Anyone else feel like they are on some sort of countdown challenge to the Easter holidays?
For me the week before a break always seems to be on fast forward, whether it’s managing work deadlines, extra school events or trying to coordinate pet drops offs and packing for wherever we are headed.
As a result, the “me-time” - my fitness routine, down time and sometimes even lunch - are pushed to one side in the race to get everything done.
So, this time around, I have decided to do it differently – a sort of mini experiment. I am deliberately programming in and prioritising the time for exercise, the time for coffee with friends and most definitely the food! When I do start to feel overwhelmed, instead of pushing myself harder, I am pausing – whether it’s to take 5 minutes to head outside or just take a few deep breaths to re-set.
And, so far, the results have been quite surprising. Instead of lurching frantically from one task to the next, I am taking time to think…and actually I am finding that I am getting more done. With this in mind here are my top tips for swerving the pre-holiday panic:
1. Let go of the perfect. It’s that soul-destroying moment when, just as you reach the bottom of the inbox, another email comes pinging it's way in, shattering that illusion that you will ever get true closure before going. However, the reality is there will always be something else to do. So, prioritise what absolutely has to be done, plan for your return and let the rest go.
2. Eat, sleep and be merry. In the opening to his book ‘Why We Sleep’, Matthew Walker cites the fact that two-thirds of adults in the developed world fail to achieve the recommended 8 hours sleep a night. He then goes on to quote a list of rather terrifying consequences of this lack of sleep - in very basic terms, however, I know that not enough sleep makes me inefficient and very grumpy.
The same goes for skipping meals and poor food choices. In reality, cutting back on sleep and food, whilst tempting in order to get more done, is actually entirely counter-productive and can lead to even greater problems down the line.
3. Freshen up. Fresh air and the outdoors has always been my go to “quick fix” for dealing with overwhelm and stress. And it appears it’s not just me. A recent study by neuroscientist Dr Andrea Mechelli based on data from the Urban Mind app, found that the positive effects of a single exposure to nature could last for up to 7 hours. This could be as simple as spending time in the garden or walking the dog.
Now, admittedly this is more difficult to achieve when you work in an office, but evidence suggests that even tuning into something natural in your surroundings can have a positive effect. As well as the many health benefits, time in the outdoors can improve productivity as well, improving short term memory, creativity and focus. As Florence Williams, author of the Nature Fix says: “Go outside, go often…and breathe.”