Finding Balance

Recently I've been feeling rundown and exhausted. 9 months of pregnancy, childbirth, then nearly 8 months of minimal and/or very broken sleep followed by full on days looking after my baby may have finally caught up with me. I'm drained - physically and mentally. Being a new mum is absolutely incredible but it's also bl**dy hard work. All of which has got me thinking about finding balance and creating enough time across the year to get in that rest and recharge time that you need. Not just mums of course but everyone - everyone needs that bit of downtime where they can breathe and recover, ready for the more intense and full on times.

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I can think of different things to do that are relaxing - sit in a cafe and sip a coffee, take a long bath, light some candles, read a book. I've got lots of different ideas of relaxing activities but I'm more interested in how you go about creating that time for yourself - both physically and mentally.

Making downtime is hard. I think a lot of us feel compelled to fill every minute of the day because otherwise we'll miss out on something, time will rush past and we won't have made the most of it or worse still, if we take some time to stop we're being lazy. We fill our calendars to the maximum, write to-do lists that are so long they're impossible to achieve and when we then crash out or don't achieve everything we beat ourselves up over it. How do we go about challenging these thoughts? For me there are two thoughts that I turn to:

1. Active rest is actually doing something, it can be pleasurable and a good use of our time.

2. Who says we need to work every moment of the day? Who says that it's a good thing to work flat out for long hours and that anything less makes you lazy? Resting is not the same thing as being lazy. Sitting down to read, listening to the birds, breathing deeply and taking some time to go slow is not the same as not being bothered to do anything.

Once you see the rest and recharge as something that deserves time in your calendar as much as anything else it mentally becomes more achievable. Until it becomes second nature to sit back and recharge maybe that time has to literally go in the diary. Block out that time you need so that you actually do it rather than filling it with something else.

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Of course even with it in the diary it's still easy to let that time get used for something else that comes up. It's so easy to feel that other things are more important - I've got to clean the house, do the ironing, go to the shops, email such and such. It gets pushed down and down the list because we don't allow ourselves to prioritise it. Given enough opportunity we can push it so low on the priority list that it never gets a look in edge ways unless we book a holiday where we're forced to slow down for a few days. If resting and recharging is good for our health why would we make it less important than removing a tiny bit of dust that has gathered in the last week?

So how do we go about making that time? First things first - I think you have to get past the idea of being worthy of a rest. A rest and recharge shouldn't be a reward for working. It should simply be a part of your life - you need both work and rest in your life, sometimes you need more of one than the other and sometimes you need them equally. But rest isn't the present you give yourself for working hard. It's like food and drink - you need it to keep going. Rest isn't a bad thing or a guilty pleasure - it's part of being alive.

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Next you have to be aware of how much rest you need - it's not going to always be the same amount. Tune back into your body and listen to it - it's going to be telling you when you need to hit the pause button and for how long.

Once you know how much rest you need you can work out when is best for you to take it. Perhaps you just need five minutes before bed - a bedtime routine that calms you down and settles your mind before sleep. Or perhaps you need a few hours once a week for a yoga class. Whatever you need you can work on putting that time aside.

You might also need to put some boundaries in place to help protect that time. If you find yourself reaching for your phone when you want to be reading a book, put the phone in another room. Turn the computer off to avoid the temptation of looking at emails. Add an extra 15 minutes of blocked out time to your diary before your rest time so that you can definitely make it to that class and don't get caught on too many last minute jobs.

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