Oh, the healing power of time to pause and reflect! So very grateful to have had a successful year in 2015, I had the opportunity to celebrate with family for a nice vacation away from home. But when we came back home, I didn't hit the ground running, like I normally would, not this time. Something happened to me while I was away, and I want to share with you what I've learned...
This past year I was aware that I was pushing myself to the limit almost constantly, without much rest, until my body would start to send me messages that I needed a break. I would only heed those messages when necessary, finally pausing for a day or so to catch my breath. After almost a full year of constantly pushing myself, my body, mind, and spirit were so relieved to finally have a break. I was able to rest, to move my body freely, every day, not confined to a desk or computer. I was able to do the things that I enjoy, be with people I love and who love me. I was able to see the world in a different light, stopping to notice the small things and enjoying the simple pleasures, even including ice cream. Yep! Sometimes what you want is what you need. I was able to take the time to ponder some things that had been on my mind but that I never had enough time to give much thought. In doing so, I made some life-changing decisions that have made me a better person and will forever have a positive impact. I opened my heart and soul; I listened; I became a more compassionate, loving, selfless person, all because I took the time to just BE. And from that experience I made some commitments to myself for this year, going forward:
Breathe. Just breathe. It's so good for us to take full, deep breaths, and when I'm not in a yoga class, being told to breathe deeply, I usually don't do it. Yet, I remember how good it feels, how much lighter, sharper, calmer, refreshed I feel when I take the time to do it. It really only takes a few minutes a day. This year, when I feel uptight, tired, stagnant, I'm going to walk away from the situation and take a few moments to breathe deeply.
Schedule time to move your body in a balanced way. As much as I knew it was good for me to exercise, I didn't get enough movement, especially the kind to balance myself. When your body stays tense a lot, stretching is a very suitable form of movement. When you're stressed or anxious, yoga or a relaxing walk might be in order. When you have a lot on your mind and you feel boxed in, sometimes taking a jog helps you to clear your mind and feel free. Our bodies are made for movement; yet, most of us, especially those in a professional setting sit all day. Eating healthy has been a priority for me, but I let movement slip through the cracks, and I paid the price. This year I'm going to keep a diagram of stretches I can do at work, to remind me to move throughout the day.
Take time to plan, on a regular basis. When you don't ever stop and remove yourself from the motions, to see where you are, what you've done, and where you're going, you can't effectively move forward. You start to feel like you're in a hamster wheel, running like crazy but getting nowhere. You're in no position to make sound decisions and evaluate your actions. Sometimes you need to stop and assess whether what you're doing is working or not. Sometimes you need someone else's opinion, a fresh perspective, a new idea. That's why it's really important to try to plan OUTSIDE of your usual space. Go somewhere beautiful that helps you to be more creative and changes your perspective. You might be surprised at what you see.
Manage your energy. You thought I was going to say time, right? Time management is certainly important, but I've found that energy managment can be just as important if not more important. Managing your energy is about knowing when to do what. For example, if I know that I need to spend time writing, I get a lot more done if I have a large block of time in the morning, when I'm at my freshest. Once that's done, I can concentrate on other things around the house or business items that are quick and don't require a lot of energy or concentration.
Just say "No." I've laid out my goals for this year, then I've prioritized what must be done in order to achieve those goals. Last year a lot of my overwhelm and inability to accomplish some of my goals came from overcommitment. That can quickly lead to burnout and frustration. With so many opportunities available to us, sometimes it's hard to let them pass us by, but if we always keep the end in mind, it will help us to make better decisions that support our end goal(s).
Love and enjoy your environment. This month, I invested in a new home office. It has a standing desk that will help me with my posture and circulation. I also purchased things that I not only need but also enjoy. Since it's a space I'll often use, it should be aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. Of course, organizational tools are important too, as a cluttered space can easily cause a cluttered mind and unease.
Don't neglect your relationships. Sometimes when we get so busy, we put our to-do list before our relationships. If you're a type-A personality like myself, you might scorn social time as a waste of time. But remember that a healthy social life is just as important for your health as a good diet and exercise. It's considered a part of our "primary food" (something other than actual food that nourishes us). Deep relationships can give us a different kind of fuel, for the soul. Maybe it's time to meet some new people and form bonds with the ones who feed your soul and make you a better person.
Get away. Don't forget to plan time for a few meaningful breaks. If it's several small breaks, here and there, or one or two larger breaks, whatever works for you, you have to make the time to unwind outside of your usual environment. Be sure to completely unplug from the work and devices. Experience the beauty of nature to help you unwind. Watch how nature does it; it's never in a hurry, yet, it all gets done somehow. Let it teach you something.
You might be wondering what all of those commitments have to do with health. A LOT. Did you notice I didn't mention food at all? Well, for me, that's not a struggle. I find it easier to take care of my body in that way but struggle to take care of it in other ways. And what of the mind and spirit? I believe that we get caught up in taking care of our bodies because we see them and end up neglecting what is out of sight. These are my own personal battles. What are yours?
How will you make this year different? I'm not a big fan of new year resolutions, but I do believe that the beginning of a year offers us the opportunity to look back and consider a lot. Was last year a reflection of the life you want to live? If so, then figure out what made it so great and do more of that. If not, consider what behaviors and actions need to exit stage left to leave room for new habits that will be life-transforming.