Hi there folks,
It’s difficult to make our highest contribution at work and at home when we’re exhausted. Many of us know, deep in our bones, that we need time to just BE. The issue is that there are many rational excuses why we cannot take that time now. In this article, I’m going to debunk some of these excuses for you. But first, let me share what inspired me to write to you about this topic.
It has been more than a fortnight since I returned from an incredible Ayurvedic retreat in Bali – yet the peace remains.
Sukhavati Bali really is paradise. Ayurvedic consultations , daily spa treatments, delicious vegetarian food, yoga twice a day, meditation and tiiiiiiiiiiime. Time to reflect and feel and let go of emotional baggage and heal and commit to new ways of being. And time to sleeeeeeep. I had three naps a day for the first two days. Then slept 10 hours each night.
It made me re-realise just how important it is to prioritise time to rest, to reflect, to let go, to sleep, to just BE. A week off to do this and only this was pure indulgence and I’m so grateful for it. It won’t likely happen again for a few years. But I’ve left with an even firmer commitment to find this time in the busy-ness of work/parenting/LIFE – be it a five-minute rest in the sun or a two-day trek in the bush.
I know, from deep experience, the barriers and excuses that get in the way of us taking time for ourselves. For me they include:
I’m too busy right now. This one is all-too-understandable – we are all so very busy! I would counter it with a question: when are you not busy? Alexandra Franzen once told me “your email inbox won’t be empty when you die”. The sub-text: there are always things you could be doing and, therefore, there is always a scarcity of time in which to do them. We all have 24 hours in the day – how do you want to spend yours?
My team needs me. As a people leader, I understand this all too well. But I saw a curious phenomenon two years ago that made me question this excuse.
I was running a three-day workshop with senior leaders in a big bank. On the first day, the twenty leaders were fully present and enjoying the time out from their daily work routine. On the second day, their phones started ringing. Their stress levels rose. There were mistakes to correct, team members to direct, fires to put out.
My question to them: “Can you not leave the office for two days without all hell breaking loose?” Their answer: “No. We can’t”.
In that moment, we changed the title of the workshop from ‘leading your team’ to ‘empowering your team to stand on their own feet’. We uncovered the patterns, blocks and beliefs that were causing them to be indispensable. We learned new beliefs, behaviours and strategies to build their team’s capability and confidence to put out fires on their own, and to learn from their mistakes.
As a leader, if you think you cannot take time for yourself, it’s always a sign that you need to empower your team more.
My kids need me. Of course they need you – you’re wonderful! But do they need a depleted and resentful parent? Or a parent who is happy, healthy and setting the example that it’s okay to put your needs first sometimes?
We teach others how to treat us by setting clear and loving boundaries. This includes the amount of time we need for ourselves. Children are delightful, but – bless them – they’re greedy! They take as much as we give them, and they will keep taking until we set limits.
An important point here. If we do not make time for ourselves, we unconsciously teach our children to parent the same way when it’s their turn. Ask yourself: “how do I want my children to parent their children? How do I want them to feel when they are parents? If they were in my situation now, what choice would I want them to make?” Your answers to these questions often illuminate the best steps forward for you.
At this point in my life, I really can’t take time for myself. Sometimes this is true – we have babies, aging parents or work crises. If you are in this situation right now, then 1) may we send you a big box of chocolates? And 2) sometimes snippets of time are all we need to reset. Ten seconds to stop and drink in the fragrance of a newly-bloomed rose. Two minutes to take your shoes off and feel the grass between your toes. Five uninterrupted minutes to drink a cup of tea (this was my perpetual fantasy when my muppets were babies). Fifteen minutes to call a good friend. And speaking of good friends, don’t hesitate to call in your tribe to give you some pockets of time for yourself.
Everyone else is busy too, and they seem to be handling it without needing time for themselves. After coaching thousands of busy people, I know that this is simply not true – in two ways:
Others are often not handling their busyness well. Everything looks smooth on the surface, but if you take the time to dive under the water with them, you’ll see their feet paddling madly and you’ll notice the exhaustion in their eyes. Many people are inwardly crying out for more time, space, freedom, peace and joy.
Some people unapologetically take time for themselves – you just don’t see evidence of it. I had a small revelatory moment when a school mum told me she spent a lazy Sunday saying to her kids “Darlings, I’m reading a fantastic novel today. You have resourcefulness and Lego and games and brains and books and each other. Go have fun”. My eyes widened, and my initial thought was “that’s allowed? I can do that??”
Yes, everyone else is busy. Some look like they’ve got it all together – but behind closed doors, they’re struggling. Others have it together some of the time – and behind closed doors, they’re unapologetically taking time for themselves. Not one blessed person has it together all the time.
I’ll take a break when A, B or C has happened. Often A, B or C take longer to happen than we think. Or they happen, and we immediately redirect our attention to achieving X, Y and Z. As the weeks and months pass, we inevitably forget that we promised ourselves we would take some time to just be.
For me, the only thing that works is to book time into my calendar in advance. I block out an hour of ‘balcony time’ to think, reflect and make decisions every Monday. I block out time to meditate each morning. Time to journal each evening. Last weekend I blocked out three days to go camping. Two months ago I blocked out an entire week to go on an Ayurvedic retreat in Bali.
We are all busy. There are always reasons to keep pressing on. But the only way we can enjoy our busy-ness is to take time for ourselves to just BE – without apology, without justification, without guilt. This time never presents itself to us. We have to grab it, create it, shape it, prioritise it. When we take this time for ourselves, the hustle and bustle of life feels infused with much more peace and joy. We see more clearly. We work more productively. We parent more lovingly. We love more openly. We live more purposefully.
Dr Gem Munro
[All images from my Instagram – @gemmamunro1]
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