Whatever our circumstances, whether we feel blessed or whether we are struggling for some reason, finding ways to build even moments of joy into our daily lives can help us recharge our batteries and build resilience for the long term.
Are your batteries fully charged, or in need of a boost?
In 2020 and 2021 repeated lockdowns had a profound impact on all of our lives, whatever our age or occupation. Regardless of whether we were a student whose course work moved to being taught remotely, an employee who had been instructed to work from home, or a retiree whose social life and connection with friends and family had to move on-line, many of us found ourselves sat in front of an electronic screen for long periods each day. And it wasn’t just our computers and phones whose batteries were running low.
In my work as a coach I am used to being home based, often connecting with clients remotely via Skype, Zoom or any one of the many on-line tools now available to us. But what’s been new is spending all of my time in this way. Over the past months I’ve not only been seeing all of my clients “virtually”, but also keeping in touch with my friends, connecting with my book-club, doing a yoga class, ordering shopping, watching plays, competing in a “pub” quiz, reading books and a myriad of other things all on-line.
This new, always on-line world can be exhausting, and it’s often hard to maintain a barrier between work and leisure. Changed working practices may provide greater flexibility, but they also blur boundaries and can result in us never truly switching off.
Now the country has opened up again and we are being encouraged back to the office, back to theatres and restaurants, back to church, back to many other mass gatherings. But lots of us are reluctant to plunge ourselves back into that world and mix with impunity. You may be one of the unfortunate people who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. You may have been overworked during it and are looking for ways to create a better work-life balance for yourself. You may have changed your priorities and be re-thinking your career choices or want to consider how you’d fill your time in retirement. In any of these scenarios I’d encourage you to invest some time reflecting on the things you like to do and what brings you joy, and how you can introduce more of this into your current circumstances – however challenging they may be.
What gives you a sense of satisfaction, purpose or fulfilment?
This is an exercise I often use with my coaching clients. It helps them consider what is important to them, what their values are, and what gives them a sense of satisfaction, purpose or fulfilment. You can complete it on your own, discuss it with a friend, or maybe even review it with a coach. Reflect on your answers and decide what to do next.
To begin the exercise, start by creating a list of 15-20 things you like to do with your time. Then, looking at each activity in turn, consider these questions:
- How long is it since I last did this?
- Does it cost money or is it free?
- Is this something I do on my own or with someone else?
- Is it fast paced or slow paced?
- Is it mind or body related?
- Is it job related?
Now, as you sit and look at your list and your answers to these questions, consider what they are telling you about your current situation. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with this? And, what changes could you make, no matter how small, that would move you towards a more, or even more, satisfied frame of mind?
Time to get creative and increase those feelings of satisfaction and sense of purpose
Do you love walking in the hills, but haven’t been hiking for months? Can you commit to put aside a day this month to get into the countryside, take a picnic and reconnect with nature?
Maybe you like to visit a health spa and treat yourself to a facial or body massage. So, it’s been a while and you still don’t feel comfortable doing it at the moment, but can you allocate an hour or two just for you, hide yourself away in the bathroom, light candles, play some soothing music and put on a home face-pack while soaking in a hot bubble bath, or give yourself a pedicure with a new nail polish to recreate some of that spa feeling?
If you like to travel and discover new places, your annual trip abroad may still be on hold, but you might be amazed at what you didn’t know was on your doorstep. Put the same effort into researching what to do in your home town as you would if you were visiting there for the first time and you could be surprised at what is available to you that you’ve never had the time to explore before.
Looking at your list, if most of your activities are job related, and you are not currently working or are planning not to work, how can you recreate the fun experiences or the joyful feelings you get after doing those work activities in ways that are not to do with your job?
If most of your chosen activities are done with other people, are fast paced and body related, what does this tell you about possible future career or life choices? Or, if you like to do activities alone, that are slow-paced or mind related, what in turn does that say? What hobbies might you consider, what volunteering, or what new work could you do that will provide similar experiences to those you listed and create the same feelings of satisfaction and enjoyment?
Looking after and being kind to ourselves continues to be important as the long-term impact and strains of the pandemic are still being felt. It’s tempting to just focus on all the things we can’t do, but I’d love you to get creative and think, what can I do that I enjoy to get those endorphins flowing, even just a little?
Let me know how you get on!