I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself wondering where the time goes. I am busier than ever this year, and I wonder what I might do to give myself a breather now and then. In our busy, non-stop lives, where we work, raise families, maintain social relationships, worry about having enough economic resources to get us through the week, month, and year, care-take family, friends, and others, …how do we carve out time to recharge and rejuvenate? Recharge? What, my phone battery? No! Recharge your own internal battery.
Many of us, especially women, simply don’t believe we have enough time to take a break. I would argue that it’s a necessity, yet we tend to put ourselves on the back burner much of the time. We wear many hats, but the one that is missing is “ME.” You’ve all heard the instructions just before takeoff on a flight, In case of an emergency, please place the oxygen mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others. We can’t help others or do our own jobs if we don’t recharge ourselves. NOT just in the case of an emergency –that’s too late! We can’t wait for that elusive “one day” when we think we will have time to relax and rejuvenate. We need to do it daily.
I’m sure some of you may think that I’ve gone off the deep end. Recharge daily? How in the world can anyone do that? It’s not as difficult as you might think. I’m not suggesting taking extra time to do this – I’d like you to consider ways to recharge during your regular routine. Really. It. Can. Happen. And if you don’t prioritize yourself at times, you will likely undermine your success in the activities and relationships most important to you. We often don’t realize that we go about our day on autopilot, habitually “doing,” as if that in itself is a virtue. But this is only a habit. Habit? Yes! We are all a conglomeration of habits. Although we don’t always have a choice in what we do during certain aspects of our day – after all, we need to work, attend to family, etc. – we do often have a choice in how we go about it.
Let’s talk about habits for a moment. Gretchen Rubin, noted expert on habits, writes, “Habits are the architecture of daily life.” Think about that. Habits, both good and bad, run in the background, unconsciously. Habits are not just behaviors; they also include our thoughts (i.e., negative, positive, neutral) and our feelings (i.e., peaceful, irritable, angry, happy). The great news is that habits can change, with your awareness and effort to change them. When you build a new behavior that serves you rather than derailing you, it becomes a new habit — one that no longer requires effort, yet one that sustains and supports you. You’ll need to stay with it for a while to reap the benefits, as a new habit takes an average of 66 days to become automatic (1). And the best way to change habits is not to set too large a goal. That’s a set up for failure. Setting smaller, manageable goals, is the best way to maximize success (2). Repeating your new habit in consistent situations also increases the likelihood of success.
Now, back to recharging. What do habits have to do with it? If we have developed the habit of always doing and never stopping – of always grabbing something else to take on in those 5 minutes between tasks – then we are losing out on a valuable resource. For example, you might have five minutes before your next appointment at work. What do you usually do with those 5 minutes? Check email? Make a call? Check your social media feed? Whatever you do in those 5 minutes is your current habit. But you have a choice in what you do in that time. Consider choosing differently and building a new habit, one that gives you the opportunity to take a mini-break.
One of the best ways to recharge is to take 5-minute mini breaks regularly during your day. It’s not unheard of for many of us in office settings or even at-home offices to sit for hours on end without getting up. Recent research done with people sitting, uninterrupted, for 6 hours with a 5-minute moderate level activity break each hour, actually increases energy, improves mood, decreases fatigue, and even reduces appetite (3). Talk about recharging! Do you think you could squeeze out 5 minutes in an hour to get up and move around? A brisk walk will do it. If you don’t have room to walk, march in place and/or pump your arms. Just get up and move! If not every hour, what about even 3 times a day? Considering the benefits of doing so, isn’t it worth a try? Assess your average day and look for the times you might have an extra 5 minutes. Think about forming a new, healthier habit, one that sustains and refuels you. Try it for a couple of weeks as an experiment. What do you have to lose?
Let yourself be curious about other types of activities you might try. Consider a short mindful meditation, or just sit quietly with an awareness on your breath. Resist the impulse to check your phone. Break the habit of mindless doing and give yourself a real break. Whatever you choose, be sure to practice consistently, and link it to a specific time and/or activity. This will increase your chances for success.
At WHEN, we understand how busy life is… because we live it too! Recognizing that our habitual patterns of living aren’t always the best way for us to go about our days, we have developed specific tools to help you recognize both your helpful habits and the habits that hinder you. We have developed a practical, research-driven program designed to fit your schedule, and our methods are easily incorporated into your daily life. Ultimately, members are often surprised at how easily they can make the small changes in their lives that really add up to bigger gains. Our WHEN Advisors® guide you through some of life’s challenges and teach tools and skills to stay on track in your professional and personal life, and help you find your WHEN Way of Life!
In closing, I remind you of Gretchen Rubin’s earlier quote, and I ask you, if habits are the architecture of daily life, who’s the architect? Why not become the architect of your own life? Consciously bring in new habits that can help change your life – one habit at a time.
Nancy Friedman, Chief Being Officer