It took me a long time to appreciate the importance of “me time”. And even now I slip up and listen to the voice in my head that screams ‘you don’t have enough time to stop for lunch let alone do a yoga class’.
Like most people, I knew that stress was bad. I knew that stress could lead to health issues like adrenal fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure and depression. But despite that knowledge, I couldn’t change my behaviour, and in fact there was a part of me (shamefully) that thrived knowing that I hadn’t stopped all day, as if that was some kind of criteria for success.
Unfortunately for me, it took some health issues (funnily enough, my body’s way of saying slow down) for me to actually make some changes. It was during my lowest point that I came to realise that I was like a runner pacing myself as though running in a 100-meter race. But actually, I was running in a marathon, in fact, many, back to back marathons that would take about 20 years to run (I figured Id run until retirement?!) That was when the penny dropped. I needed to run at a sustainable pace.
But this ‘aha’ moment was the easy part. The real challenge was allowing myself to slow down because part of me thought I should be able to sprint many many marathons. Of all the things I tried, these were what worked best for me:
1. Choose your mindset – I found that rather than thinking “Ive still got so much to do” I told myself “just do one thing at a time”, and that really helped me slow down. And I also (finally) accepted that it was OK that I hadn’t finished everything; that some things could wait until tomorrow.
I now try and go one step further and envisage myself as a calm, clear headed, balanced and happy person ready to work.
2. Focus on the positive – Taking some positives (no matter how small) from the day really helped me. One day all I could take away that was positive was that I had matching shoes on (not the case the day before!) and that my coffee was really delicious!
I was able to laugh at that and that helped greatly too. In fact, an increasing number of business writers and consultants claim that fun and humour are essential for reducing stress and enhancing employee motivation and productivity (Karl, Katherine A; Peluchette, Joy V. Journal of Behavioural and Applied Management)
3. Communicate – My stress levels were often increased when I didn’t feel in control of my situation; when things were thrown at me at times when I wasn’t in the right physical or mental state. Like saying I could be available to talk to a client at 6pm which meant leaving four hungry and tired children to fend for themselves (what could possibly go wrong?!). What I do now is communicate openly and respectfully say no. I’ll always provide two alternative solutions, which might sound something like this “Unfortunately Im not available at 6pm tonight. If it is urgent, I can find someone on my team who is available at 6pm otherwise, I’ll be free at 8:30am tomorrow”.
It doesn’t take much to change once you realise you need to, but from my experience it has to start not just with your mindset but in giving yourself permission to do so. It is not a sign of failing (Ive finally accepted) it’s the maturity to appreciate that you have one life and if you don’t slow it down it will be over too quickly. So when you’re juggling everything there must be a ball that says “ME”. My favourite me time thing is a coffee meeting with myself at a favourite café with the newspaper, my journal or just the voices in my head.
About Alysia de Saxe:
She is a (sort of) normal forty-something business manager, mother of 4, wife and friend trying to look like she is in control of her life. If you look closely enough you’ll see she has odd shoes (yes true), vegemite on the side of her face and very bad re-growth….sound familiar?