Breathe, Reset, Refuel. Rinse, Repeat.
I have been thinking a lot about energy and pacing lately.
More specifically, I have been reflecting on the fuel that we put in our tanks with the aim to do our best at work, to care for our loved ones and to get a few (or many) of the grown-up things off our list.
I don’t know about you, but I think that, although being an adult has many perks – like eating what we want, when we want (toast for dinner! Popcorn for breakfast!) and going to bed early or staying up too late to watch our favourite shows (ok, maybe I watched Pippi Longstocking too many times. My goodness, I loved her so…) – sometimes being a responsible grown-up can feel really overwhelming.
At this very moment, I can hear my washing machine rattling like an airplane taking off. The repair person told me it’s finished, and we need a new one. Well, ok, he told me that in August and that if I didn’t do anything, one day it would leak all over the place. But I got busy, and so it’s on the List.
My furnace too, apparently needs replacing – on the List.
I have 93 unread emails that all say “TIME SENSITIVE!” – on the List.
Today, my son lost his dorm keys and is asking me to find them in his bedroom at home and ship them to him urgently. My daughter just called. She needs me to call our insurance company about something ASAP. On the List!
A friend just had very upsetting news, and I deeply care about him, so he’s on my mind right now, too.
That’s probably only 1% of my list, but it all rattles around in my head, trying to prioritize and make sure I don’t drop too many balls.
Can you relate to this?
(Note that there is nothing on that list about self-care, it just gets pushed to the bottom, because, you know, it can wait, right?)
Are you “the General” in your life?
I recently pinched something in my arm which caused this weird impingement all the way from my shoulder, into my elbow and into my hand. It wasn’t horrible, but it was very uncomfortable. I wasn’t able to use my arm to drive or do yoga or carry things or sleep properly.
“Poor posture” was the physio’s diagnosis. (Wow. Thanks!) When that didn’t help, I went to see a great massage therapist and he hummed and hawed and tapped and poked and prodded. After a solid hour of this, he said to me: “Are you the General in your life? At work and at home?”
Well, yes, as a matter of fact I am.
I think of myself as an ultra-responsible, reliable, loving, caring person (read “Disappoint Someone Today” for more on this, if you want). I have two members of my family who live with ADHD which can lead to some very interesting and sometimes intense situations for them and for the rest of our family. I think of them as neuro-exceptional as they are super bright, passionate, high energy people – but they also struggle with lost items, low frustration tolerance, intense irritability and a need for order to manage the chaos that frequently enters their brain.
We openly talk about this in my home, and we have developed many strategies over the years to help reduce stress for all of us. But sometimes, it’s a lot.
At the end of our session, the massage therapist gave me this advice:
“Less planning, less thinking, more rest, more quiet, long walks, and more expressive arts – use the part of your brain that doesn’t require thinking and being in charge all the time.”
He was basically saying “Slow down! Quiet that mind a bit!
How much is enough?
We were training a wonderful group recently, and one participant asked us: “How much self-care is the recommended amount?” This is a surprisingly tough question to answer.
My amazing co-facilitator replied something like this: “I don’t think that the aim is to race through our days at rocket speed and then collapse in a heap at the end of the day on our couch or yoga mat and call that “self-care”. I think that self-care needs to be a moment by moment process, where we notice, we pause, we breathe, and then we keep on doing what we’re doing, if we have to, or we take some time out to refuel and reset.”
I drove my son back to university yesterday. It’s a stressful 3-hour drive on a major highway. Lots of trucks, freezing rain, bad drivers … you know the kind of drive I’m talking about.
After dropping him off, I drove another 45 minutes through even worse conditions and went to my favourite airport hotel on my way to a gig out-of-province. And, get this – that hotel has a wicker swing in the lobby! You know those big egg-shaped swings from the 70s? I swear, if they get rid of that swing I’m never going to that hotel again.
Anyhow, I sat cross legged in that swing for three hours, answering emails, reading a book and just rocking gently and resting. I could feel my nervous system calming right down and after this lovely pause, I felt completely refreshed. I texted a friend and said “I don’t need a week long trip to the beach, I just need three hours in a swing!”
So, for all of us, what are micro-moments that we can integrate in our days so that we can reset, refuel and take pause when we don’t have a three-hour blissful break from everything?
And yes, I’m going to work on my posture too.
I don’t think that the aim is to race through our days at rocket speed and then collapse in a heap at the end of the day on our couch or yoga mat and call that “self-care”. I think that self-care needs to be a moment by moment process.
Read Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by business psychologist, Tony Crabbe. In this book, he sets out to debunks the myth that satisfaction at work comes from getting everything done.
Check out Calm, one of the leading apps for meditation. They offer a free version as well as a paid subscription for $69.99/year.