Thursday, 31 May 2018

Back in five


Recently it was suggested to me that I set aside time for micro-breaks throughout the day. Small periods of five minutes to focus on my breath, etc. It was given to me as a tactic to avoid burnout.

I found the suggestion preposterous.

How could I afford to take five minutes? Even if I could manage this, how would five minutes be enough to accomplish anything for my mental well-being? I dismissed it and carried on with my pin-to-pin, full throttle, A-type time management approach.

Then, after taking a loved one to the ER (and thankfully bringing them back home again), I found myself lying on the bathroom floor, unable to get up.

I had shut down. I was not upset, nor panicked. I had merely powered down.

It went something like this: I walked into the bathroom, splashed water on my face, then considered the door handle and thought, ‘huh, this locks.’ I locked it, then found myself taking a seat on the cool tile and eventually lying down on my back to listen to the hum of the overhead fan. I texted my friend and asked her whether or not she felt this scenario would fit into a Wes Anderson film? We concluded that it could live in his canon, but only if I were to hand-write my text-messages with beautiful penmanship and shoot them out, beneath the door in such a way as to have them land perfectly centered at my husband’s feet.

I laid there, eventually placing my legs ‘up the wall’, and waited for my energy to return.

Return it did, and when able, I got myself vertical and went on with the rest of my day.

The five-minute mini-break suggestion suddenly seemed perfectly reasonable, in fact even preferable to my full body, hour-long, out-of-nowhere ‘time-out’ session on the floor.

The next day I set a timer. After one hour of work, it rang, I stopped and re-set it to five minutes. During those five minutes, I did something for myself.

The 'something' by the way, can be anything: breathing on a count, stepping outside for fresh air, listening to a favorite song, reading, dancing, anything healthy, silly, fun or relaxing goes.

I picked my poison and after five minutes was amazed by two things:

First, how long those five minutes felt.

Second, how rested, renewed and ready to ‘get back to it’ I was, after just, five, minutes.

This practice of setting a timer to stop and do something, anything, for myself once an hour is proving to be a lifesaver. My days no longer overwhelm me, or at least if they start to I am better able to step back, reassess, and pivot to work smarter not just harder. During those five minutes (now sometimes ten), I remember the love I have for what I do, what matters to me, how much fun life ought to be and to return to 'process' oriented goals.

Five minutes. Take them, relish in them, trust them. It’s that or the bathroom floor my friend and bathroom floors (unless in a Wes Anderson film), are just plain gross.

- J


*J, In my imagination you’re always starring in a Wes Anderson film- M

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Maira Gall