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Look up and pay attention

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How much do you actually look at the things around you when you’re walking? I’ve been watching people going about their lives today – all so focused, eyes dead ahead, intent on getting somewhere else, absorbed in their phones or inhabiting some other world while plugged into headphones.

We all do it, but you know, it’s so much more satisfying to notice the clack and echo of your heel on the ground, the ebb and flow of sound as it sifts its way around you, and the patterns of light and shadow.

Also, when you look up and pay attention, you see gems like this cow on a yellow wall that I saw in Digbeth on Saturday while admiring the graffiti.

Self-care isn’t selfish

I’ve always loved Scott Adams’ funny and astute observations about the working world in Dilbert and these delectable strips on work-life balance are no exception.

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Those of you who have come to one of my talks on this theme may remember me saying that I don’t really like calling it ‘work-life balance’. I think the trouble with the word ‘balance’ is that it seems to imply some sort of tradeoff between work and not-work, whereas life and work is usually much more tightly knitted than that. I prefer thinking of it in terms of integration instead. How do your work and the rest of your life fit and flex together in response to any given set of circumstances?

I often find that clients will come to coaching with a particular conundrum like ‘help me get a new job’ or ‘I want to make a career change’. Once we start exploring their situation, however, it quickly becomes apparent that the approach that needs to be taken is far more holistic in nature. Work may be the presenting challenge, but there are often issues relating to confidence and self-doubt, identity, relationships and clarity of focus all tied up in that. The nature of lots of work these days is that you can take it with you – which of course is a huge part of the problem, because thanks to mobile and cloud technology, you can now not only work from home, but everyone else’s home as well. Hurrah!

There will always be times in which you’ll actually need to work through an intense, demanding and stressful period at work. But many of us get into the habit of always being ‘on’, which never gives the mind and body a chance to recover. And typically what happens, because burnout builds slowly, is that the continual pressure goes unacknowledged until you experience some sort of crisis.

There are always signs that point the way to impending burnout – exhaustion, irritability and impatience, loss of perspective, emotional volatility, and a decline in physical health. The key thing is catching these well before you get to the tipping point.

When someone talks about ‘self-care’, what do you think about?

“Cancelling plans is ok. Staying home to cook is ok. Disappearing for a bit to get your life together is ok. Resurfacing in a foreign country with a new name 10 years later is ok. It’s called self-care.”
– A meme all over the Internet  

It seems to be a bit of a health buzzword these days, but I want to encourage you to look at it as something sustainable for the long haul, not some wellbeing fad, and especially not something that is intrinsically self-centred. I’ll tell you now – if you’re the kind of person to worry that self-care is selfish, it’s a fair bet that you probably aren’t selfish. And, funnily enough, you’re probably also not taking care of yourself.

It’s time to change that.

Get a paper and pen now, because we’re going to do a bit of work. Do you know what’s in your self-care recipe? By which I mean, do you know all the things that re-energise you and bring you peace? Take a moment now to reflect on that, and then make a list of ten of those things.

Done? Let’s take a look. Here’s my list.

  1. Solitude and quiet
  2. Allowing myself to not achieve
  3. Plenty of sleep
  4. Books, music and headphones
  5. Exercise
  6. Saying no
  7. Massage
  8. Remembering that not everyone has to like me
  9. Deep one-on-one conversations
  10. Not sweating the small stuff

What’s on your list? What are you doing well, and what are you not doing enough of? What changes are you going to make to rebalance your life?

Self-care isn’t selfish; it allows you to recalibrate and replenish yourself so that you can continue to give. It’s a bit like putting on your own oxygen mask first so that you can make sure you’re able to put on someone else’s later. You can say no (and still be a good and kind person), and it is absolutely fine to not always ‘live up to’ the expectations placed on you (both by yourself and by other people). Allow yourself the breathing space – you will find that you come back all the stronger for the rest.     

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

 

 

My life is better than your holiday

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(I’m not talking about my life vs. your holiday. That would be unbearably smug.)

I’ve had so many conversations in the past couple of weeks about people who are unhappy, whether that’s due to their work (or work culture and environment), their life situation, or because they’re drifting through the world without direction or purpose. Then they go on holiday and for one moment the world is great, the sun is shining and they’ve got a fabulous tan.

And then they come home and it’s back to normal programming, counting down to the next time they can get away.

Life shouldn’t be something you mostly try to escape from. If this is you, a better life could be just one decision away. Don’t settle. Make changes – small steps that are going to lead you towards a far more fulfilling existence.

What one thing are you going to do today to get you closer to the way you’d like to live?

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

The joy of new experiences

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In January I joined the Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir despite not ever having had any classical choral experience. If you were following me at the time you may remember that by the time I got to the break in my first rehearsal I was all OMG WERE YOU THINKING YOU COULD SING YOU ARE TOTALLY DELUDED.

Well. Turns out I stuck with it and passed my audition, so I can’t have been that bad, and tomorrow we perform Haydn’s Theresienmesse and Mozart’s Requiem. And I can hit all the high notes and manage the vocal gymnastics that sent fear down my spine at the beginning.

So: try out new things, even if you don’t think you’re going to be any good at them. And then if you’re awful, keep going. Because you’re going to learn from the things you get wrong, and you’re going to get better. And the better you get, the more it will motivate you. And then you’ll look back and realise how much progress you’ve made, and you’re going to bloody love it.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd