Thrive during changing times

During April, my hubby & I spent two weeks in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Usually, you need to make your booking to this popular destination months in advance, so when newly acquainted friends invited us along on their booking, we jumped at the opportunity. 

Spending two weeks in the wild with no internet connectivity forces you to take a (highly recommended) mental pause. After a few days of digital detox (even digital withdrawal if I must be completely honest), you begin to observe nature in a completely new way. Sadly, it’s only once you unlock your eyes and ears (your information senses) from digital screens and online information overload, that you start to discover Mother Nature’s long-forgotten life lessons,  freely available to those who make it a priority to spend time with her. 

Some of these lessons Mother Nature (and camping) reminded me of were:

  1. Know, accept and embrace your strengths & weaknesses
    When camping with new friends for the first time, you can easily ruin a beautiful friendship if you impose your camping rituals on others or if you try to be too adaptable, not taking your own needs into account. My hubby and I both enjoy quiet surroundings (we are auditory roots with low thresholds for auditory input which means we function best in an environment with LESS noise/sounds). We decided to venture out in our own car each morning and do our own morning game drive after lively, festive, enjoyable “kuiers” (aka gatherings) around the campfire at night. This helped us reduce our daily auditory input and resulted in 0% irritation caused by prolonged listening. When nighttime came we were ready (and looking forward) to join in conversation and story-telling around the campfire. By acknowledging our sensory needs, we contributed towards sustained harmony in the group and were able to bring back many happy memories from our trip… and a newly established friendship. We are all different (thank goodness) and can live happier lives when prioritizing and addressing our own sensory needs. It will benefit not only ourselves but those around us as well. To discover your own sensory style and needs, complete your Sensory Matrix™️ by following THIS LINK.
  2. Realign your preferences to your current environment & circumstances
    If you ask any South African, the image that comes to mind when thinking of the Kgalagadi would usually contain descriptions such as “dry”, “sand”, “hot”, “tough”, “harsh”. That’s because the park is situated in a semi-arid area. Animals living in this area have learned to survive and thrive in these harsh conditions. During the past few months, something magical happened though: the rains came (substantially more than in other years) and transformed the park into a green, grassy, lush habitat. As regular Kgalagadi visitors arrive, you can hear their astonishment at the unexpected, new landscape. What’s even more magical is how the animals have adapted to their new environment. No more jackals begging for a piece of meat from your “braai” grid at night. Game can be found throughout the park and is not restricted to staying close to waterholes because food is plentiful and easily available.
    The animals’ adaptations to their changed environment reminded me of our new remote working environments since the start of the pandemic and how some of us are still trying to adapt. Maybe we should stop trying to change and mould our environments and rather look at new opportunities to make small changes in how we live in this space. For instance, we’re all stuck in front of digital screens all day. It need not be a burden though. By making small adaptations such as adjusting your notifications settings and screen brightness, you can reduce your sensory overload caused by visual- and auditory input from your digital environment. Or by setting an alarm to go off every 45 minutes, notifying you to stand up and take a digital break away from your devices, you can increase your productivity, resilience, and wellness. 
  3. Make a deliberate choice to incorporate at least one healthy habit into your schedule every day
    Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1984, once wisely used the old African proverb “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” What he was trying to explain was that every new task or circumstance in life that seems daunting, overwhelming, and even impossible at first can gradually be accomplished by taking one small step at a time.
    Our so-called “new world” is rapidly changing: from separate offices to open-plan offices; open-plan offices to immediate (chaotic, crisis-driven) remote working when the pandemic started; remote working to hybrid working… Who knows what’s coming next?! To not get swept up by these waves of change, we all need loads of resilience to ensure our own sustainability. How do we achieve this? By incorporating simple, effective strategies into our everyday life to promote our own wellness, mental health, and happiness. So whether you need to schedule regular stretch breaks, adjust your digital sound notifications or check in with a friend every day, include (and stick to) daily healthy habits for your own good. It’s the sensible thing to do. If you would like to join our learning revolution and get monthly tips on how to promote your own health and wellness SIGN UP HERE.

I have a renewed respect for Mother Nature following our visit to the Kgalagadi. Go with what life gives you and make small changes to get the best from new situations and environments. Stop fighting change (it’s exhausting anyway), rather embrace it… one bite at a time.

 

 

My love-hate relationship with online working

In April 2019, I made a calculated leap of faith: I sold my pediatric Occupational Therapy practice at a school and ventured into the world of online work. The excitement of starting my morning routine in a home office was overwhelming. Being able to control my home environment was one of the deciding factors for this leap into the unknown. I painted my office walls in a soft neutral colour. A plant found it’s way onto my desk. On garden service days, I closed my office door and played calming music through headphones (don’t you just love the sound of a weedeater…). A jar of hand cream was placed within arm’s reach, mostly to be used when craving the lovely vanilla-smell filling the room when removing the lid. On cold winter days,  a heated foot mat kept me warm. Life was blissful and I felt so blessed to have changed my work life to fit my sensory needs.

As a sensory avoider with low sensory thresholds, I cope best with LESS sensory input. If an environment gets too busy and loud, my productivity levels drop and I then have to exert a lot of extra mental effort to maintain a high level of work. In a quieter, calmer, more relaxed environment, I thrive and feel healthier and happier. I love working alone in my own space… not that I’m a recluse (I hope not), it just fits my sensory style best. (If you’d like to discover your sensory style, complete your Sensory Matrix™ online)

What I did not bring into account when leaping into my new work adventure, was that I’ll be joining the digital world of online work consisting of a massive population. According to Internet World Stats, there were 4,833,521,806 global internet users on 30 June 2020. So much for solitary work! Within my little 13-inch laptop screen, I was connected to a whole new community. Exciting, yet overwhelming at times.

During the past 16 months, online working and I have gone through quite a few ups and downs, adding to my love-hate relationship with the digital world. I’d like to highlight some, it might just resonate with you if you’re also part of the online work community:

      An “off” button to switch everything off -vs- Nowhere to hide when you’re online

                                                   No need to travel for work -vs- A complete lack of movement while working     

Customization of your desktop display and icons -vs- A quick buildup of clutter on your desktop

                    The ability to stand up and walk away for a break -vs- The guilt of standing up and walking away from work

                                                        Flexible working hours -vs- Working longer hours due to a lack of routine

No time wasted making small talk with colleagues -vs- Missing small talk with colleagues

Control noise levels easier -vs- Eyes and ears are fixed on your small (but busy) digital world throughout the day

 

The list of pros and cons is endless and will vary for each person. However, digital work is here to stay. I realized it will be most beneficial to wrap my head around my digital environment and make the best of it. Some of the strategies I’ve implemented (and do my best to follow…) are:

  • Take short movement breaks. Your body and brain need it. 
  • Move my gaze away from my screen at times, to avoid “computer vision syndrome“.
  • I have raised my laptop and am using an external/additional keyboard to avoid a poor sitting posture.

There are lots more easy-to-implement strategies that we use as a virtual team at Sensory Intelligence® Consulting. Since your wellbeing matters to us, we’ve been sharing knowledge and ideas by means of our online workshops. To discover more simple, yet neuroscientific tools, follow the link to Digital wellness through the 7 senses. 

Take back control and be the master of your digital universe!