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 may have spent last year rushing to achieve targets or hit deadlines. And many other things have changed in the past two years. Words like “Zoom” or “Teams” are now familiar to you, but you may have been on a steep learning curve that perhaps you’re still trying to perfect.  This time two years ago you’d never heard the phrase “social distancing” nor sanitised your hands that much! Mask-wearing was probably not something you did much of either.

During the pandemic you may have been responsible not only for your own needs, but also those you care for, be that through volunteering, ‘bubbles’, home learning or providing other assistance. You may have been ‘working from home’ for some or all of the last year and that might have been an exhausting, frustrating and isolating experience, or you may have found it productive. You may currently be adjusting to a hybrid or condensed form of work or study where some of your activities are still online and others are in-person.

If you are lucky enough to have found the pandemic relatively stress free so far, you still may have been busy remotely attending to many other people’s schedules and requirements. And if you were sick either with Covid-19 or other mental or physical health problems, this will have taken a toll.  If last year was 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.

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 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.

There may be moments 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.

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