I decided to share this discussion post entry I wrote for the online Self-Reg course I’m currently taking. I imagine a lot of people who are either working or studying from home can relate to sitting in front of a computer screen for long hours of their day or having to start an online course in the evening. In this entry, I share a short reflection of my own experience with noticing a shift in my energy and tension while working towards completing an online course late in the day.
I usually dedicate my weekends to completing my online course modules because I already know that during the week, by the end of a long day at work, that I have very little energy to stay focused on videos and readings. Although I had a busy day yesterday, I knew I wanted to at least begin the module before the end of the night. By the time I finally arrived home and settled in to begin watching the first video of the module, it was already evening. This was a lot later than I’d normally start a module on a weekend. Generally, on a Saturday morning, I’d wake up, workout or do yoga, and then begin a module. So, I already knew I was starting this at a much later time in the day than I normally would have; and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of how my energy level would sustain throughout the learning. As I began watching the presentation, I noticed my energy level was fairly high. I was comfortable, focused and taking notes. However, I did notice that 40 minutes into the video that my energy level was starting to deplete. I was aware that I had started to feel a little antsy in my chair and noticed my attention start to shift. Although I played the video out until the end, I know that I will need to go back and re-watch the ending of it because I have little recollection of what was mentioned.
Being able to notice the tension I was beginning to experience and that my attention had shifted allowed me to recognize that I had not retained the information from the entire video, and also that there were other stressors that were impacting my ability to remain focused. Having an awareness about how stress and tension impacts my energy and focus has continuously allowed me not to become frustrated or overwhelmed when my mind and body is telling me that I either need to take a break, pause or stop something all together. Because my energy was depleted by the end of the video and it was already so late in the night, I decided to continue the rest of the module today.
Building an awareness of your stress, energy and tension is a process that takes time and getting to know yourself much more deeply. Start by noticing when you may be experiencing a shift in your energy (e.g., unable to focus or feeling sleepy) and what things help you to restore. This could be something you’ve tried in the past or as simple as having a drink of water or a snack, taking a break to stretch your legs, or going outside for some fresh air or a walk. The following snippet from a Self-Reg article can help you better understand how your body sends you signals of when your alertness may be shifting:
“Back in the 1960s, the so-called Father of modern Sleep Research, Nathaniel Kleitman, discovered that the brain operates on a circadian basic rest-activity cycle (BRAC), in which we move from higher to lower alertness every 90 minutes. That is, we go through this cycle as much when we are awake as when we are asleep (i.e., the REM sleep-cycle). The brain sends signals of when we are entering this less reactive state during the awake-phase: e.g., we become restless, drowsy, or lose focus. But in our modern fast-paced world we tend to either ignore or override these signals (e.g., with adrenaline, caffeine, sugar, or our smartphones), propelling us towards a chronic low-energy/high-tension state. So the goal of a mindfulness practice like yoga is not only to build in the much-needed restorative breaks, but to become more aware of and heedful of these signals.” (Shanker, 2017).
Know that each day your stress, energy and tension will vary, and so too might the strategies or practices that help you to rebalance and restore. Take time to explore and embrace the ongoing process of building your own stress awareness, and listening to and understanding your brain-body signals. Despite all that I’ve come to learn about myself, I have accepted that this is a lifelong process; one which I owe to discovering, learning and practicing Self-Reg.
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References: Shanker, Stuart. (2017). The Self-Reg View on: Mindfulness (Part 1). Self-Reg. http://self-reg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Infosheet_Mindfulness_1.pdf
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