Waking up from Autopilot with Mindfulness
Do you feel like you’re going through life on autopilot, not making conscious choices about your life, as if you are unconscious and not truly there?
I was on autopilot without even knowing it. I constantly found myself in a routine which never seemed to stop, and I kept so busy that I never allowed a moment to myself. To me, this never seemed to be a problem. In fact, the environment I was living in praised me for being so motivated and determined. Even when I felt as though I needed a break or was burned out, I let the voice of my inner bully tell me that I always had to prove my worth in this world by constantly doing something.
It was as if I was constantly in a war with my emotions and sadly I wasn’t winning. I was always anxious, depressed, and worried. I normalized being ill and accepted never feeling my best. I allowed myself to live with constant panic attacks and random bursts of tears, unable to manage my emotions.
I came to depend on medication and one-on-one therapy sessions, since this was the prescription society gave me. When that didn’t work, I gave up trying to find a solution, forcing myself to forget about the mental trauma that I held, constantly moving forward and keeping so busy that I never had time to reflect on my emotions and what I was truly feeling.
Being a college student, I feel a lot of expectations weighing down on me so it’s easy to stay busy and driven. This summer, I was accepted to a summer internship in New York City with a huge corporate company. Sadly, I wasn’t that excited about the opportunity except for the fact that it would be a great resume builder. Just before the summer my college held a career fair, and even though I already had a job lined up, I felt compelled to go and check it out. As I walked through the various booths at the career fair, I came across The Woman’s Network. There was something different about how TWN made me feel, as if something clicked into place inside of me and suddenly it all made sense.
When TWN asked me to join their team for the summer, I knew I had a difficult choice to make. I felt all of the expectations and guilt pushing me towards the internship in New York. Usually this is what drives me but I decided to listen to my heart and I chose to work with The Woman’s Network. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because it was a decision that was based on my own needs and what was going to make me feel good.
Over the summer, the team at The Woman’s Network has given me a huge gift by teaching me how to practice mindfulness in my everyday life. I’ve learned that by focusing on my breath I can connect with my body and emotions. This allows me to reconnect with my true self and not be reliant on my anxious thoughts. Sadly, I used to believe that these thoughts were normal, that being anxious all the time was okay because I had a lot to do.
Rather than focusing on the present, I was more concerned with my to-do lists and daily tasks. I constantly found myself thinking about the next project or the next person I needed to see, rather than truly enjoying what I was doing. I became more invested in my schedule, than my life. Through interning with TWN, I’ve learned that it’s okay to break down once in awhile, it’s okay to take a sick day, and most importantly it’s okay to take care of ourselves. As women we’ve been conditioned to suppress our needs and wants, spiraling downward as we continue to help everyone but ourselves. Just by noticing our breath, we can begin to take a step forward in the practice of mindfulness and being more in control of our emotions.
If you’re like me, maybe you’re a little cynical that noticing your breath can alter your life for the better (trust me, I was in the same boat at first.) Maybe you’re even thinking to yourself right now: “I hate yoga, and I can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes, how am I ever going to be mindful?” I used to be under the impression to be “mindful”, you had to be a certain stereotype. I realize now that I created a stigma around mindfulness because I was afraid to confront myself. But I’ve come to realize that in order to change for the better, we have to confront ourselves.
As the summer is coming to an end, I’ve come to understand why I chose this internship. Something in me was fighting against my normal autopilot way of being because I really wanted to change. And to do this, I needed to give myself permission to pause and break free from all the expectations and restrictions I created for myself.
Perhaps being on overdrive can be beneficial for those last minute assignments and to-do lists, but if you don’t give yourself a moment to rest you start affecting your body and those around you. Our addiction to busyness becomes a natural habit. I’m still baffled by the fact that I used to be more inclined to accept various medications versus simply practicing mindfulness!
I would like to invite those of you who read this article to go into the app store and download AIRIN. AIRIN is a new mindfulness app created by The Woman’s Network to remind you periodically throughout the day to pause and notice your breath. In these few seconds you allow yourself to pause and be in the moment. For those of you who are thinking you have no time and don’t have a moment to download it, then this app is definitely for you. Just think about how taking three mindful breaths can change your life for the better. Please join me on the journey of more mindful living.
by Armani Jain