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Awareness - by Subitha Baghirathan CASS

The Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year starts on 12 February 2021. Each Lunar Year is symbolised by one of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac, and this year we will be welcoming in the Year of the Ox.

As in many cultures and countries, there are certain qualities and habits linked with each animal in the Zodiac. The lion has long been a symbol of leadership and courage in English culture. The Caribbean folk tales about Anansy often portray him as a clever spider who weaves a web around foolish or malicious people.

The Ox in the Chinese Zodiac represents commitment to a task and being focussed. Telling someone they are good at multi-tasking is usually a big compliment. Multi-tasking could be texting someone whilst cooking the dinner and making a shopping list or phoning a relative while washing the dog’s muddy paw prints off the carpet. When it comes to paid work, you might be rushing to complete your monthly timesheet but break off to answer an email.

General life since the end of March 2020 seems to require us to multi-task more than ever, as daily routines can cover home working, home schooling offspring and making an effort to keep in touch with friends and family.

It may feel impossible to be like the Ox and focus on one thing at a time, but there is value in it. Taking Notice is one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing that can support our emotional wellbeing, and evidence shows that multi-tasking may raise our cortisol levels, which are linked to feelings of stress and anxiety.

My CASS colleague David talks about Taking Notice in this short video:

You can take notice through an activity, looking at a view, or listening to music. Even doing the washing up can give us the chance to notice the bubbles, feel the warmth of the water, and really see the colours of the mugs and plates. Alternatively, you could try this short 3 minute guided audio on ‘mindfulness of sounds’ while staying at home.

Some people commit a bit of time regularly to give their full attention to activities like colouring in or gardening. There are regular, free on-line sessions to focus on a different activity for an hour, such as ‘Making Picture Poems’ and ‘Mindful Portraits’, through Bristol Wellbeing College.

When it comes to paid work, make a list and focus on one task at a time, rather than having several on the go. We are often more efficient in this way, getting more done in in a steadier way. Working in this way can improve our emotional wellbeing, helping us feel calmer and less pressured. An added bonus is that this has also been shown to improve our motivation and enjoyment in our tasks.

We are living in a period of many restrictions, so getting more joy out of simple, daily life, just like the Ox, has a lot of going for it.

Subitha Baghirathan CASS Networker (Inner and East Bristol)

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