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Change Management 13 October 2015

Taking care of yourself during stressful times

A question I’ve been asking myself recently is how to stay balanced and healthy during times of transition.

It’s been on my mind because over the past few months my life has been pretty full on. I have been travelling with work, starting new projects, finishing old ones, moving to a new flat in a new city, adapting to home working, and the list goes on.

When everything is happening all at once, no matter how positive, it can begin to take a toll on your wellbeing – both mental and physical. It’s easy to slip into the habit of multi-tasking your way through the day, never giving your full attention to anything. It’s also easy to become imbalanced, particularly when working from home; I often find myself sending emails late into the evening  and, inevitably, struggling to switch off at bed time.

Given these challenges, I have been reflecting on what we can all do to navigate busy times while maintaining energy, resiliency and wellbeing. If it’s true that the only constant in life is change, then sooner or later, life will speed up again and we need to be prepared for it.

Make time for being

Make time - even just five minutes each morning - to just be. Schedule this time in your calendar and use it to check in with yourself and find out how you are. How are you feeling? What’s on your mind? Don’t judge the response you receive – just accept what is true for you, on that day, in that moment. Throughout the week, make an effort to notice when you are becoming an automatic human ‘doing’, a stressed-out slave to your to-do list, and just stop and take a few conscious breaths. Include ‘just be’ in your to-do list, and make sure you’ve ticked it off by the end of each day.

Focus on the small things you can do

Recognise that it might not always be possible to follow the health and wellbeing routine that you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to throw the ‘wellbeing baby’ out with the bathwater! Identify the small things you can do consistently each day, like taking an active break every 90 minutes to walk around the office (even if that means your living room), getting five minutes of fresh air at lunchtime or making time for a coffee break with a colleague (face-to-face or even online). Know that these small choices all stack up and make a big difference in the end.

Be kind 

Kindness starts with you. Accept that it’s ok to take the time to nurture yourself. Be your own best line manager, by setting clear boundaries around work time and down time. Acknowledge that this is a difficult / busy / stressful (or even all three!) time and that you deserve to be looked after and acknowledged for all the things you’re juggling. And, most importantly, be compassionate when you don’t manage to look after yourself ; don’t use a slip up as an opportunity to give up.

Experience tells me that when life is moving fast, our bodies are actually very good at telling us what we need to do. But are we willing to listen, and, most importantly, act? Follow the above advice and know that when the next wave hits, you’ll come out the other side with your health and well-being intact. Your future self will thank you for it.

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