“You cant give what you don’t have”
As a community who looked at self-monitoring in the last term, I am sure we all became much more conscious of our levels of wellbeing and the things that best support them. However, we might be aware that we are feeling a bit tired, but I know we tend to soldier on in these moments, perhaps ignoring some of our warning signs and failing to take action to protect our sense of balance before the tilting of our world falls over completely.
And this happens to everyone – the more tired and more burnt-out we feel – the harder it is to stop and take action.
Some of this is perhaps due to our self-talk – the idea that we will get through this patch and it will all be ok. We talk ourselves out of recognizing the problems. At other times it might even be because we recognize the stress – but also because small amounts of stress tend to focus us. But this only works in the short term. What if you have been telling yourself it will all be ok, and that life will right itself soon for weeks and weeks now?
The only solution to this is perhaps to try to put in place some good common-sense practices that promote mental health and physical wellbeing as a continual part of our routine.
In a recent meeting of senior wellbeing leaders, here were some of the very simple and practical (and dare I say, achievable?) suggestions they presented.
Create some sacred spaces
Sometimes you have to put a date on the calendar for things that you know help you maintain balance. This could be a yoga class you MUST get to. Or a regular coffee catch up with a friend. It might even be a time each day to write in your journal. Schedule these things into your day and week and stick to them as if they were a doctor’s appointment.
Invest in some literature that nourishes you
Never underestimate the power of a good book. A work of fiction can be an absorbing form of escapism that is both quiet and mindful – and the right kind of non-fiction book can actually expand your mind and answer your questions, while allowing you some quiet time to reflect.
Take care of your nutrition.
Don’t skip meals. Eat well. All the time. It’s easy and satisfying to use food as a reward, or to indulge in takeaway when things get busy.
But like everything you put in your body, such as caffeine and alcohol, you need to make choices that improve your energy levels, rather than be detrimental to them.
Many of us try to create more time later in the day by working through breaks during the work day. But this may actually be counter-productive, making you more tired and less focused as the day progresses.
A regularly scheduled break – even a five minute microbreak – can help you feel refreshed and maintain balance and perspective.
Get others to hold you accountable
When you want to include something new in your routine, form a team. It’s harder to skip a run or a group fitness class if you know someone is there waiting for you. You might also post your goals on social media and ask for people’s support – then you know you might get questions or queries about your goal, and this positive pressure helps you find reasons to keep going.
Are there things in your life that you do out of routine, or a sense that they should be done? Do your kids need four different nights of activities per week for example? Do you need to keep going to a monthly networking dinner because it looks good on your CV, even though it makes your weekend busier?
Spend your time on the things that are really important, and really beneficial to you – the things that match your current goals. Everything else should be questioned.
Sometimes, sleep is the most valuable thing you can have. There are plenty of experts out there who will tell you that it’s perfectly ok to skip the gym and sleep for a bit longer if that’s what you feel that you need..
I think COVID demonstrated the truth of this – without having to travel to work, many of us were able to sleep in a bit more… and didn’t it feel good?
There are recommended hours of sleep we need – and we should prioritise getting these.
A breathing and mindfulness practice can be great for slowing down and managing stress. But it can also be a daily practice that helps us avoid that stress building up! Recently someone recommended whiskey breathing to me – which is a great practice to promote getting to sleep more easily.
I don’t think anyone has the ultimate recipe for perfect balance. All we can do is look out for ourselves (as we learnt in Term 1’s wellbeing work on Self-Monitoring) and others (like we will do with Term 2 with Noticing) and help them make decisions for a BETTER lifestyle, not a perfect one.
Systematize the things you want to include and find ways to make them easier and non-negotiable.
And for leaders of teams (or of families!) modelling is the key. Make the right decisions for yourself and you give tacit permission for others to do the same!
Photo by Spencer Selover from Pexels