And give it what it needs
Written by Tanya Abbey
Over the past 18-months, we've had to learn to accept an unfamiliar way of living amid a worldwide health pandemic.
Some of us struggled to adapt to this changing environment, trying to hold onto some sense of normality to keep pushing through, maintain control, keep money coming in and maintain a level of optimism about our unwritten future. During this period, myself included, many of us looked over the one essential and critical thing we should have been looking after; our bodies and minds.
In Australia, during 2020, we saw an increase in demand for mental health support across a range of audiences, from people with pre-diagnosed medical conditions to healthcare workers, the recently unemployed, families in lockdown and business owners who faced uncertainty.
As a family unit, the lockdown challenged our usual exercise regime; it limited our in-person interactions with friends, colleagues and the broader community. It drove us into isolation and, ironically, took our personal space and 'me time' with it too!
I learnt, early on, that I had to manage my stress by being present and actively taking time out for myself to look after my body and mind. I also learnt the best way to ensure I make this time for myself is to make sure I plan for it in advance.
Being a wife, mother and CEO, I wouldn't be where I am today without following a routine, but over the past 6-months, I have tweaked my daily habits to include more self-care, not just for now but for the long-term.
Meditate (How to listen to your body)
For me, mediation isn't about sitting on a hill surrounded by nature. Most of us don't have the luxury of time to find the "right" environment to meditate, so at some point throughout the day, I will take five minutes to close my eyes, focus on my breath, my intentions and my thoughts.
When I practice daily mediation, I will often sit up in a silent room or, if there is background noise, I will plug my earphones and play a soothing melody. During this period, you can feel how your body responds. Pay attention to whether you feel sore or tired, and take note of these feelings. When you listen to your body, you can make room in your daily plan to accommodate it. Will you stretch more? Will you drink more water? Will you have an earlier night?
You should plan your entire day either the night before or first thing in the morning.
Having a plan makes us feel more organised and alleviates stress and uncertainty. When planning the perfect day, my advice is to structure meetings by giving yourself enough time to travel between appointments. Don't forget to schedule your lunch break or take mini-breaks away from your phone, computer or laptop to recharge throughout the day.
In addition to meetings and breaks, make sure you dedicate specific time slots in your diary to meditate or read or connect with people that you need to. Little goals during the day help me keep the momentum going.
Move (How to listen to your body)
For me, moving means more than just blasting out an intense exercise at the gym. It's about making sure you are actively moving throughout the day. If you are at home, be intentional about getting up and moving every hour. Same with a desk job.
In the morning, I make sure I do at least 15-minutes of physical activity to start the day. It's usually a combination of stretching, sit-ups, a quick walk and push-ups. Once my day is complete, I will usually add in an extra walk, or I'll head to the gym.
Remember, you can always add some extra steps in your day by parking further away from buildings you intend to visit or taking the stairs instead of the lift. These small movements throughout the day are just as important as longer periods of exercise.
I read something last year that said "you have only gotten to this point in your life with the knowledge you have, so, if you want to improve, you have to expand on what information you receive".
Whilst I am an avid reader and often lose myself in books or articles, some of my friends struggle to commit to reading throughout the day or at night. I say start small, find something that appeals to you and begin there. Read a paragraph or a page first, then build on it. Find times in the day where you can switch off and concentrate and stick to that routine. Reading gives us insights into other opinions, expands on our knowledge, feeds our imagination and allows us to communicate better.
I have a close group of people who I interact with at a friendship and business level. I have a hard rule that I need to reach out to at least 3-4 people in my "tribe" once a day to check in with them, see how they are doing and how their week is going. Having these daily connections allows me to bond with people I love and enable them to feel supported.
One last piece of advice is to always be consistent. We have a tendency to revert back to our old habits when things feel like they are returning to normal. In some respects, the pandemic has been a blessing - it’s made us pause and reflect on what we can and can’t control. Let’s not forget the valuable lessons we have been taught during these unprecedented times and let's continue to look after ourselves and each other.