My 2022 focus is considering how to better live my life— both in the present and for my future, wiser self. This aligns with my professional mission: to coach my clients to live their best lives, too. This has, honestly, become a tad challenging on both fronts, as external factors have their say as well. But considering we’re two years into a pandemic, our “best lives for the moment” could offer a powerful reframing opportunity.
Since most of us, myself included, aren’t in a gleeful emotional state these days, thank goodness for habits and practices! These daily rituals ensure that I’m “doing right by” myself. When I partake in the 8 practices I’ve established as my core habits, I know that I’ve contributed to the revival of my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy tanks. These practices don’t take long, and yet, they’re the fuel that keeps me going.
Michele, a current client whose self-care is self admittedly abysmal, is eager to follow my lead. But she’s running into an interesting yet understandable challenge. It’s not that she’s avoiding her self-designed practices, but that she’s forgetting to practice them. Her intentions are good, but the day keeps getting away from her.
When we dug into the details of her daily sprint, Michele recognized that she gets dragged into the black hole of back-to-back meetings, interoffice email, Slack AND text messaging. Before she knows it, the daylight is gone, and her brain is exhausted.
At our last session, Michele was reporting in on her past week’s efforts. Three entire workdays had gotten away from her with no self-care to speak of. She would turn around and 9pm had arrived. While I was feeling compassion for her, I was also becoming irritated, as cars drove by my office window too fast. ARGGGH! Our street needs speedbumps!
But from my distraction came an epiphany. I suggested to Michele that she build speedbumps into her day. We played around with ideas about clever ways to make it nearly impossible not to slow down and recharge her brain. I explained that our mental energy is the most quickly drained, but also the most quickly refreshed. In as little as 2 minutes per hour, one can rejuvenate their money maker— the prefrontal cortex. “Speedbumps” are reminders to do just that!
We came up with a plan to insert times into her day to intentionally slow down and refresh her mental energy. I invited her to think of these speedbumps as Permission to Pause.
Here are some ideas about how you can take A MINUTE at different times of the day to come to the present:
- Start Off Your Day on the Right Foot.
- For many of us, our negativity bias kicks in before we even get out of bed, with whiny messages like, “I shouldn’t have (eaten that, drank that, bought that, been impatient, snapped at…). So, first thing each morning, consider something or someone you’re grateful for and write it down. Find something unique each day to focus on.
- Fine-Tune Your Focus.
- Before calls and meetings, take a minute to do my favorite 3-breath meditation. These breaths serve to invite oxygen into your brain, check in with your emotions, and find laser focus on the task at hand. Now THAT’S effective multi-tasking!
- Maximize Your Mental Energy.
- Set yourself up for success as you’re engaging in ‘heavy lifting’ work. I think of these activities as requiring creativity, attention to detail and the ability to assess the big picture. After doing your 3-breath meditation, set a timer for between 20 and 50 minutes and engage in the Pomodoro Technique. This gives you the headspace to laser focus on the work at hand without worrying about time. If you’re not convinced that 20 minutes is enough time to do anything substantial, consider that great books have been written in 20-minute spans of time.
- Reflect, Refresh and Rejoice!
- After that timer goes off, take a moment to reflect on what you’ve done, give yourself a mental fist pump and then… take a break. Physically GET UP, go to the window and stare out at the horizon as far as you can see. This serves to recalibrate your eyes. After all, you’ve probably been staring myopically at a computer screen. Let your brain and eyes reset their focus.
- Return to What’s Important.
- Consider a “transition ritual”. Especially if you are working from home, it’s important to transition from work life to home life. That was the beauty of your commute in the before times. Ideally, a transition ritual would be something somatic, like yoga or a brisk walk or a cup of tea— feeling each sip as it warms your body. But even the thoughtful action of mindfully closing down your computer and announcing to yourself that you’re now going to focus on your family/friends/pet is enough to shift your attention. Some of my clients like to imagine themselves taking off their “work hat” and placing it on a hypothetical hat rack.
These one-minute ideas may seem silly. However, small actions drive BIG outcomes. Each time you engage in these activities, you’re using neuroplasticity to your advantage. Your reward is greater clarity, focus and fulfillment.
I invite you to invest in these 5 easy moves to feed your brain. I’m also curious about what you currently do to refresh during the day?
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