Here's a question for you, when someone asks you how you are what do you tend to reply?
Last time I checked 'busy' was not a feeling-based word - and yet 'busy' seems to be all that so many of us are these days.
Busy, stressed and overwhelmed
We're attempting to do more, have more, achieve more, and be more. And this need to fully 'show up' in every aspect of our lives means a lot of juggling: juggling our time, our emotions and our wellbeing.
Being busy, stressed, or overwhelmed seems so common place, that when we aren't feeling those things we can begin to wonder why. Consciously or subconsciously, many people believe the more we do, the better and more successful our lives will be.
Yet, whilst it is important to strive for the things you want in life, isn't it time that we begin to celebrate slowing down, relaxing more and working less?
Listening to our body
In the same way that our phones or laptops tell us when they are about to run out of battery, our body's natural mechanisms are trying to tell us the same. But sometimes, we're just not listening. When we are feeling tired or fatigued we often find ourselves reaching for a caffeine or sugar fix instead of catching up on more sleep.
Going beyond our limits
When we are time-constrained we can tend to over exert ourselves; working longer hours or finding that we are squeezing in emails on our Saturday mornings, and are often left feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
We can find ourselves equating relaxation to laziness, or thinking "I'll take some down time next week after I've got through this massive deadline" but pushing ourselves to - or beyond - our limit isn't helpful. How productive can you be when you are trying to do too much at once? How attentive can you be in that Monday morning meeting if you're feeling exhausted?
Wiped-out and burnt-out
By trying to fit too much in, we increase our stress levels, feelings of being overwhelmed and we can end up not focusing on our overall well-being (nutrition, sleep, exercise, fresh air) which in turn leads to us feeling wiped out.
In listening to our body's messages and becoming more aware of our needs, we can learn when we need to recharge our batteries or 'push the reset button' - and thus avoid the burn-out that we might often experience.
Improving our health and happiness
Increasingly, research shows that caring for our wellbeing can improve every part of our health and happiness; even spending just a few minutes practising slower breathing has been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve cognitive abilities, and prevent disease.
Below are a few ways you can easily incorporate a daily recharge and a weekly reset into your schedule. These will help you steer clear of burnout, improve your wellbeing and help you to be more efficient and focused in both your work and home life.
Work smarter, not harder
If you are finding your workload all a bit too much right now, it's time to start assigning what is and isn't a priority. Make a list of 'urgent for today', 'urgent for this week' and 'can be left for now' and break down everything you need to do in to those three boxes. Once you've got it clear in your head what is and isn't a priority you can start working in a more effective manner.
Lose the distraction
Do you find you get distracted by non-urgent emails, texts and notifications? It might not just be disturbing you in the moment, but also having an impact on the rest of your day. So, make an effort to keep your phone away from your desk and solely focus on the task at hand. Give yourself set times to check your inbox: this may help you not get distracted from your urgent priorities and to work more efficiently. (Say hello to leaving the office on time!)
Take your lunch break
When our workload gets heavier we tend to skip lunch in order to get more done. Initially it makes sense, right? Bin your break and gain an extra sixty minutes to get more of your work done? This is fine from time to time, perhaps even necessary, if you have a last-minute project, but when it becomes part of your every day, this is not going to be helping you.
You simply can't be fully productive for a full working day if you spend that entire time at your desk or computer. Our brains need different types of stimulation and, equally, rest periods so we can refocus.
Again it's all about working smarter, not harder. Evidence shows that something as little as a twenty-minute stroll can increase blood flow to the brain, which can boost creative thought and also improve memory and cognitive performance. So find the time over lunch to step away from your computer, move your body, eat something nutritious and come back feeling refreshed.
Every day do one thing that is just for you. I don't care what it is, but it needs to be something that - whether it takes an hour or just five minutes - you are doing it purely because it makes you feel great! When we are busy and stressed we often put our own needs last. If we're busy at work it's easy to think 'I'll just crack on this week and then take some time for myself at the weekend'.
But welcoming in 'you time' in your Monday-Friday is a way to create more balance in life as a whole. So, create time for that morning coffee, that lunch with a friend, the date night with your partner or enjoying an early night in by yourself.
Prioritising sleep is essential in maintaining your health and wellbeing, especially when you are feeling more stressed than usual. Make sleep your priority and make sure you are getting at least seven hours a night. This may mean you will need to make some adjustments to your night-time routine, to enable you to get to bed earlier. The renewed energy and larger sense of calm will make it well worth it!
Spending time just by ourselves, with no friends, family, phones, work or distractions is a rarity these days but oh so important. Finding time once a week (or even more if possible) to do something just for you, whether it be that you take yourself off for a run, to a coffee shop with a book, try out a new recipe, head out hiking or go for a solo dinner, is a great way to connect back in with yourself and restore your energy.
Aim to spend one day or one evening a week with your phone on airplane mode. Trust me, it's so freeing! Embrace being in the moment and stepping away from technology for a complete mind overhaul.
'No work' days
We don't realise how often we let our work slide into our days off, and innocently think 'what harm can checking my emails do?' well, quite a bit actually. If you are always permitting yourself to be available to your work then you are, perhaps unknowingly, always putting yourself in 'fight or flight' mode, and this can be anxiety-provoking.
Set yourself - at least - one day a week where you will not do anything in relation to your work and job. This is time that you acknowledge you will give yourself a real break from your 'work brain'. You will not do anything work-related - including looking at emails - and will switch off any work-provided phone.
Back to nature
As much as physically possible, do spend time in nature. There is already research to say that exposure to nature can reduce hypertension, respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses; improve vitality and mood; benefit issues of mental wellbeing such as anxiety; and restore attention capacity and mental fatigue.
But even more than that, being in nature is a great way to feel refreshed, embrace the moment, become more mindful and reduce anxiety. Be it heading down to the local park, going out for a long walk in the countryside or setting time aside for a trip to the beach, it will make the world of difference for your mind and body.
Emilia Francesca is an internationally-certified Life & Wellness Coach, helping people embrace what they truly want and find fulfilment, www.emiliafrancesca.com