So much of our lives are ruled by time, with school, work, appointments, transport connections all needing to be turned up promptly for. Even when we’re looking forward to something like a run, a swim, a game of golf we may well be competing with others or trying to improve on our personal best.
It’s good sometimes to be highly motivated to improve, or feel invigorated to push ourselves to beat someone else, but it’s also important to notice if we ever switch off and at times ensure that we do. Think about slowing down, maybe changing down a gear at times.
Let’s look at some important ways to switch off.
Notice when your ‘amber lights’ start to flash. Just like traffic lights, red means stop, green means go and amber means slow down, proceed with caution, get ready to stop. Amber lights become noticeable when you’re doing too much, are becoming stressed and overloaded. Everyone has their own personal warning signs of stress. Yours may be when your sleeping patterns are affected, you’re smoking or drinking more, your good humour has evaporated, your perspective has become more gloomy. Those niggles, irritations and mood changes alert us to the need to switch off and take a break.
We need to take some ‘me time’, so intercept that red light before it appears and causes everything to stop. Switch off for a while and return to a healthy ‘green for go’ state. Did you know that 19 million days of annual leave remain untaken in the UK each year? And that figure doesn’t include the sole traders, small businesses and self-employed who regularly forgo holidays, feel they’re too busy to switch off and take a holiday for fear of missing out on sales, business opportunities or out of concern at being unavailable and disappointing their clients.
But switching off for a time gives your mind a break and you’ll often find that when you do return to work you’re feeling refreshed, recharged and excited to be back. You may even have had time to reflect on your business and come up with stimulating new insights and ideas. Start that big task, the one that you’ve perhaps been dreading or avoiding. By being proactive and starting work on it you stop it from constantly playing on your mind, so preventing you from switching off.
It may help to break it into parts; what you can do today, what you can’t proceed with until you’ve had a response, those areas where you need someone else’s help and expertise. Note what you’ve set into motion and then switch off until you’re next in a position to continue. Do activities for their own sake. Not everything has to have a purpose or point to it. Clear time for painting, craft work, walking, even pottering about or people-watching in the shopping mall over coffee. Value the fun, satisfaction and therapeutic benefits they bring into your life.
Spend an hour or so becoming immersed in reading a book, listening to music, tending your garden, watching a show. Remind yourself how lovely it is to switch off from the day’s demands. Really focus on what you’re doing so that you become oblivious to external distractions. Live in the moment. Appreciate the view, the weather, the scenery when you’re taking a walk. Enjoy the coffee you’re drinking or the food you’re eating, value the company you’re with. Give your full attention to whatever you’re doing, the people you’re with and find that your relationships improve as a consequence.
Turn off your technology. Set aside specific times for checking online unless there’s an emergency situation that needs regular monitoring. There are few things that can’t want an hour or so and you may find that you become more time efficient when you fritter less in constant scanning of messages and updates.
– Designate a place as your oasis or haven, where you can go to truly switch off. For many their bedroom is their place of peace and calm. Include personal touches with your choice of fabrics, colours, decor. If you need a workstation in your bedroom, screen it off at the end of each working day.
– Wind down before bed, so giving your sleep and sleep quality the significance they deserve. Avoid that deep and meaningful conversation before bed. Save it for another more appropriate time. Take a bath, a relaxing shower and wash away the day’s cares and stresses. If you have a tough mental job maybe enjoy some yoga or a leisurely walk before bed so that you’re able to wind down gradually.
Treat switching off as important and you’ll find that you manage your stress levels more effectively, often achieving a better work/life balance and a happier, healthier quality of life.