9 ways to reconnect to yourself: Stepping off the treadmill of obligation to rediscover your voiceFeb 01, 2022
It’s February. Of our third year of this pandemic. Unfortunately, the end has not yet arrived, we are still in this. So here we are, staring down yet another year of uncertainty, of trying to hold it all together, of sickness and loss. Of having to make impossible decisions that pit wellbeing and financial responsibilities against the potential risk of serious illness or spread to vulnerable populations. Most of us did not enter the era of COVID with full batteries, feeling rested. We. Are. Exhausted.
In our very first blog post we talked about the burnout epidemic. In our last blog post, we talked about tools when you have no choice but to endure. This week we spotted this article from Fast Company: 6 red flags your body is breaking down from overwork. The article references the 6 signs that you’re overworking:
- You stop taking care of yourself.
- You’re not focused on your mental health.
- Your work no longer feels meaningful.
- You constantly worry about your job performance.
- You have trouble establishing boundaries between home and work.
- You’re lonely.
Most of us are experiencing the wear and tear of the last few years, but we keep pushing on. We take for granted that we can keep doing it again and again. After all, what choice do we have? Susan Biali Haas M.D. summarizes it well: “In our society, it’s very common for people to habitually push through fatigue” in a 2014 article in Psychology Today.
We’ve gotten so used to getting on with it, of pulling ourselves up every time we get knocked down that it’s not uncommon to just not notice the warnings blaring in our bodies and minds. We spend our days reacting to our next calendar entry, email, or to-do at work. Then we switch over to a pile of responsibilities of a different kind: cooking, cleaning, looking after kids, caregiving for family members, paying bills. All we can muster is trying to survive and get to the end of the day with everything relatively intact. We’re not even really in the driver’s seat of our lives anymore, we are just passengers being thrown around from obligation to obligation.
We almost forget that we are whole humans that exist outside of these obligations.
Today’s post is to encourage you to reconnect to yourself, and to explore the small, medium and big ways you can do that. Even if you can’t stop the onslaught of obligations, you can tune into your voice. We’ve put together a list of nine ways you can do this, lasting from just a few minutes to a few days.
Small Things (a few minutes to a an hour)
The research on the impact of meditation on resilience and well being is compelling. Take a few minutes to simply sit and breathe, with no obligation to be anywhere or do anything. Observe your thoughts as they come up and then let them go. It may help to do a guided meditation, or to meditate to music. Check out the free app Insight Timer (which you can also access online) with tens of thousands of recorded meditations of every style. You can sort by duration, benefit and more.
Draw, doodle, needle felt, try watercolor. There are endless resources online to help you try everything from candle making to macrame. You need not self-identify as creative to create. Explore, play, release any expectation of what the outcome looks like and immerse yourself in the process. Art helps us express things that we sometimes struggle to find words for.
Free writing, or journaling to specific prompts, can be a helpful way to reconnect with yourself. You can grab pen and paper, set a timer and just write without filtering. If that feels too open ended, try a Q&A style journal entry, where you ask yourself questions, and then write whatever comes up. Examples of questions could be: “What do I want more of in my life?” “What’s something I enjoy I haven’t done in a while?” “What really drains me?” “What lifts me up?”.
4. Unplug from your devices
"On average, Americans check their phones 262 times per day—that's once every 5.5 minutes!" Take a time-out from your computer and your phones. No email, website browsing or social media. No devices of any kind. There is so much digital noise and distraction, what happens when you turn it off? We live in a world designed to captivate our attention and distract us. All that noise can keep us from hearing our own needs, because we’re too absorbed in scrolling.
5. Go for a walk
Go outside and walk around in silence, or listen to your favorite music. The goal is to make this non-productive time that’s all about you. Enjoy the sights, smells and sounds. Bonus: Don’t bring your phone, or set a do not disturb.
Medium things (an hour to a half day)
6. Go through a goal setting process
In a prior blog post we laid out a step by step process you can follow to set goals and intentions for yourself. Going through this process can help you tune into what matters to you that you may be overlooking.
7. Take yourself out
Go on a date, with yourself, by yourself. Do something you want to do, for no other reason than because you want to. Go to a park, visit some shops, do an art walk in a nearby town, go to the zoo, get a massage. The first reaction might be “I can’t do anything, everything’s closed”. There are plenty of outdoor or distanced activities, find one you’re excited about.
8. Take a solo day off
If you have kids at school, take a day off when they’re not home, and do whatever you feel like doing. Your home responsibilities aren’t expecting you until later. Try to make this time non-productive, and all about fun.
A Big Thing (a few days)
9. Go on a retreat
Stepping out of your day to day life can be an incredibly powerful reset. Just a few nights in the right environment can have a deeply transformative impact, and massively recharge your batteries. It can be challenging to take the time to invest in yourself when the demands of your life are unrelenting. It can feel impossible to take a few hours, let alone a few days. But remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. A well placed, well designed retreat can have lasting impact. It can interrupt unhealthy habits and patterns. It can be the starting point of health and lifestyle changes that keep building and have a compounding effect. What would it take for you to allow yourself this gift?
Commit to taking some time, a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, to reconnect. Your voice matters. Peel back the layers of obligation, from everything you have to do and endure, and find yourself again.
Mindfulness Incubator will be hosting four day, three night retreats in 2022: June 2-5 and September 15-18 2022. These experiences have been curated for maximum renewal, and to help you unplug from the day to day chaos, and find yourself again. Learn all about these upcoming retreats here.
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