You know what it’s like: the alarm buzz sends you diving under the covers for more rest. The kids are yelling about who has first shot at the iPad. Thirty-five new emails just popped up on your phone. The internet decides to go AWOL just as you get ready for an important Zoom call with your office—or worse—a really big client. You discover you forgot to set out the garbage cans, and you bought triple-A batteries for a now-useless trackpad that needs double-As instead.
Welcome to my day. And maybe yours!
Stop. Breathe. It’s what I tell myself as I remember the new routine that can turn the anxiety of burnout into a breakthrough day.
How do you get started?
Rise with the sun
There’s truth in the saying, “The early bird gets the worm.” Before the craziness of the day begins, create a space of stillness and slow motion. Savor a cup of coffee or tea while you deliberately give thanks for a new day and the possibilities it holds. I listen to the sound of ocean waves on an app and simply breathe, thinking of all I have to be grateful for, big or small.
Take a quick shower
Babies float in water before birth. Water is our instinctive habitat. A shower in the morning physically and mentally refreshes you for the day and, at night, can soothe tired and tense muscles.
Run or walk outside
Whether first thing in the morning or later in the day, this simple exercise pushes oxygen around your body and into your brain. You’ll think more clearly, and, with every step, you’ll begin to dissipate stress and anxiety. If you’re faced with a challenging issue, take a walk. If you want to be creative, take a walk. If you’re upset, take a walk.
Accept that negative “stuff” will happen in the day
And when it does, reframe it as a teaching point. For example, it was my hurried pace that had me grabbing triple-A batteries from an endcap in the store rather than paying attention to what I really wanted. The internet provider that always goes out offers me an opportunity to finally set up that backup system and a landline phone. Lessons learned.
Practice saying, “I choose to” instead of “I have to”
This is a big one. When we say we “have to,” we’re assigning our power over to someone else—or to an event, politicians, or the universe. We always have multiple options to choose from, even if we don’t care for all of them. If you have trouble thinking of alternatives, ask others for ideas.
Reach out and do one thing for someone else every day
This might sound small, but when we help someone else, we’re reminded that we’re not alone on this planet. A positive outreach prompts a positive flow of endorphins. Place the morning paper at your neighbor’s front door. Call a housebound senior and check-in. Write a gratitude note to three people. Carry the heavy case of water bottles to the car for someone less able. Bake a cake and take it to the post office to say thanks for their hard work in the face of political game-playing. You get the idea.
Play doesn’t belong only in the realm of childhood. In fact, play is often the catalyst for creativity, innovation, and, hopefully, relaxation. Think about the terms we use: play music, play a game, play make-believe, play cards, or play with a pet.
As part of a daily routine, become very deliberate about carving out time for something you can call “play.” It might be art. It might be baking. It might be woodworking. It might be going for a swim. Whatever it is, you’re free from work and home pressures during that time.
Like any new routine, setting new habits will require practice and persistence. Some days will be better than others. What you seek is a sense of control and purpose in the day—even when less-than-ideal things happen. And at the day’s end, leave all electronic gadgets behind. If you can, use a journal to review the day. What worked? What breakthrough in mind, body, or spirit did you experience? Remember, small successes add up to big steps.
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