We don’t know about you, but most people we speak to are finding this time post lockdown particularly tough. The idea of things going back to ‘normal’ is at odds with the general anxiety we feel about the Coronavirus and the mess it has left behind it. Many lives have been tipped upside down over the last four months and currently it feels like trying to scramble out of the rubble blindfolded. Many of us are juggling more than normal – for example, many have work as normal but with limited childcare, whilst others are trying to run businesses with fewer staff or minimal suppliers. The juggle of work/ family/ health and life is overwhelming at the best of times but add to that all the ‘unknowns’ rolling around in our heads and we’re heading for overwhelm.
‘Finding balance’ seems to be a pretty elusive quest but experts suggest that the answer isn’t in taking hour-long baths infused with lavender oil or embarking on a whole new fitness journey. Many experts say that the key to being more Zen lies in small bite-sized hacks that help us find a little more breathing space throughout our day.
“Right now, after all we’ve been through, it’s the small wins that makes you take back the balance,” says life coach and author Susie Pearl. “Step by step in the right direction is what is needed, and being kind to yourself. This is about the best way to find your balance in your new routines.”
We spoke to Susie and other top experts to discover their tips below…
Mara is a neuroscientist, psychologist and co-author of Above the Line: Living and leading with the heart. She works with many businesses about unlocking our true potential, creating our best selves and changing behavioural patterns that might be holding us back. Read her advice on managing our emotions through difficult times here.
1. De-clutter: trick your brain into some certainty
“Can tidying up really change your mood? It appears so, yes. According to the Mayo Clinic, clutter can lead to more stress and anxiety, and when people describe their spaces as “disorganized,” they’re more likely to have higher levels of cortisol, the hormone related to the stress response. It can make you feel more distracted, and may even affect your sleep.”
The solution: “Little things that you can control to increase certainty, even in small ways, actually have quite a non-obvious positive impact, both physiologically and psychologically.
Taking 5 (up to 15) minutes to tackle the messiest part of your work space, or your home, even if it’s just a “junk drawer” that’s always full, will create a feeling of certainty, achievement and control over chaos.”
2. Take a few minutes for yourself
“In our busy lives, we can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed. A solution is to create some boundaries for “alone time” for everyone in the family including parents, young kids and teenagers. Don’t feel bad about taking a moment for yourself, even if it’s just to step away for 15 minutes. Go for a walk around your block, lock the bathroom door, or sit by a window and feel the fresh air on your face. Alone time doesn’t have to be about candle-lit long baths, it’s about spending some time to gather your thoughts and relax. Even five to ten minutes a day can help you avoid burnout.”
3. Schedule task-time in batches
“Think about your tasks for the day and break them into “batches” of time. That way you can manage your focus time “on” and time “off”. This not only gives you a little more balance to your day, but you can decide on a quick or longer break each time you reach the end of a “batch” of time. Allowing yourself intentional choices helps us to feel in control and intentional with our time and balance of a day, rather than reaching the end of the day feeling controlled by circumstances.”
DAME JESSICA ENNIS-HILL
Jessica is an Olympic Gold Medallist and World Champion Heptathlete. Her brilliantly thorough pocket PT fitness app, jennis fitness , was created with her personal fitness team that have trained her throughout her career.
4. Fitting in Exercise
“It’s always too easy to say you’re too busy or too tired to fit in exercise, but it’s vital, not just for your physical health, but your mental health too, to look at exercise as time for you – almost like a date with yourself. Scheduling specific time just for you, to move your body – from simple stretches to long runs, to lifting a few weights – has a dramatic impact on your mental wellbeing.”
Some tips include:
“Plan your sessions in advance and put them in as dates for yourself. I always used to do my plan on a Sunday night, even when I was pregnant. You should see it as ‘me time’.
The Jennis sessions are only 20 – 30 mins, so they are easy to squeeze in – I designed them deliberately to be short, so they could just be slotted in, as well as needing minimal equipment so they can be done anywhere, anytime.
If you can’t do 20 minutes, doing 10 mins is better than nothing, so just get going. It’s amazing how good you feel after even a small amount of activity.”
Jennis is available to download on iOS and Android for £9.99 per month.
Alister Gray is an Executive Leadership Consultant, Mindset Coach, Founder of Mindful Talent and co-founder of the Mindful Talent Coaching Academy.
5. Go on a ‘no news’ diet
“Don’t watch or listen to the news. We have, on average, 70,000 thoughts or more running through our minds each day, 80% of these thoughts are negative in their nature and 95% of them are repeated each day. We don’t need to compound these thoughts with any more negativity and fear, so switch off the news and feel a greater sense of peace.”
6. Try the ‘bathroom breath’
“Every time you have a break (popping to the bathroom, getting a drink) use the opportunity to take 6 deep breaths into your belly and exhale slowly through the mouth. The average person takes 6-7 bathroom breaks per day, offering some mini moments of ‘me-time’, and enabling you to take between 35-45 conscious breaths each day which can reduce your cortisol levels.”
7. Slow down to speed up
“Pause throughout your day to reflect, plan, think and/or meditate. We are far more effective, productive and balanced when we take some time to slow down. This sounds impossible, however, the benefits are incredible.”
Susie Pearl is a life coach and author. Her book the Art of Creativity – 7 Powerful habits to unlock your full potential is out in August. It provides a practical programme to help you harness your full creative potential both personally and professionally.
8. Ask yourself if you are spending your time in the best way
“Is there an equal focus on work, rest / sleep and play / social life in your week? Try to get equal measures of these 3 throughout. Journal about how you spend your time and what is really important and urgent, and what is not. Make good decisions on how time is spent.”
9. Try to exercise / meditate each day
“Schedule this in the diary like it’s a meeting and show up for it. You wouldn’t break a meeting with someone else, so don’t break a meeting for something that helps you. Put self care high up in your priority list.”
10. You are in charge of your time, take control of it
“Cancel things from your diary if there is too much on and take back control of your time and remember that you don’t have to do everything that comes your way. Choose and curate the shape of your day. Cut out the unnecessary journeys, tasks and phone calls. The more down-time we have, the more in control of life we feel. Learn to curate your time like a master.”
11. Do emails once a day
“Do them for an hour – read them, batch them, deal with them and delete. Don’t spend all day looking at emails, set up a time to handle them at a specific time of day.”
12. Say no
“Say ‘no’ to most things, and only do the things you really want to do or that you feel are essential. Build in space into the diary and don’t overfill the days.”
13. Cancel things in your diary
“If there is too much on, take back control of your time. Notice you don’t have to do everything that comes your way – you can choose and curate the shape of your day.”
Misty is the founder of 35 Thousand as well as an executive coach, her career in wireless telecoms and the global food retail industry spans over 20 years.
14. Do something hard first thing
“Something that you need to accomplish to “win the day.” This could be a work out, tackling a presentation you need to write or even just making the bed. Decide that accomplishing this = winning the day which has a knock on effect on the rest of the day for mindset and productivity and reduces the chances of you beating yourself up for “not doing enough” in the day which can sabotage our sense of balance.”
15. Make some part of your morning routine feel indulgent
“Maybe its that you take the time to froth the milk for your coffee or you have a shower gel that you splurge on because the fragrance just makes you feel great. I keep a small vase of flowers by my Nespresso machine and the whole aesthetic of the coffee machine and flower just makes me feel great and the flower often looks different in the morning. Stopping to appreciate that is a little mindfulness moment that just makes me happy.”