Switching off is no longer a ‘cop out’ or a luxury – it’s vital to our happiness and health. If your ever growing to-do list sounds like this: exercise more, eat better, do more for the community, spend more time with family, connect more with friends and do a professional course, read on as Premium member Angela Lockwood shares how to slow down.
Advancements in technology, an overwhelming amount of choice and ever-changing expectations are impacting on our ability to cope with the speed of change and the expectation to keep up. Whether we like it or not the situation is not going away and if future predictions are correct it is not slowing down, in fact, strap in because we are in for a long and fast ride. Our frenetic pace, racing from one meeting to the next and the pursuit of ‘more’, is affecting our ability to take time out, slow down, switch off and refuel. With our bodies and minds constantly ‘switched on’, our health, wellbeing and relationships are increasingly paying the price.
A recent poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that the experience of burnout was one of the most significant reasons that individuals left their current position.
When we feel pulled in every direction, stepping off the treadmill to do the things we love can seem like an impossible dream. Taking the step to slow down can feel like one more thing to add to ‘the list’. But slowing down is far more productive than adding another task to your to-do list.
As we move into the ebbs and flows of the year, we can expect life will become busy, schedules will fill up and we will be questioning why the year is going so fast. It will happen, it does every year, so instead of meeting it with frustration the one goal that is worth sticking to this year is learning how to switch off.
So how do you know when it is time to switch off?
You will know when the over connectedness, overwhelm and overstimulation of life is taking hold, you will feel it in your body, you will notice it in your behaviour … even your loved ones and colleagues will let you know! The best way to stop these from taking effect is to recognise when it’s time to switch off before the symptoms take hold, to do this we first need to do some self-reflection (or in other words … take a good long hard look at yourself!)
Recognise the signals
When we are moving through the activity of our week, we will often ignore the signs and symptoms that start to creep in serving as a warning that we are pushing ourselves too hard or that sickness is about to strike. Do a quick self-analysis: have there been niggling feelings you have been ignoring, like a persistent headache or a tightness in the lower back, a concerning feeling in your ‘gut’ or intuition or even a partner telling you repeatedly to slow down? Persistently ignoring these can lead to you not having a choice but to take time out. To stop sickness, overwhelm and fatigue from taking over, step back and literally take a good look at yourself, how healthy are you feeling, are your behaviours and habits serving you well, is it time for change?
Understand your triggers
Once we take the time to listen and notice the signals being sent to us it is time to understand why they are there in the first place so we can get to the root of the problem rather than offering a band aid solution that continues to persist in our lives. No two people are the same. What may trigger an overwhelmed state in one person may be the perfect productive state for another. Some people cherish the peace and privacy a cubicle offers; others love the energy and space of the open-plan office. Some are energised when around people, others find energy through peace and space. Take time to notice what stressors push your buttons so you can adapt your behaviour. For example, if the mornings are a stressful rush for you, pack bags, lay out clothes and make lunches the night before. Take the pressure off by being prepared for the times that overwhelm you.
Know when to flick the switch
As with everything in life in order to find balance there needs to be at least two forces. We can’t always be switched off in chill out mode, there are things to do and people who need us. But we can’t always be ‘on’ either, this is exhausting! Periods of intense activity need to be complemented by a period of slow activity, giving ourselves the opportunity to disconnect, re-energise and refocus then through doing this we have the focus, the energy and the motivation to do our best work in all areas of our lives.
Being able to flick the switch when we need to requires us to build habits and create a habitat that supports our health and wellbeing. Ways to do this include:
1. Create an environment that inspires you
Where you can, create and surround yourself with an environment where you feel inspired, energetic and calm. Ensure you have favourite colours, the space is free of clutter but with items that bring you joy.
2. Get organised
Too often we set ourselves up for failure through not being prepared. Whether it be focusing on physical health, being more mindful, focusing on relationships or prioritising better we need to have the tools on hand that make it all come together with ease. Simple things like having healthy food in the fridge, having our gym bag packed and having our schedule set the week in advance. All of these small actions help us to be in control of when we need to and want to flick the switch.
3. Carve out guilt-free me time
Instead of being the fountain of all for everyone in your life take just 10 minutes, 30 minutes even an hour out each day to focus on the things you love, that give you energy and make you feel sane. This time might feel selfish however it is important time that allows you to build your energy stores and keep you connected to the important aspects of you. When you are at your best, everyone benefits.
4. Make better choices
Our days are filled with choices and each choice impacts on how our day plays out. Focus on making better choices and we become more in control of how the days unfold. It is the most effective way make changes in our lives. Focus on making better choices with what you eat, technology use, how you use your time even how you communicate with your kids and partner. It is the simple things that will make the biggest difference and you get to choose.
The argument that slowing down is impossible in today’s society is not true, and there is ample evidence to show how people are successfully integrating the skills of slowing down into their fast-paced lives. Slowing down can feel like an impossible scenario when we lead such full lives but switching off isn’t about doing more … it means doing less. Focusing on the payoff of taking the time to slow down, being better health, improved energy, clearer thinking, and a renewed motivation for work, switching off is not a ‘cop out’ or a luxury rather it is a necessity if we are to keep up with the pace of life.
Angela Lockwood an occupational therapist whose retreats, corporate education programs and keynotes help organisations, schools and individuals prioritise their health and wellbeing. Angela is the author of Switch Off: How to find calm in a noisy world and The Power of Conscious Choice. Angela is a Premium member of Business Chicks, check out her website here.