Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
These days, it's so easy to get caught up in the trap of keeping busy rather than taking time out for ourselves. In fact, we may feel the need to justify any activity that isn't work related, because over the years we've repeatedly been told what we should and shouldn't do - by our parents, teachers and now our employers.
Keeping up our energy to stay on top of all the demands of our modern lifestyle requires we recharge our energy on a regular basis. Of course, we get energy from eating well, from breathing, from exercise. But we also get energy from doing the things that give us a sense of joy and of belonging.
Our requirements are all different. For some, it's retreating into a quiet place while for others they like to be amongst a crowd. Our needs vary from day to day, depending on the situations we find ourselves in. Listening to and taking care of those needs - being good to ourselves - is an important part of optimal wellbeing. When we are loved and cared for, almost anything is easy. When we are deprived, tired, needy, even the smallest detail becomes an overwhelming task.
Take some time out from your busy schedule, from the 'seriousness' of work and embark on an activity that lightens the load, feeds your soul and your body, too. It need not be something that takes a huge amount of time, either - just sitting at your desk, taking a few long, deep breaths and sitting in silence for a minute can be enough to recharge those batteries and equip you to continue with your day.
What are the things you can do to be good to yourself today? Here are some of my favourites:
- sitting under my favourite tree, taking in the beauty of nature
- going for a walk - long or short - just to 'get away from it all'
- writing in my journal
- taking a trip away - especially to a foreign country
- enjoying a pleasant meal with my husband
Make your own list, and when you've completed it, make a promise with yourself to do one thing off the list each day. You'll find you feel good about yourself, and you'll be amazed at how much more productive your day is if you can be good to yourself.
There's nothing I like more than going to my favourite outdoor spot, sitting under "my" tree, and looking out over the ocean. It's not really my tree, of course - it doesn't belong to me - it's not even planted in my property. It's one I've adopted ... and I think it has adopted me.
Here's a photo of my tree, taken this morning on our weekend walk. I like to sit under it, and lean against it's trunk. Sometimes there are other people at my happy place, and it makes me smile to know that others get pleasure from being there too. Unusually today, no one else was there - it was just for me to enjoy.
I call it my "happy place" - I am able to sit here and just be. I feel calm and relaxed when I am here. This is often where my creative self comes to life, where my ideas come from. It's also a great place for reflection - it's where I come when I want to think something over.
If, during the day, something happens that causes me to feel down, and I am not able to get there, I conjure up this picture in my mind, and mentally take myself to this happy place. I recall the sights, sounds and smells from my memory, and imagine the sun and cool breeze. I find that even doing this for a couple of minutes, combined with a few long, deep breaths, can be enough to change the mood, lift my spirits and set my on my way again.
How do you restore balance in your life? Do you have a happy place?
I've always believed in "walking the talk" - that you shouldn't ask someone to do something you won't do yourself - and as an Executive Wellness and Life Coach, I'm promoting the importance of exercise ... but i have a confession to make - apart from long walks at the weekends, I've not been following my own advice.
I've never been a gym junkie. Even during my school days, during breaks and lunch times, you would find me in the music room, practicing the piano, rather than out in the playground.
Over the years, I've 'failed', over and over, to take up and maintain a regular exercise regime. I've lost count of how many times I've joined a gym and not used it, or started a fitness class and lost interest or found an 'excuse' not to go - week after week - until, unconsciously, I'd created a new habit - one of not going!
I went through a phase where I worked one-on-one with a personal trainer. She was a lot of fun - worked me hard, made it fun, but after a while, even that lost it's appeal, and I stopped.
The really interesting thing is that I am not alone in this cycle of setting my resolve, taking action, and not maintaining momentum. I have clients who tell me that they are thinking about starting a diet, or quitting smoking, or giving up alcohol ... several times ... and done nothing about it. Or that they started a new regime, were all excited at the beginning, but lapsed back into bad habits as soon as things got a little tough. If this sounds familiar, it might also make you give out a sigh of relief, as it's normal!!
So, over the past month, I've done some research into local gyms, and found one that interests me. I've joined. My commitment is to go three times a week, to follow a personalised program, with the aim of getting fitter, feeling better about myself, losing weight, toning up. I recognise it took me all my life to get to where I am today, so the improvements will not happen overnight. But I know that long before I see the results externally, they will be happening internally. Already my body gives me little messages - after a workout, I am reminded by my muscles that they have been used after a long period of inactivity - and I get a little "feel good" feeling. That's quite good payment. But this gym is clever. You pay up front for 13 weeks at a time. You get a receipt at the end of the 13 weeks for the sessions you've attended, which you can then submit to your private health company for a rebate. Don't attend all the sessions you've paid for and you can't claim it back! Good incentive, heh! Secondly, you have to book in for the hour(s) you want to work out. They limit the number of clients in the gym at any one time, which means the trainers can give you individual attention - they are constantly checking that you are doing the exercise correctly, as well as ensuring that the level of difficulty is gradually increased, so you are constantly stretching yourself ever so gently a little bit more each time. This requirement to book in advance was initially a negative in my mind - after all, I run my own business - I need to be able to be flexible. My version of flexible, if I am honest, probably means not turning up and skipping sessions if I don't make a specific time in my diary. So my exercise appointments are in the diary before anything else, and I fit my business in around something for me. Of course, I can change those times if I need to, but it is so good to have them already scheduled. And because I go to the same sessions every week, I am getting to meet and make friends with the other clients - which is a clever way of "locking me in" without me feeling duped!!
So, I'll let you know how I am getting on, and what insights I have along the way. And I'd love to know your thoughts/experiences - are you one of those sporty types who love exercising and feel on top of the world when you participate? Or are you more like me, having to drag yourself along?