The summer is already far behind us, and most of us are back to university or work after some well deserved time off. But transitioning from vacation to everyday life can create a lot of tension. As our last day of vacation is drifting further and further into the past, we often get into a spiral of getting more and more tense and stressed from not feeling like we have enough hours in the day for the things that truly fuel us. Whether your favorite activity after a long day at work is watching Netflix with your friends, reading a book, or playing computer games, it’s important that we keep making space for the things that allows our brain to pause. We work full-time, and pack our social calendar with fun events, while trying to eat healthy, work out, and fulfill all the obligations and expectations from the people around us, and ourselves. We all do it, and most of us do it really well, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to feel exhausted, and to think it’s hard sometimes. Taking that time off to ourselves, or with our favorite people, is kind of the key to make everything else work too, and even though watching series feels like your fuel, it might be worth looking into creating enough headspace for you to lean into more fulfilling things too. Your life only works when you do.
As the social introvert I am, I’m often a bit too ambitious and fill my calendar with social events that I end up regretting because I would rather just be alone. I love spending time with my friends, but I also need to be alone to feel like I’m keeping my head above water in stressful periods. It’s not that I’m not a social person, but I charge my batteries when I’m alone. Creating more headspace is all about creating good habits to decrease stress, and curate good habits that will help create balance between what you want and what you need. For me, a perfect week is filled with both friends, slow mornings, enough time between my appointments to not rush, and evenings all to myself or drinking wine with my favorite people. We all work differently, but as so many of the conversations I have with my friends are about we feel stressed, and overwhelmed, I thought I’d collect a little list of what we do to cultivate a well rested and happy everyday. I think they just might help you a little bit too.
NO.1 Curate good habits
Curating good habits is all about figuring out what works best for you, whether you are more productive in the morning, or the evening, are a huge fan of morning workouts, or really not, or what kind of food makes you more energized and fulfilled during the day. No one will be able to say what works for you, but trying to find a good routine will help your body run on a more intuitive gear, and will leave you with a lot more energy for other things. Personally I should ideally sleep from 22-06, because I work the best in the morning. Everything I do before noon is by far my best work of the day, and I can promise you I’ll get twice as much done from 8-12, than I’m able to do from 13-17. Knowing that, I prioritize my most important tasks before lunch, which keeps me from getting stressed in the afternoon. I also require a really slow morning with at least two hours to eat breakfast, listen to the radio, plan my day, meditate, and get ready. I love working out really, really in the morning, preferably before my two hours of prep. time before I leave the house, or start working. I try to not work too late at night, and always bike wherever I’m going. Getting some fresh air and moving my body is quite essential for me. Find out what gives you the best conditions to flourish, and go for that.
No.2 Stop worrying about the «what if?»
I’m the queen of «what if?» so for me, this one might be one of the most important points on this list. Having gone through periods of quite severe anxiety, where the «what if?» takes center stage and manifests as something that is very likely to happen, I truly know the way that thinking in this way can affect you. And it sucks. It is really draining, and gets in the way of everything. The «what if?» can arise in connection with basically anything. Work, decisions, relationships, battling your own willpower, or whatever domain you might think of. It’s a huge energy thief if it is allowed to flourish. Getting rid of the «what if?» means getting rid of self-doubt, and cultivating a feeling of trust in ourselves and our decisions. Having an overall feeling of being capable of dealing with whatever arises in our lives, whether they are a direct result of our actions and choices ,or not, is the perfect antidote and manifests in a way where we are not afraid of making mistakes. Going for what you feel is right, and supporting your own decision is so important, both when it comes to dealing with work, relationships, or just battling your own mind. Knowing that you’ll figure it out, and that you are able and willing to deal with whatever comes your way will make the «what if?» slowly fade away. Because why should we have to deal with all the possible outcomes or possibilities before they actually occur? Maybe things will turn out to be smooth sailing, and there won’t be a problem at all? There is a lot of energy to waste here, so making sure we don’t is a good place to start. If you are dealing with anxiety, like I kind of still am, more in some periods than others, this point is one to really focus on.
no.3 Plan your week & Create to-do lists
Getting an overview of what needs to be done and when, will make you more efficient, no doubt about that. It gives you an overview of what tasks you’ll need to complete on a weekly and daily basis, and makes it easier for you to calculate how much time you’ll need to do them (and how much time you’ll have for other things). We tend to feel like we are really busy, which leads to us feeling stressed because we are overwhelmed by the amount of work we need to complete. But planning your week, and making prioritized to-do lists will most likely make you realize that you have a lot more time than you thought. When we organize the tasks and our priorities, the fog lifts, and we can see everything more clear, and this kills our preconceptions about how much work, and how little time we have. Map out what you need to do, and how long you want to spend on it. Putting a sharper, and shorter time frame on things tend to make us work more focused. We often do the tasks that are the easiest or fastest to complete on our to-do lists first, even if they are not the most important, and this can leave us feeling like we are falling behind, which leads to a feeling of being stressed. But if you do the one or two most important things on the list instead of the five smallest ones, you’ll probably feel like you got a lot more done, and actually make significant progress. That’s why not only making to-do lists in itself is good, but making it with 1-3 tasks highlighted as the most important ones. Planning out my week, and making a prioritized list of things to do on a weekly and daily basis, is a crucial part of what makes my world go around. Writing it down, and mapping it out, allows me to free up space in my mind for other things. When I sit down to work I always know what to do, and what task is the most important for me to get to first. This leads to less procrastinations, and less time wasted trying to organize and prioritize those things when I’m tired or unfocused. Planning things at the beginning of the week when I’m energized and rested makes everything more smooth during the week, and leaves me with a lot of headspace for more important things.
no.4 Make sure you have some time to yourself
We are social creatures, and it’s important to indulge in time with your friends and family, but it’s also really important to have a little bit of time to yourself sometime during the day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but enough time for you to be able to clear your mind and get centered. Processing everything that is going on in our lives is so important, and just a little bit of time to ourselves will make us feel like we have more energy and space in our minds. Whether you only get time to yourself on your way to work, during your workout, or during your lunch break, be conscious about it, and enjoy it!
no.5 Cut the crap
This is a big one. When you don’t have a lot of time, it’s important to utilize that time in a way that will give you the most positive outcome. We all have friends that make us feel fueled for greatness after as little as a short coffee hangout, and others that will really just drain us of energy. I don’t know about you, but in periods where I’m busy, going through some big changes in my life, or just really tired and exhausted, I will distance myself from everything and everyone that make me feel like I’m a ghost of myself afterwards, and rather focus the little time, or energy, I have with people that will make me feel energized and happy. I have a handful or wonderful people I’ll always want to hang out with, no matter what my state is, and that’s who to prioritize. I would rather spend an hour on Skype with one of my best friends that are too far away to hug, than to see an actual human being that’s not on my list of amazing partners in crime and love, and life. This goes for everything else too. All the thoughts about things we should do, better be eliminated unless they are important, so that we can focus on what really is important to us.
no.6 Move your body
Working out is good for you, I don’t think I know anyone who would question that. But most of us see working out as a chore, something we do because we know that we should do rather than want to do, something we have to make time and sacrifice other things for, and the whole calories in vs. calories out discussion has most certainly made exercise unattractive, something that many of us see as a way to burn off the naught things we ate (read: punish ourselves), and I’m not into that. AT ALL!
I know I’ve talked a little bit about this before, but having started doing martial arts when I was so young, exercise has never really been a chore, nor especially linked to food for me. I worked out because it was a fun activity, and because it made me feel good. It made my body feel good right after the workout, and I remember thinking that my body always felt strong and capable in so many ways in all kinds of situations. I’ve never really been that thin, but I’ve always been fit. I don’t work out to lose weight, but because it makes me feel good. It makes you feel good because it’s such a great outlet for negative emotions and tension in your body, and there is really nothing that compare to the kind of tired and mellow your body feels after a workout. I think I’ve once described it as my body feeling like a marshmallow, and that’s actually pretty accurate (and very pleasurable). Working out shouldn’t be a chore, it should be something you do because it makes you feel good. I’m a huge advocate for the view that you should work out because you love your body, not because you hate it. Including exercise into your routine (it really doesn’t have to be a lot) will make you sleep better, want to eat better, it gives you an outlet for those negative emotions and built up tension from sitting too much, and just makes you feel good. It will require a couple of weeks of dedication to get into a routine, but once you’re in it, it’s going to feel like a really indulgent break.
I never thought that I would be a person that would get into meditation, but after discovering Headspace, I view things very differently. I was sure that meditation wasn’t for me. That it was for people who appreciated incense and lotus flowers, and I’m definitely one of them. My head is too full of thoughts, I can’t just sit and think about nothing. But meditation is not really about that. It’s about taking a break from everything, and find some quiet. It’s ten minutes a day to focus on how your body feels, where you are tense, what thoughts occupy your mind, and use visualizations to create a more mellow approach to things. The feeling of just relaxing, and focusing on how your breath moves through your body might sounds a bit strange, but once you get past the first ten days, you start feeling addicted to that sense of calm that it gives you.
One of the things I really like about the Headspace app is that it kills all the negative preconceptions about what medication is, and offers a cultural shift in how we think and talk about meditation. It adresses all of your concerns, and presents meditation in a very straight forward way, and specializes in topics like stress, performance, and patience. They tell you to sit up straight when you do it, but sometimes I like to do it laying on my back on the floor, or even in my bed. It’s not about how you do it, it’s about the dedication to create a routine that will benefit you, and if you feel more comfortable in one position that another, then choose that. Meditation is proven to decrease your heart rate to a level that is below what it’s at when you are in deep sleep, and there are several other health benefits from doing meditation just ten minutes a day. It’s a low effort, high benefit kind of situation, so just try it. You won’t morph into a hippie just because you get into meditation, I promise!
These little tips are a collection of insight from my friends, family and my own experience. Trial and error is key when it comes to these things, because we all work in different ways. I hope that these things can be a little inspiration to enter the autumn with confidence that the turmoil of everyday life won’t get you stressed. I would love to hear how you guys deal with stress, and what steps you take to create more headspace, please feel free to write me.
have a wonderful sunday!