The Power of the Holiday ‘reset button’

It’s amazing how much of a reset you get when you take a vacation and really switch off from work. No matter how much you love your job, it’s so important to just take time out, fully.

I work for a charity and so I do have a very fulfilling job. I know I am creating good in the world, I am good at my job and there are lots of opportunities for me to grow and progress. It’s also a very full-on job and I often work much longer hours than contracted in order to make sure everything that needs to be done is done. But I will never be a workaholic.

I will never prioritise my job over my relationships, my health or my wellbeing.

And I will definitely never check my work emails from the beach! I guess for some people, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice but for me, no matter how fulfilling the work is, travelling and spending time with people I love is so much more fulfilling. I want to be present. I want to soak up every second, every smell, every sight on my trips. I will not be on my deathbed wishing I had worked less and enjoyed my life more.

And it’s not just me, this research piece, The Impact of Vacation and Job Stress on Burnout and Absenteeism, shows that a vacation decreases perceived job stress and burnout. 

City life can be overwhelming!

The chaos of London can start to wear me down and if I don’t take time away, I feel depleted easily and often. Thankfully, after two weeks in Canada, I am now returning to my job and my life feeling much more balanced and resilient, and so much more determined to live my life according to my values.

What makes you happy?

It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do but take some time out from your routine to do the things that rejuvenate you. You can’t pour from an empty cup and time off is your opportunity to fill up that cup!

When thinking about what’s important for me and my mental health, I know my main priorities are

  • time with friends and family
  • time by myself
  • time being active
  • time in nature.

I make sure to do all of those things when I am on holiday and I come back feeling amazing!

Time to reflect

I take any opportunity I can to reflect on how I am feeling and what’s going on in my life. Vacations are a perfect time to do this. On past trips, I’ve come home and made some big changes in my life but this year, I’ve come back from both of my longer trips feeling great about the life I’ve got in London.

The biggest thing I am taking from my most recent break, is that I need need to focus more on the goals I already have and try not to let myself get distracted.

Use your vacation time to take stock of your current situation and think about how you want the next couple of months to go. Is there something that isn’t going well for you? Once you are recharged, is there some action you can take to improve that?

Time off boosts your productivity when you return

As well as feeling more positive about life in general, taking time off work actually makes you more productive when you return. Having less time at your desk forces you to be more efficient with that time and just get things done!

I hope you are enjoying summer and making time to do the things you love.

Creating Rituals

Athletes are renowned for pre-game rituals. It gets them in the zone to perform.

Starting your own ritual is a great way to boost your overall well being.

What makes a ritual different from a routine is that it’s more intentional and mindful. Mindfulness is a term that has been used so much in recent years that it feels as though it’s losing its impact but essentially mindfulness is the practice of focusing on what you are doing in the moment and not allowing your mind to wander.

While mindfulness is known to improve your mood, mind wandering has actually been linked unhappiness and dissatisfaction. One of my favourite podcast episodes ever is the Happiness episode of TED Radio Hour where they delve into this subject. Actually, that episode is what sparked my interest in learning more about happiness and how to find it. 5 years later, I started this blog 🤣.

Another way to look at a ritual is just taking some time to slow down and enjoy your day to day activities. Instead of hastily chugging down your coffee as you race around the house take an extra five mins so just sit down and savour it. Maybe while also reading your favourite blog…

We tend to focus more on the big stuff to bring us joy and kind of skip past all the “mundane” but we’re missing out on countless moments of magic we could be enjoying!

We all have those little things we love like getting into a bed with fresh sheets, the cold side of the pillow, the smell of coffee brewing. Incorporate some of these things, that your senses enjoy, into a daily ritual.

Morning Rituals

Getting up early and having a routine makes a massive difference to my overall wellbeing.

I am incredibly lucky and don’t start work till 10 am so I get up at (mostly) 6 and really make the most of that time. I often wake up stressed and with 1,000 thoughts in my head about all the things I have to do in the day so I really need to take some time to get some balance before looking at my phone.

Waking Up: I use an alarm app so I am woken up by my music. I used to really struggle in winter when the sun comes up much later so I also have a Lumi light which gradually brightens the room from 30 minutes before my alarm goes off.

Bathroom: I like to brush my teeth before I do anything and wash my face just with water. (See my blog on skincare for the rest of that ritual).

Hydrate: I always drink a pint of water right after I brush my teeth. You get dehydrated during the night so it’s good to get some H2O in first thing

Journal: I take my glass of water and get back in bed and write in my journal. Sometimes, this just stream of conscious writing and sometimes it turns into a list! It helps me organise my thoughts and feel calmer.

Make the bed: I feel so disorganised unless my bed is made! I very rarely skip this and only if I’m in a massive rush to get out the door.

Exercise: sometimes all I manage is a couple of sun salutations but on a good day, I do 15-20 mins. If it’s sunny, I set my mat up facing the window. If not, I set up beside my favourite Monstera plant. Put yours anywhere you like!

Meditate: 5 – 10 mins on my yoga mat after a stretch. I don’t use an app or anything, I just set a timer in my phone and just focus on breathing either in a cross-legged seated position lying down. It took me years and years to even get to 10 mins. I hated meditation when I first tried it and I’m still not very “good” at it but I do enjoy being still and trying to quiet my very noisy mind

Get dressed and do my hair and makeup: No need for any more detail here is there….

Breakfast: This is typically the same every day to keep things simple. I sit down and either listen to music or a podcast and try to enjoy my food slowly before heading out for the commute.

Evening Rituals

Throughout most of my life, I have had various problems sleeping. Insomnia, nightmares, sleep paralysis, you name it, I have had it. Sleep deprivation causes my memory to just die completely so I have spent years working on my ‘sleep hygiene’ to make sure I am getting enough sleep to be able to function like a normal person!

The Space: Creating a relaxing space is one of the best things you can do to help you get to sleep. Every night, I spend a couple of mins just tidying up so that it’s a clear, relaxing space.

Before Winding Down: Before going up to bed, I check my calendar for the next day and pack anything I might need like yoga gear, laptop, mentoring material etc. I usually lay out my outfit for the next day so I have less to think about in the morning. Once I am organised, then it’s time to relax and get ready to sleep.

Lighting: I dim my bedroom lights or use warm, soft lights like a salt crystal lamp or candles at least an hour before bed so that my body knows it’s night time

Bathroom: I have a fairly elaborate skin regime at night but it’s so relaxing and really helps me relax.

Bed: Once my skin has been looked after, I get into bed. Instead of scrolling Instagram or watching Netflix, I try to read in bed for at least 30 mins before I sleep (I regularly fail at this but really do try to make an effort as it seems to make the biggest difference). I really try to avoid the blue lights for at least an hour before I sleep.

If I am having trouble switching off my devices or my brain, I use the 4-7-8 breathing technique to slow down my heart rate and relax.

Disclaimer – In a regular week, I probably manage the entire thing once! But, I try.

Instead of trying to squeeze everything in for the sake of ticking that box, I only do what I need to work on that day. If I’ve gone to a yoga class that night then I’ve already meditated.

Your rituals can be as simple or as complicated as you like. If you prefer to just sip your tea alone by the window in the morning that’s perfect. Or, you could establish a ritual as elaborate as an Egyptian queen complete with essential oils, candles, crystals and pillows. It’s your ritual. fucking go all out!

So long as you are taking a little time for yourself every day and just enjoying the moment for whatever it is, you’ll start to notice a positive difference.

Anxiety

I was going to write about staying motivated to save this week but truth be told, I’m not feeling motivated to do anything at the moment thanks to my old pal, anxiety.

My anxiety is a real bitch because it keeps changing the way it manifests and catching me off guard. When I think I’ve figured out the best coping strategy and I’m feeling good, boom. Anxiety changes its strategy. It’s basically The Many-Faced God.

My anxiety is currently playing the role of Total Overwhelm.

I have felt constantly overwhelmed now for over a month and am really struggling to get a handle on it. It seems like there are never enough hours in the day and I always feel like I’m neglecting someone or something.

It’s especially frustrating because I enjoy all of the things I’m doing. I love my job, writing, dancing, seeing friends, travelling. The problem is that there is always so much going on and I constantly want to push the pause button to catch my breath.

My thoughts come in thick and fast and don’t stop so it’s difficult to focus. There are too many to sort through and organise. I end up with ‘task paralysis’ where everything seems equally important and daunting and I don’t know where to start so I just, don’t. Even the smallest “clutter” can tip me over the edge. Physical, mental and electronic. When my anxiety is heightened I notice dishes in the sink, emails that haven’t been filed, post that hasn’t been read, my podcast queue being too long, desktop unorganised, too many open tabs in my browser, laundry piling up. Somehow all manner of clutter affects me equally and I start to feel really claustrophobic.

I want to meditate more, cook more healthy meals, do more yoga, write more. But even these things that I do to reduce my stress are beginning to causing me stress because they are extra tasks and I feel pressure (from myself) to find extra time somewhere to do them. If you’re not an anxious person you probably think that sounds ridiculous but if you’re anything like me, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about!

It’s been building for weeks and now the other symptoms are creeping in. I feel impatient and short tempered. I’m tired. I want to retreat. My chest feels tight. I feel guilty. I feel inadequate. I feel crowded. I have butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat.

To reduce the overwhelm in general, I am on a mission to just simply my life wherever possible. At the moment, though, there are a couple of key things I know will make a significant difference.

  1. Telling someone – kinda covering this by default through this blog but ordinarily, I would reach out to a close friend and just say, I’m struggling a bit at the moment and need to vent. A problem shared and all that.
  2. Sleeping at least 8 hrs every night – anxiety knackers me! It always comes with physical symptoms for me and that just adds to the tiredness and makes it harder to get things back under control. I will be putting my ass to bed for 9.30 on school nights until further notice!
    3 . Taking a break from alcohol – I haven’t been drinking a lot (certainly a lot less than in my 20’s!) but I find that even one drink can exacerbate my anxiety the next morning. This is actually one of the things I expect to make the biggest difference
  3. Limit social media – the phone is going on aeroplane mode at 9 pm for a while.
  4. Swap TV for reading in the evening – I bloody love TV. So many amazing shows but the blue light from the screen definitely affects my ability to fall asleep and my sleep quality.
  5. Going for walks at lunch – the sun has finally graced us with its presence and London is looking buff. I will be making a huge effort to get out for at least mins at lunch every day to just enjoy and stretch my legs.
  6. Journalling – a few months ago, I started doing “Morning Pages”. It’s basically where you write first thing in the morning and just write whatever comes to mind, like a stream of consciousness. My anxiety is always worst in the morning so this really helps me to kind of unload a ton of my thoughts.

Anxiety is not only super common, but it’s also a bit of a chameleon and you may not even realise you have it or that it’s changed its tactics. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed all the time, even when you’re busy. Share how your feeling, ask for some help and take some steps to getting the rest and recuperation you need.

(The savings post is almost done, I just need to edit it, so I aim to have it up next week.)