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Sunday, 19 July 2015 00:00

Living Life on Autopilot

Written by Kristi C.

Some mornings, when the day comes way too soon, you have no choice but to get up and face the day after yet another sleepless night. You shower, dress, paint on a happy face, and bundle out the door to go to work. You drive the same car down the same streets past the same other commuters. It’s almost as if your car could make the drive without you. You are just a passenger in your life, watching out the window as more interesting things pass you by. The workday progresses the same way. At the end of the day, you head back home. Later in the evening, you try to follow through your nighttime rituals with a positive heart before falling into bed for another night where sleep eludes you, dancing just out of your reach.

How did it come this far? What happened to the life you started living in your teens where fun and excitement followed you around waiting to see what would happen next. The days where night would fade to dawn and you would fall into bed exhausted in the late morning and sleep straight through until evening before getting up and doing it all again. When did the joy of living become the drudgery of existing, day-by-day? Weeks faded into months and before you knew it, another year had passed. Now, you wonder how you steer yourself out of the rut you have created?

This scenario is actually quite common. After the thrill of the teenage years and the early twenties, many people expect to continue living on the edge where substance abuse and alcohol are stress relievers to be utilized as a maintenance protocol. Unfortunately, burnout is inevitable and when it happens, it can ruin lives. Some of the most notorious burnouts happen in the spotlight of Hollywood or the music industry. Think back to Charlie Sheen or Britney Spears as examples. Others occur in the wealthy neighborhoods that are seen as being protected from such illicit activities. Sad news: Fame and wealth do not ensure happiness. Inner peace and self-esteem do not come from status. The fact is life only has meaning when it feels important. Going through life on autopilot is indicative of not finding meaning.

In order to get out of the rut, you have to develop new healthy habits and create a positive routine to add meaning to your life. It isn’t enough to just get up, go to work, come home, and sleep. You have to add in quality activities, personal interactions, and companionship. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by taking up a hobby, preferably one that requires meeting with or learning from other people on a regular schedule. Painting classes, for example, cover many skill levels and can often be found in local community centers. If you would prefer not to develop a hobby, you could volunteer your time. A wide range of opportunities is available for volunteers. Some places that accept volunteers include churches, schools, scout organizations, senior living facilities, and animal rescue organizations. You can also volunteer on a one-on-one basis with friends, family, and neighbors. Just make sure you plan these activities on a regular schedule to develop a routine of interacting with others. Regularly volunteering and participating with other people in group activities allows us to build emotional connections to others and develop a healthy routine and get out of the rut we have developed while on autopilot. Through these and other meaningful activities, we begin to emotionally experience life again which leads to finding joy and meaning in living.

Remember, having a routine is not the same as living on autopilot. Positive rituals and routines can be cathartic after an emotional breakage. If you have suffered an emotional breakage, seeking assistance is critical to recovery but you have to be willing to turn off the autopilot and take control of your life again. After all, autopilot was originally designed as an aviation tool to take over briefly during an in flight emergency. It was never intended to land the plane. A pilot was needed for that. So, go ahead, get back in the pilot’s seat.

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