Centre Yourself

In your last #ResearcherRenew task you focused on what you’ve achieved in the past year. Today the task is still all about you, with a focus on the present. You will need a whole day for this task and can decide when it is you want to do it.

What’s been your recent history?
You may have spent last year rushing to achieve targets or hit deadlines. And many other things have changed in the past few years. Living through a pandemic; conflict in different parts of the world; shifting to online learning then back to face-to-face; worries over fuel, food and finance; all of these and more may have impacted on you or those you work and study with.

Four years ago you’d probably not heard of words like “Zoom” or “Teams” that are now familiar to you. You may have been on a steep learning curve over the last few years that perhaps you’re still trying to perfect.  This time four years ago you’d never heard the phrase “social distancing” nor sanitised your hands that often! Mask-wearing was probably not something you did much of either. Lockdowns were yet to happen. And yet happen they did, with varying impacts, some of which you may still be recovering from or living with. Global conflicts, political unrest, the cost of living crisis, a recent or long-term diagnosis, or other personal issues may all have added to your worries or ability to function as normal. If the last few years (or before) were challenging you may already have a long to-do list and anxieties about how you’re going to keep on top of work this coming year, or feel as if you’ve reached a point of burnout.

Reserving a day for yourself
It may feel counterintuitive to stop when you feel you must dash on, especially if other people are pushing you. However, setting aside time to do very little is just as important. Later in #ResearcherRenew we’ll return to specific relaxation techniques, but for today it’s up to you to decide how you wish to spend your time.

You might want to go outside to sit in the garden or for a walk. Listen to the radio. Enjoy a film. Read a book. Prepare a meal. Meet up with friends. Spend time with family. Write someone you care about a letter. Or just enjoy your own company. Here are some free ideas to inspire you and there’s a list of more ideas (and instructions on how to do them) in Chapter Seven of Being Well In Academia

Some people call this ‘self care’ or ‘me time’. You don’t need a word for it, nor to spend a lot of (or any) money to achieve it. Very simply you are just making time to do something kind for yourself. Treating yourself just as kindly as you would a good friend.

There may be moments during your day when you’re tempted to check email, make plans or get involved with other people’s projects. Unless it’s urgent, resist this. You may also want to avoid social media for the day as well.

Towards the end of your day, set aside 15-30 minutes to reflect on how you are feeling. Hopefully you’ll be calmer, quieter and happier. You’ll have spent the day doing something you like, with few interruptions. How has that felt? Do you feel refreshed and energised? Sleepy? Excited about the month ahead? You might want to note down these feelings.

If you feel the day has been a good one for you, when we come to planning your year in a few tasks time you may want to specifically schedule in immovable days that will be yours to enjoy as you wish – and with no intrusion from work.

If you found this task difficult
Although it’s designed to be pleasurable, if you are very stressed it is difficult to let go. And it may be if you are experiencing work or study problems other people won’t let you let go. If you weren’t able to relax or spend time doing what you wanted, then use today as a barometer. To note where you are stressing or overworking, to see who is driving that (you, or someone else). Or whether there are deeper issues you’ll need to tackle. Later this month we’ll be talking about support systems where we’ll return to ways of keeping you safe.

Unlike the preceding tasks I’m not asking you to share what you did today. That’s to ensure you spend more time on you and less time online. And to avoid feeling like you have to compete or have a ‘better day’ than other people. It doesn’t matter how they spend their time, what matters is you’ve had a good day.

Regardless of how you’ve spent the day, end it with one key thing that is a gift to yourself. That might be a warm drink, a shower or bath, or listening to music. Something quiet, gentle and relaxing that lets you close today with the knowledge you put yourself first. It’s okay if today you tried but feel you could get better at centring yourself. You’ve the next 12 months to hone this key skill.

If you enjoyed some or all of this day, however, make a point of repeating it as often as you are able. It can do you the power of good!

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