The irony of a ‘New Year’...
It’s February *klaxon*
Let that sink in for a moment.
Whilst I think that we are all beyond the idealised notion of ‘ New You’ and all of that manufactured nonsense, it’s only natural to see opportunities for change in the reset that is a blank 12 months to fill.
But have you gotten over the past one yet? The last quarter of the calendar reminds me of those popular memes - usually a toddler in some kind of powered vehicle, or something that starts off in transit and then spirals into the hedge at the end, through the air, thrown around to land upside down - and we all awake on Jan 1st wondering ‘ What just happened’?
And that’s the thing - we are meant to have enjoyed a ‘holiday’ at the end of December. I’m not saying we don’t - socialising, catching up with family, travelling or even the absolute joy of curling up post festivities with nowhere to go and no one to see but your old friend Netflix - but by the 2nd of January we are thrown back into routine with the alleged vigour of a maniacal fitness instructor with a goal planner in one hand and a multivitamin smoothie in the other.
And for most of us, it’s false.
There is no denying that resilience is key to living in this seemingly crazy world at the moment. We make time go faster than ever, we have a ridiculous, almost fetishised, work/hustle culture whilst battling with the idea of being our ‘best’ selves and living our ‘best lives’ - and any boundaries we hold dear, or have set ourselves, seem to go straight out of the window in our quest to constantly please others.
It’s not practical to think that we can ‘reset’ our entire existence overnight. Burnout is real, endemic and a true medical condition - but even if we are not quite at the stage of required intervention there - and so many people truly are - what can we do to take back a little control, even in the smallest of ways?
Take a re-set day
Small habits, done consistently, stick and grow. The first step, in my experience, is to ask yourself a really basic question.
“What is important?”
I ask myself this in relation to all aspects of my day and am trying harder to ask it more frequently. My physical and mental state means that even in a single day, I can lose sight of this and need to constantly check in with myself.
For work - this means prioritising.
For work and life combined, this means prioritising work tasks alongside current health needs. Right now - for me, work is important, and I have to ensure I’m on top of it, which means a schedule that works for that around my current body clock and energy levels at various times of the day. Mid afternoon, when I have effectively completed a full working day, I will not feel guilty about taking a much needed rest. Through the day, I have to remember to eat and drink (I know, you wouldn’t believe it to look at me) - so it’s important to balance both. We know that a wrecked, middle aged mum of teenagers is not a good look, nor is it productive. My body is fighting back now, and it’s a wake up call.
Bringing me back to ‘down time’...
I learned post 40 that I take real joy in the small things. For some, a personal ‘reset’ means a vigorous workout or really letting loose socially in its various forms. For me - I find true joy in knowing that the time is my own, and I can choose exactly how I spend it. I am triggered by always being ‘on the go’ - especially if this means serving others against my own needs. And I don’t need much. I need the knowledge of knowing that I can get up at 5 am if I want to on a weekend, or indeed, laze until 9. I am triggered by feeling ‘on the back foot’ and increasingly by other people's lack of boundaries. Last year, I reached my zenith with some business-related WhatsApp messages at 4 am on a Saturday morning. Whilst I dealt with them, it was a real ‘moment’ - I thought to myself ‘ How dare they?’ - I felt almost ‘other like’ - a not very well-oiled machine whose batteries were at zero, and like any other non maintained machine, used and abused until those boundaries had burst beyond repair.
What would your re-set day look like?
The idea of a busy work week and back-to-back weekend activities, personally, fills me with utter dread, but I’m not you. Maybe you need the absolute opposite of your Mon-Fri or equivalent to unwind and feel like yourself again. Maybe you have younger children and like so many, spend your ‘down time’ playing taxi driver and sitting through birthday parties or sports ECA’s. How does that make you feel?
Do you know that nobody ever died from too much rest?
Just ‘being’ - with nowhere to go and nobody to see unless you want to.
It’s so freeing.
As parents, we have become obsessed with keeping our kids valiantly occupied through each waking moment. One thing I do know is that time spent with your kids is never truly about ‘things’ or ‘places’ - they literally just want you and your attention, undivided. This is as important for ten precious minutes as it is for days out and expensive trips. It’s not an age thing either. From getting down on the floor to truly ‘play’ with them and whatever fixation is the latest trend, to teenagers who would love a coffee chat with you, or you settling down to watch *their* choice of movie, or showing interest in their latest hyper-focus without judgement.
Time ‘well spent’ is never time wasted, and it’s definitely time to reevaluate what time ‘well spent’ looks like to you.
Limit the parts that truly feel like a waste (meetings that could have been an email for one) and maximise the ones that don’t. I’m all about the joy in the small things to get through a day or a week. I’m satisfied when I can hit the pillow minus any anxiety over things that are still not done, and whilst I am not OCD or uber-organised, I know that I feel better when I know that I have done all I can that day to sleep sounder, so I try to ensure that at the end of the working day.
I enjoy particular foods or particular TV shows. I’m terrible at running baths and not getting in them, so I am getting better at that, because I feel so much better climbing into bed after one. The effects on my moods and anxiety levels of these things are enormous. It’s not about expensive or time consuming self care. ‘Self Care’ means many things to many people, but I honestly believe it starts with the small things.
What can you ‘reset’ this week?