What would Darwin do?
I read an article about how we can learn a lot from our pets. For example, dogs can teach us about mindfulness as they are always so engrossed in the present moment. They aren’t bothered about how cold, wet or muddy it is. They are experiencing just being in the present moment, without judgement, engaging all their senses as they explore their environment and usually sporting a very happy tail and a flappy tongue that keeps trying to escape. But, I don’t have a dog, so I had to turn to my daughter’s rabbit for inspiration. Ron, the kawaii guinea pig just makes loads of squeaky noises and runs around, which is pretty much what I do already. So nothing new to learn there. He also twists his head 180 degrees to drink from his water bottle upside down, so I’m not sure he’s the wisest role model. So, one day over the holidays, I lay on the floor and observed Darwin, the lazy lagomorph, as he went about his day. While some lessons I took on board for 2020, I politely declined others (such as eating my own poop! He can keep that one!).
1. Eat lots of vegetables. While Darwin is vegan, he doesn’t make anyone else feel bad about their food choices, which is nice. However, I will ensure fruit and leafy greens constitute a large part of my diet, in smoothies and salads. I am well aware of the food/mood connection and how this can affect my ability to study and sleep. During this time of year, I am also taking vitamin D spray to compensate for lack of sunshine and B12 to compensate for what I don’t get in my diet. I am also going to bulk make stews and curries at the weekend for easy meals during the week. My daughters also make one meal a week each, which lightens the burden for me. I’m hugely grateful someone else is preparing food so I can continue studying.
2. Exercise. Darwin hops and ‘binkies’ about, before doing an upward- or downward- facing dog and finding a different resting position. This year I am determined to master yoga poses that have flummoxed me in the past. Time to let go of the fear and master new skills, just like I have done over the last 4 years of this degree. Yoga is also great for de-stressing, so will definitely need yoga to keep me sane during the final months of my degree. It is also my intention to go out for more little walking breaks while I study, so I can watch the seasons change. Being in nature reminds me of the impermanence of everything and offers me a fresh perspective, when I look up at the huge sky and twinkling stars and remember how tiny I am in the grand scheme of things. Thus, while my degree may be important to me and my family’s future, it is not ‘the be all and end all’.
3. Breathe. Because Darwin is a prey animal he is pretty much alert most of the time and his twitchy little nose breathes so rapidly, it is very cute to watch. But not sensible to copy, as you will likely hyperventilate! I know I can’t handle being in a state of heightened alertness for any length of time, though. Running on adrenaline and caffeine is good for no one. I’ve ditched my coffee for matcha tea, which although still caffeinated, has tons of anti-oxidants. and doesn’t make me jittery like coffee can. I will also do my best to minimise any stress, by being organised. Obviously I cannot account for the unexpected, but I will do what I can when I can. I will make time to focus on my breathing , to reduce stress levels and increase happy hormones. I also meditate and focus on my breathing when I choose essay titles, which seems to work in my favour.
4. Sleep. Darwin takes lots of little naps, which is great for him, but not for me. Think my lecturers might have something to say about that! Having a calming, regular bedtime routine helps me wind down for the evening, though. I also dim all the lights after supper and keep things quiet. Although, last night my mind started whirring and I could not get to sleep…at all. So, I know I need to put time aside during the day to also focus on non-degree work, so it doesn’t come and haunt me when I’m about to doze off. But, I didn’t beat myself up for not sleeping. I managed to get loads of research done and even completed readings for the next week’s lectures. Although, I know this behaviour is not sustainable. Sleep is so important for cognition. I can barely function if I’m sleep deprived. Today I was unusually clumsy. Over Winter I invested in a Lumie lamp that has a sunset function that makes the room gradually darker and prepares me for sleep. In the morning, its light gets gradually brighter until the alarm goes off and I feel more refreshed on waking. Ready to start the day and get crackalacking with my assignments.
Even though this year Chinese Lunar New Year will welcome the Year of the Rat, I will also embrace my inner bunny xXx