Back to Basics
Back in my corporate days, I remember so clearly this time of the year. It would be the last few weeks before the Christmas break and for some unknown reason there was an absolute mountain of work to be completed before Christmas. The feeling of utter exhaustion at this time of the year was immense. I would use phrases like “I’m just hanging on by my fingernails until the Christmas holidays” or “I’m just crawling to the finish line”, and that was genuinely the way I felt.
While I’ve gained a lot of work-life balance since I left that life, now I’m talking to people who are still living that life. One client reported a rise in blood pressure that has resulted in her taking new medication, another speaks about waking in the middle of the night with panic over things he has forgotten to do. I listen to their stories with sadness, remembering how that was for me, and the pointlessness of it all. I remember having an App on my smartwatch that reminded me every couple of hours to take a minute to “Breathe” and how I would look at it impatiently in the middle of my day and think “Oh for God’s sake, I haven’t time for breathing!”.
Though we instinctively know that there is no job in the world worth our mental and physical health, somehow we get dragged in to a way of thinking and behaving. And often that is driven from the top, a culture or created environment that people feel they have to adhere to.
Employees may feel disempowered and helpless and very often overwhelmed. However, making small subtle changes can create big shifts that can help you to manage stress and work demands, and reclaim your energy and focus right through the year. Building your own resilience to enable you to work sustainably, that is to sustain yourself over the years to work to your best potential but not to burn out.
There are lots of techniques to manage your team and your manager, but the most important place to begin, is with the basics. Fundamentally, if we are tired, stressed and feeling negative, we will not make good decisions or choices.
Sleep has been shown to have such a profound impact on how we perform – from emotional agility to heart health and so much more. Developing good habits around ensuring you get a decent night’s sleep is, for me, the foundation. If we sleep badly, we’re much more likely to have an emotional outburst, eat poorly and make bad decisions. Start here. Matthew Walker’s book “Why we Sleep” gives us all the reasons we need to address this basic issue before we can hope to tackle our sense of overwhelm.
Eating good nourishing food to support our bodies in all that it has to do during the day, week and year is another basic. We all know what poor eating is and really working on getting more goodness into your diet, as opposed to cutting out this or that is probably a more balanced approach. Cathy Fitzgibbons book “Eating with the Seasons” is a great resource showing how to eat fresh, local produce with great nutritional impact.
Movement is the third basic – it doesn’t have to be Ultramarathons if that’s not your thing- walking is as basic as it gets. Getting outside into the light helps our sleep patterns, our mental health and our physical wellbeing. It’s a superb stress buster bringing down our levels of cortisol and adreneline. Coupled with some mindful presence we’re now bringing some much needed rest for the brain and creating space for whatever might emerge.
It’s simple but not always easy, but it’s mandatory. It’s an investment in yourself, your family, your work, team – long term sustainability of you. And, that’s non-negotiable. As we approach the end of the year, consider today
- can I get to bed earlier these next few weeks – switch off devices an hour before bed and read an actual book!
- can I get more vegetables into my diet – make a batch of warm nourishing soup?
- Can I get out into nature – even for 10 minutes during the day and walk – even 5 minutes down the road and back?
Small subtle moves are easy to work into the day and although they might not seem like much, they are more than you’re already doing and done consistently will add up to a lot.
It’s important to take a step back to observe the way you are working – what you are feeling and thinking right now. If you make the effort to just get back to the basics, you will have the resources to start addressing the areas of life that are not yet under your control.
Let’s get back to the basics.