isn’t fair. Get over it.
Doing Less = Living More
The rediscovery of my online journal from 2015 was fascinating. As I scrolled through the entries I was exhausted just by reading what I used to get up to. The pressure I put upon myself was immense. I was living life at 100 miles per hour trying to do it all.
At no point in the 365 entries was there any mention, not one, of rest and self-care. There were countless mentions of migraines and debilitation, as well as the unforgettable pain of weaning myself off the migraine drug Sumatriptan, but there was at no point any mention of slowing down. Powered by caffeine and sugar, I’d try to keep going — and kept on suffering. Little did I realise at the time that it wasn’t necessarily the fatigue that triggered the migraines, it was partly down to the sugar that I consumed for the short-term energy boost.
Fast forward to today and while I still get migraines, they are thankfully rare. At the moment I’m four months migraine-free. When one does occur, I stop whatever it is I am doing and rest. I don’t reach for the caffeine and sugar. I’m normally through it in 24 hours and not three to nine days as before. The irony is, I now achieve far more than I ever did when I was rushing about and trying to do it all. Yes, it can be a touch dull and inconvenient to have to watch my diet and pass on sweet pleasures that give so many other people short-term pleasure. However, not a single day passes when I don’t take a moment to be thankful for the sheer bliss and unadulterated joy of no longer living in the shadow of debilitating pain.
I acknowledge that I am in a place of privilege to be able to just stop working and rest up. Some people can’t afford to do that.
However, when we put material gain before our health, we know that our values are skewed.
Our good health, and our pain, are products of Nature. We know that Nature is the greater force. We know that health is more important than money. We know that once we achieve a basic level of comfort, money doesn’t buy happiness. Why on earth then do we get so swept along and get the basics so very, very wrong?
That, my friends, is another subject for another day.
Humans are evolutionary animals. We might be at the top of the food chain, but a little humility won’t go amiss. Nature is in charge.
Consider how living with less might help you achieve a happier, healthier, and pain-free life. If you need a little help with that, check out the resources at Break the Twitch and The Minimalists.
How to Support Streamlining
There are two ways you can support me and this newsletter:
1. If you wish, you can show your support for what I do through Buy Me a Coffee. Although I’ll probably end up buying tea. Or snacks for Dougal.
I understand that not everyone who would like to will be in a position to support in this way, and that’s absolutely fine! My content is available to everyone, regardless of their circumstances.
2. Most importantly, please subscribe and share Streamlining with those who you think might enjoy it.
Well done Andrew. Are we all addicted to dopamine?
Fine words Andrew and as a wise old friend of mine used to say, you should always stop to smell the flowers. One thing I know for sure is you live in a beautiful part of the world. We arrived yesterday from Skye. We spent this afternoon driving around north of North Uist and onto Bearnaray, so wonderful. We came across The Coral Box and dropped in, we were made very welcome even though she was not officially open! The weather is very challenging, gale force winds, rain, sleet, snow, hail and sunshine in between, well that’s Scotland for you. We are warm and snug in our Coachman, just feel sorry for the ones under canvas who had an horrendous night last night. Enjoy life and take things easy!