Taking 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 pandemic has made us busier than ever. Working from home seems to have expanded to fill even more time than it did when we were working elsewhere. Those who still have to go into their places of work are contending personal space issues as well as other work issues. For some of us there are also childcare, home schooling and elderly and vulnerable relatives to think about.
Spending more time at home means our homes need more cleaning and upkeep. Also, most of us ate out from time to time, even if it was just grabbing a sandwich at M&S. However with restaurants closed and takeaway food only available a few days a week, most of us are making up to 21 meals a week – and snacks.
Busy Doesn’t Equal Important
Yet, despite all this, the majority of us seem to feel we have to demonstrate that we are ‘keeping busy’ and ‘being productive’.
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.
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 to let ourselves be creative.
Finding Balance By Taking Time Out
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 what I’m talking about.
I appreciate a certain amount of structure is vital, particularly in a pandemic and 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
We all look forward to when we will be able to meet face to face, but even now in lockdown, you can take time out to connect. One benefit of lockdown is 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. Or have a cup of tea or coffee on Zoom. You can even ‘meet’ to do an online cooking class or another kind of class that interests you both. The Pilates class I attend online recently ‘met’ for a Healthy Lunches class, where we made and enjoyed lunch together, all on Zoom.
Be a Virtual Tourist
We may not be able to travel very far at the moment, but there are lots of places that offer online tours. From castles to museums, art galleries to stately homes, there are so places to explore virtually. Make 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 a virtual helicopter tour of New York City or ‘tour’ the Museum of Modern Art. Just Google ‘virtual tours’ and your chosen city to ‘visit’ just about anywhere.
This is the quickest, cheapest, easiest and most effective 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.
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. 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.