Many of us are extremely busy. Be it that we are managing demands with work and family or we are making time for the gym, running errands etc. Perhaps we are working on launching a side business or wanting to devote more time to learn a new skill or spend more time with friends. During the hustle and bustle of daily living, and the way information seems to be bombarding us with several different inputs, especially with social media and the 24-hour news cycle, it is easy to find ourselves overwhelmed and 'stretched too thin.' However, by taking time for ourselves during the work day, if even a few minutes, we can significantly increase the level of 'energy reserves' we have. We can start to feel more recharged and resilient throughout the day with a simple reset.
Taking times for ourselves, as cliche as it sounds, is one of the best activities we can do to calm our minds and reset our focus throughout the day. Taking time for ourselves, to recharge, by focusing on our breathing, going for a walk in nature, meditating, listening to calming music, can be crucial in managing our energy. Counterintuitively, it allows us to be more productive overall so that we can respond more fully to the demands of daily living.
If we are knowledge workers, we know it can be strenuous to maintain focus and mental effort throughout the day. It's our job to think through ideas, make decisions, respond to various information and inputs. Perhaps we must write reports or deal with clients or service providers. We must exercise our minds, the same way we use a muscle. However, how many of us take the time to recharge, to slow down and allow our brains to catch up? Without proper attention to centring and checking in on ourselves, our lives can easily lead to burnout.
I worked in child protection for over eight years as a Social Worker. There were constant demands on my time, with a high caseload and paperwork, a high degree of responsibility and challenging client situations. The circumstances of the 9-5, often demanded immediate responses and quick decisions. I know on the days where I took the time to reset, be it to spend some time in nature or to take 10-20 minutes to meditate after lunch, allowed myself to recharge and meet the day more fully. It gave me greater focus throughout the day, allowing me to be more present with my clients and more fully engaged in my work. However, too few of us take the time to do just that. Perhaps we think there's not enough time during the day or we feel obliged to 'be on' for the entirety of the workday. Or maybe we feel guilty taking 20-30 minutes for ourselves, believing that it is selfish or unproductive. We may think we're lazy or that it has no positive effect on our overall mood and focus throughout the day. We simply are too busy we tell ourselves. However, by taking the time to shut off from our devices and demands on our time - to reconnect with our inner self - we are allowing space to more fully present to the busyness of the day.
I know on the days where I took the time to reset, be it to spend some time in nature or to take 10-20 minutes to meditate after lunch, allowed myself to recharge and meet the day more fully. It gave me greater focus throughout the day, allowing me to be more present with my clients and more fully engaged in my work.
Just ask yourself, when you feel overwhelmed during the day, what do you usually do? Many of us retreat, be it in social media or by taking to the colleague down the hall. Of course, nothing is wrong with these activities, when done in moderation, but what about taking the time to recenter - to spend time consciously tuning in? Maybe the focus and the presence we so desperately want and need during a day will occur with such a routine; it just may allow us to be more fully present for the important people in our lives and to stay on task and accomplish more.
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Here are three quick takeaway activities, which will help you to recenter yourself throughout your workday. You may want to try just one. Pay attention to the results and see if it gives you that relief your mind and body need to rejuvenate. I'd suggest trying one of these activities just after lunch. For as we know with circadian rhythm, our bodies operate and respond to different times during the day (a topic I'll explore in a future article). Many of us often experience that 'afternoon dip' (at least I know I do), which can erode how productive we are during the rest of the day.
- Controlled Breathing I love controlled breathing for a variety of reason. Mostly because it helps me calm my mind and connect with my body. Try the 7-3 method. Inhale for 7 seconds through your nose. Hold for three seconds and then breath out for 7 seconds. Repeat this for two to three minutes, or as long as you have time. You may also want to try alternate nostril breathing (or Nadi Shodhan Pranayama) for a different and somewhat more advanced technique.
- Spend Time in Nature Go for a walk without any inputs from 'other minds.' 'Other minds,' coined by the author Kal Newport, of the excellent book, Digital Minimalism, basically means to shut off any inputs or words being communicated to you. So this means to put away the headphones in order to listen to your latest podcast or your favourite latest song. Instead, walk in nature and take in the scenery with all five senses. Breath in the scents, feel the gown beneath your step. Pay attention to the bristling leaves or birds chirping.
- Put on Some Headphone, Close Your Eyes and Listen to Some Calming Music Maybe you have a favourite type of genre of music. Perhaps it's classical? Maybe piano music. Perhaps you have an app on your phone, such as Calm or Headspace for this sort of thing. Whatever it is, put on your headphones and tune into the rhythms, instruments and the melody. I like soundtracks scores to relax. You cannot go wrong with Hans Zimmer or The Social Network Soundtrack to let go and tune in.