Only a couple of weeks into a new year and already many of you tell me you are struggling. Some of you had the best intentions to change your lot in 2014, particularly to reduce the stresses and strains of work, but nothing really seems to have changed. And yet, maybe jumping in exactly where you left off in December and hoping for the best was not exactly what I had in mind, when I suggested you take that first step towards achieving a better level of self-care?
Don’t get me wrong not everyone is struggling, some of you are running excitedly with today’s new challenges, and some of you are lucky enough to have fairly relaxed working or otherwise lives. If that is the case go ahead and feel a little smug that you have worked it out – but if it hasn’t always been the case, perhaps you could dip into your reserves of empathy for those guys and girls, who often struggle to see even the smallest chink of light in their busy lives.
All I can really do is once again underline how important self-care it for our mental and physical well being, and share some of my own experiences and tips about finding the time to take just a few moments out every single day for yourself. Yes we know it makes sense, but how many of us actually do it? And how many of us don’t do it simply because we don’t really know how or because there is a perception that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do self-care? Some people will tell you that self care is all about yoga and things like Tai Chi, but seriously, how many of us can cut our busy days to do something like that let alone find a tranquil place to do so? But that’s the funny thing about self-care; you don’t have to do anything. I notice some people put self-care into their routine as a forced thing. Then they feel tired out from it, and forget the fun part. The interesting thing is that self-care should be the fun part. My definition of self-care is letting yourself do whatever you want to do. If yoga, meditating, or writing a journal isn’t your thing, don’t do it. It won’t work.
Self-care only works when you listen to your body, and do what you want without resistance. For me, I’ve learned to do what I want to do in the moment. So if I randomly feel like reading a few pages of a novel or going for a walk, I do it. I don’t push it aside or promise myself I’ll do it later, I do it right then. Why? Because in that moment my body is telling me it needs a break. My mind is probably overwhelmed with other thoughts, and trying to do work at that moment would be a highly unproductive, waste of time. And when I do what I want in the moment, when I sit back down to work, everything gets done in a much easier way. Because now I’m relaxed, I’m not resisting anything. My mind is free to produce what it really wants, and my body feels much more relaxed.
I’m pretty certain you’re thinking: oh, well he works for himself, so he can do that. Well, you can do it too. It doesn’t matter where you are, or whether you are employed, self employed, between jobs, or busy running a house and looking after the kids, because it only takes a small amount of time. When I was working the 9 to 5, I would take several moments in the day just to step out of what I was doing, step away from the stress and feel good. I didn’t even have to leave the office. I would read something or simply look at pictures I enjoyed for a minute or two, I remember one picture, a sunflower framed by a blue sky hung by my desk so, whenever I needed a timeout I would just look into it (not at it) and suck up those healing colours with my eyes. I discovered that sixty seconds can be enough just to decompress from the negativity that stress often creates. At lunch, perhaps I would read a newspaper or a book or sometimes try and take a short walk.
I attribute those small moments as keeping my energy, sanity and inspiration up so I could explore new things inside or outside of work later in the day. I expect some of you will claim you have high stress, can’t stop for a minute jobs. But how hard is it really to find a minute or two, here and there, in your day. Two minutes from the 500 or so most of you spend at work every single day? Go on try it, it isn’t that hard, but the benefits of a 60 second break can seriously outweigh the difficulties of the day and will ultimately put you in a much better place to deal with the stresses to come. When you don’t take the time to check into your body, you don’t notice that your body may be starting to flare up with pain or stress. Regard it as taking a moment to check in with your mind and body’s equilibrium.
By learning to allow yourself these moments, you will gradually feel a sense of freedom, which will always produce a much better state of emotional wellbeing. So start by giving yourself a 60 second break just three times a day. I know you’ll see a difference once it is firmly part of your routine. But try not to forget it, you really must keep it going, even when the times are more relaxed, because when it comes to self-care, practice honestly does make perfect.