Making time for yourself

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

I know it's easy to say that this time of year is more tiring than others. And although I'm mindful of not buying into The Cult of Busyness, I have to admit there can be a certain craziness present in December, writes life coach Jan Aitken.

Jan Aitken
Jan Aitken

End-of-year work and social functions combined with the "need" to have everything done and dusted before you leave for the Christmas break, not to mention being organised for Christmas Day and packing for the holiday period can all get a bit overwhelming and energy sapping.

It got me thinking about how we manage ourselves and, in particular, how we manage our energy levels when life can get a bit frantic, stressful or both.

There are only so many hours a day - 24 to be precise - and we have absolutely no control over time: we can't add minutes to an hour or hours to a day. We have a little more control over what we can put in a day and we have most control over how we expend our energy. To me, it makes sense to concentrate on the things we can control rather than trying to change the things we can't.

The good news is that energy is renewable! However, remember that it might not be a constant flow, just like the juice in a rechargeable battery, it depletes and needs to be topped up.

So how do we know if our energy levels are depleted? Let's take a look at what we might experience if energy levels are low.

Physical: Feeling tired, exhausted, limbs heavy, feeling sluggish and groggy and maybe, even, a bit uncoordinated

Mental: An inability to focus, distracted, unmotivated, difficulty fulfilling usually easy tasks, forgetful, trouble getting your words out

Emotional: Feeling like crying or tearful, grouchy, irritable, angry, short tempered, anxious

Spiritual: Feeling as though what you do isn't useful or important, lack of purpose or feeling disconnected to others, self or surroundings.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
How can we refuel? If you know there's something in particular that refuels or boosts your energy then add it to the list. We are all different and therefore the remedies might be a little different for each of us.

Physical: The "basic 3" (good sleep, regular exercise and a healthy diet) apply here.

• Set a sleep routine and stick to it. This is not a category you can steal time from on an ongoing basis to get things done. Sleep is important for every system in our body. It's as necessary as the air we breathe.

• Some form of daily exercise (it doesn't have to be arduous) is important for getting the oxygen in and the blood flowing around our body. It doesn't matter at what time of the day, so long as it suits you. If you're in a sedentary job set a timer to remind you to get up and move regularly.

• Keep your diet as "unprocessed" as possible. It might take a little more organising, but the payoff is worth it. Food is fuel for the body; the better the fuel in the better the performance!

Mental: The "basic 3" still applies.

• Most of us will have a natural cycle to our day, we're better doing somethings in the morning than the afternoon or vice versa. If you can, plan your day around those cycles.

• If you're stuck on a problem, get up and walk around; it frees you up physically and mentally. Likewise, if you've been slaving over the same task for a while you might want a change of direction and/or pace.

• Plan your day, make a list of the three top priorities for your day and work though them. If you finish one add another on. Review your progress at the end of the day and tweak your approach if needed.

• Take time for some mindfulness or a power nap.

• Learn to say "no".

Emotional: Breathe very deeply and exhale very slowly, this technique tells your brain you're safe. Set a timer and breathe deeply regularly.

•  Learn to become emotionally resilient.

•  Get help for issues that cause you distress.

• Create supportive networks and have time with the people who are important to you.

•  Be kind to yourself, speak to/act towards yourself as you would your best friend.

•  Do stuff that you enjoy doing.

•  By the way, the "basic 3" still applies.

Spiritual: Create a life that isn't built on work alone. Have fulfilling hobbies and pastimes. Volunteer for an organisation or group. Create supportive networks and have time with the people who are important to you.

•  Get help for issues that cause you distress.

•  Spend time in nature.

•  Practise gratitude.

•  Do what you need to do to make sense of your life.

•  Celebrate and spend time with others who share similar religious/spiritual beliefs

• And, yes, the "basic 3" applies here, too.

Energy is one of the most precious resources we have. If we learn to use it wisely, we end up with better energy reserves, a healthier mind and body and, ultimately, more energy to give to others and the things that are important to us.

Look after yourself this festive season.

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

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