Take time out? I must be joking. Everyone is busy these days, desperately trying to multi-task and keep all the balls in the air. The experience of working from home during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 has so blurred the lines between home and work that many of us still find it difficult to create any kind of balance. FOMO – fear of missing out – is at an all time high and the excitement and novelty of finally being able to go places and do things has led to a lot of over-scheduling.
Busy Doesn’t Equal Important
Now more than ever, it seems the majority of us still feel we have to demonstrate that we are ‘keeping busy’ and ‘being productive’. While some of us were guilty of this before, our experience of the pandemic and the many lockdowns has made it even worse. We worked so hard to adapt our lives to be able to do everything from home. It seems many of us now feel that we have to continue to demonstrate just how much we can accomplish. How many times have you been met with the reply “busy” when you enquired about someone’s wellbeing?
To be fair, there are a lot of people out there trying to sell us things to help us keep busy, so it serves them to encourage us to feel we have to be. However, despite what society, the media and many advertisers would have us believe we do not have to be busy to justify our existence. There’s no requirement to be doing something productive all the time, nor should we feel we have to account for every minute of our day. It is perfectly okay to allow yourself to take time out.
Why We Need To Take Time Out
We need to nurture ourselves to give ourselves the physical and mental energy to face the challenges that arise before us. Facing even minor challenges is hard when you are feeling frazzled. We expect so much of ourselves, yet most of us stubbornly refuse to cut ourselves even the tiniest amount of slack. It isn’t surprising we feel unable to cope from time to time. It’s important to take time out so that we can nurture ourselves and let ourselves be creative.
Finding Balance By Taking Time Out
Here are some easy, inexpensive ways to take time out every day.
Enjoy your first hot drink of the day
Take your morning coffee or tea outside if it’s sunny. Sit on your front step or in your garden and spend just ten minutes enjoying your first hot drink of the day instead of gulping it down as you work. If it’s cold outside, put on something warm and spend some time enjoying the patterns the frost has made in nature. If it’s pouring down with rain, take the time to actually sit down somewhere comfortable in your house and spend ten minutes – that’s just 600 seconds – mindfully enjoying your first hot drink of the day.
Mix things up a bit to take time out
A byproduct of being busy is often an addiction to routine. We cope with a full schedule by doing things in a set order. Ever feel stressed when something unexpected crops up? That is a sure sign of an addiction to routine.
I appreciate a certain amount of structure is vital, especially when you have kids. However, if you can change the way you do things even slightly, it can be really refreshing. Change the route of a regular journey just a little bit, have a cup of herb tea instead of a coffee (or vice versa), serve breakfast for dinner or shop in a different grocery store. A change really can be as good as a rest.
“Meet” a friend
One benefit of the lockdowns are how creative it has made us in terms of connecting. Can’t meet up for a walk? Give a friend a call and you can both go for a walk on your own while having a good catch up. Of course, be sure to do this safely, and be mindful of any hazards you may come across, including traffic.
I know we all protest that we are ‘all Zoomed out’ but a twenty minute catch up over a cup of tea or coffee with a far away friend can be incredibly restorative. Not feeling the Zoom fatigue? You can even ‘meet’ to do an online class that interests you both. A year or so ago, the Pilates class I attend online recently ‘met’ for a Healthy Lunches class, where we made and enjoyed lunch together, all online.
Be a Virtual Tourist
From castles to museums, art galleries to stately homes, there are so places to explore virtually. Take time out with a virtual visit to London and ‘visit’ Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, the Parliament Buildings and more. Fans of Jane Austen can tour her Hampshire home online. Or go further afield and ‘visit’ one of my favourite galleries, The Musée d’Orsay in Paris. You can even take virtual tours of New York City. Just Google ‘virtual tours’ and your chosen city to ‘visit’ just about anywhere.
Fed up with doing everything online? How about a visit to your local library? You can “visit” just about anywhere in the world through the books you can borrow there.
This is the quickest, cheapest, easiest and most effective way to take time out I know. Simply sit still and concentrate on your breath for just one minute. Close your eyes, let your belly fill up as you inhale and concentrate on a long slow exhale, gently contracting your belly to expel all the air. Everyone has time for this – seriously, we are talking sixty seconds here – and not only does it make you feel good, it really is good for you.
Taking Time For Yourself Helps Others
Today more than ever we need to nurture ourselves with regular time out to replenish our resources, calm anxiety, nurture our creativity and even benefit those around us. We truly do have to ‘put on our own oxygen mask first’.
I hope you will use some of these suggestions to help you incorporate regular time out in your life and that you will soon be feeling the benefits.