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There is this notion so prevalent in society that glorifies doing – we feel like we need to have our diaries as full as possible. Add in things like FOMO and feeling like we want to be showing all the brilliant things were doing on social media can really lead to us feeling like were running through the motions. It can also lead to intense burnout. It’s clear why this happens – we live in a society that upholds achievements. Winning and excelling are seen as the end goal for many things. Within that, you’ll often find that conversations seem to veer in the direction of how much stuff you’ve been doing or what you’ve been able to fit in. You may even have become accustomed to putting your working hours in your email signature – and as we prioritize that, do we really think about the non-working hours?
The balance is, quite frankly, off balance.
Recently, I had this radical thought that seems to have really impacted a lot of my thought processes. You know sometimes you get those thoughts that just stick and you can’t stop thinking about them? Well, this has been that for me. The idea came to me after a really intense period of work and doing all the time. I felt burnt out. I started to feel like I had turned from a human being to a human doing. This idea got me thinking. We spend so much time doing, that we often forget the notion of being. From chatting to others, I realized that the notion of being seems to be really wrapped up in an idea that it needs to look like stationary rest – the idea that you’re literally doing nothing.
I think this has become normalized as we present two radical extremes. We do constantly and then we get so burnt out from it that we literally need to rest. So those two polar opposites have become normal. What if, instead, you could start to realize that being doesn’t need to just mean resting and being stationary, it can actually involve so many of the things that bring you joy, or can be varied or help you feel mindfully connected?
The idea, for me, of ‘being’ not feeling entirely related to just resting came about when I realized that when I try and just sit and rest my mind seems to go wondering and not always in a good way. I get stressed about feeling stressed. I’ll sit and worry about what I have to do the next day or the next week and so by the end of the day, I don’t feel any more in balance or rested than I did at the start. However, on days where I’m doing something that brings me joy and I’m mindfully in the moment – even if that is a long hike, I feel I come back from that realizing that I’ve actually spent most of that time concentrating on the now and the enjoyment of the activity. Now, of course, this is just my personal experience, it may be totally different for you. Life happens and it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes there is nothing we can do about intense periods of time where we just need to get through. However, the notion of meaningful being and mindful time and time spent filling your cup is hopefully going to have an impact on your sense of self and wellbeing, so you don’t get to those polar opposite points quite as often. It’s about finding those things that take you out of your head and out of the daily hustle, let you feel like you can reset your compass and be ‘you’ that little bit more. Having space to reset your compass can radically help with self-confidence, decision making and it can really help with feeling more grounded when it comes to the things you face in your day to day life.
So, how to develop my ‘being’ time?
Find what works for you
Finding what works for you is ultra important here, because everybody is different. Doing what you think you should be is only going to lead to more of a feeling that you aren’t quite hitting that magical formula. I really struggled with this – because I felt like my downtime needed to look like sitting and just vegging out, but that didn’t really work for me. Sure, sometimes I feel like that is needed, but often times, its less than I think. For me, doing something I can really get my whole body into is really helpful for my ‘being’ time. This might be meditation. It could be having a massage. It can be giving myself a self care day. It can be a hike or walk. It can even be going to a theme park (laugh all you want but we recently went to Alton Towers and it was one of the most mindfully connected days that I’ve had in a long time). It can be cooking. I didn’t let myself feel ok with the idea for a long time that all these things felt like ‘being’ time for me. Once I started to accept that these were just my own individual needs and wants being met and that it didn’t need to look like somebody else’s ideal, I really stopped feeling as bad that it didn’t look a certain way.
Build up your tool kit
Developing what you need for your being time is about building up a tool kit of options – different things that might work for different times. Some days you may feel like doing a big adventure to reset, whereas another day it might be listening to a podcast. There is no right or wrong here – it is just what makes you feel mindfully connected and in the experience. What’s also great about having a tool kit of things is that if you find one thing doesn’t work at any given time, you’ve got a whole selection of things to try and get into. Start by thinking about the things you really enjoy doing that have nothing to do with your work – we’re looking for things that really help you feel mindful. We’re looking for those things that, when you do them, by the end of it you realized you’ve been engrossed. If it’s something that generally makes you wonder where the time has gone, this is exactly what we’re looking for. It may be helpful to make a list of these things on your phone, a journal or somewhere you can see them, so that you can refer back to them to remind you of the things that you uniquely enjoy.
Making time for self care can and is really hard, but if you are finding it a struggle, make specific time slots in your diary when you can spend time doing. It doesn’t need to be whole days – an hour here or there through the week can be all that is needed to help reset your compass sometimes. We seem to come at things like this with an all or nothing approach oftentimes, but looking at what is realistic for you is going to help you get greater success from this.
Acknowledging the impact
We generally commit to things more when we realize how important they are for us – and so a really great way to do this is to keep a note of how you feel after you’ve finished versus how you felt at the start. Connecting to the idea that this is actually helping you and figuring out what exactly is working for you is going to really lead to noticeable changes for you.