Downtime, who needs that!

Welcome to our latest blog. Our focus this month is rest, relaxation and self-care in honour of World Sleep Day which is 15th March. I know that for women in menopause sleep can become an issue so I wanted to give you some help with that.
Plus 8th March is International Women’s Day, so I didn’t want that to pass without thinking how I could help you. My aim for 2022 is to reach out and help 1000 women change their lives – my blog is one way I will do this, bringing you lots of practical hints and tips on how you can change your life for the better.

How do you prioritise your downtime?

A big question for us all. Like me you have busy lives, juggling family and work responsibilities, you might find you don’t have many opportunities to take some quality downtime. Downtime is so important and I talk to my clients about this a lot. Let me tell you a story…
I used to work for a large organisation in a senior HR role. I was commuting to London at least four days a week which was stressful enough – all that pressure of getting a parking space at the station and then the fight for a seat on the train made the start of my day really hard. And that was on top of the 4.30am start to get to the stables and sort out my horse, before rushing back home to get myself ready and out the door! I sometimes felt like I’d used up all my energy before my day had even started.
Then, when I reached the office I was supporting our senior leadership team – a high powered, busy and often stressed group of people, alongside leading a team of nine staff who all needed my help and guidance. Looking back I don’t know how I did it! I was constantly on the go, rushing from place to place and running out of time; or running between back to back meetings; or answering countless emails … the list goes on. Sound familiar?
All this came to a head and I felt totally burnt out. I’d battled stress, anxiety and depression in the past and my menopause had made that come to the fore again, but I suddenly found myself in a meeting one morning not knowing what I was doing. I couldn’t string a sentence together or even work out what I wanted to say – my brain was just too overwhelmed. I had to acknowledge I was too stressed and heading for burn out.
I knew things had to change, and that I needed to take control of making that change happen – no one else could do it for me. I had no boundaries in place to look after me; I was working so hard I didn’t make time for me to relax or exercise and, I wasn’t sleeping well either because my brain was on the go so much. I hadn’t listened to my brain asking me to press the pause button as I just thought, if I keep pushing on then this feeling will go away because I would have got even more done. If this sounds familiar, then I am here to say STOP RIGHT NOW. When your brain shouts out that it is overwhelmed it is asking you to do the right thing, to press the PAUSE button and take a break.
Did you know that our brains process over 50,000 thoughts in any 24 hour period? I was gobsmacked when I read that stat and thought it couldn’t be right, but take a minute to think about everything you experience in your day – emails, text messages, WhatsApp messages, social media, telephone calls, 24 hour news etc. The amount of information coming at us every day is huge and all fast paced. We consume information at an alarming rate with little regard to how our brains are going to take it all on.
So for this reason, downtime is an absolute must and I always start looking at self-care with my clients before we tackle anything else.

How much downtime do you set aside a day, week, or a month?

I bet you’d be hard pressed to answer this question. I know I couldn’t have done in the past. But I am saying now, you have to prioritise your downtime to look after your wellbeing, both physical and emotional. Downtime can take many forms and for me it is very simply, the time you to take away from your work/job/family responsibilities to do something for you and only for you.
Downtime can be that time you spend doing something you love that brings you pleasure – I like to run so I use that as my downtime and when I can’t run, then I like to walk in my local woods. I don’t walk miles every day, but I do set aside 20 minutes to get outside and get some ME TIME. I pull on my coat, pick my favourite podcast (sometimes my own Phoenix Wellness Coaching one ☺) and go for a walk. It helps to clear my mind – sometimes the change of scenery is all I need.
Other times I might choose to take my downtime first thing – yes you heard that – I start my day with downtime. Hang in here with me as I will explain. I start my day with silent reflection, taking myself through a guided meditation. This helps me to clear my mind of any thoughts that are rattling around; it helps me to be present in the moment and fully engaged with that moment, and it helps me to just start my day in a super calm space. There is a quote I like which says “women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away”, I love this quote and it is only recently that I’ve seen the value and power in this sentiment. When I start my day with time for me, then the rest of my day falls into place. I am starting my day making me a priority.

What can you do to prioritise your downtime?

When you build downtime or me time into your day, you will have a much better day all round, but I get it, it can be hard in our busy lives where we are trying to have it all and do everything. Remember when you put yourself first then you become a better person for everyone around you. Here are my top tips for prioritising your downtime or for making it easier to take your downtime:

  • Add one action to your To Do List that is just for you – make sure that action is top of your list and is your number one priority, and, ensure that you complete it every day.
  • Start thinking about habit stacking as a way to find downtime – this could be building in mindfulness whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil for your morning coffee. Just five minutes of focused attention and deep breathing will be enough to bring calm back into your stressful day.
  • Aim to get 7-8 hours’ sleep every day – our bodies and minds need this time to regenerate and function. This might mean going to bed earlier than you usually do, but prioritise that time and it will become a habit (don’t worry we’ll come back to this later in the month).
  • Turn off from all the distractions that keep our minds working overtime – this means turning off our devices (laptops, smart phones, tablets and TVs) at least an hour before we plan to go to bed, then use that time to properly unwind so we are ready to relax. If you have to have the TV on, then make sure you aren’t watching something over stimulating right before you go to bed – it will keep your mind awake!
  • Set time aside each day to do something just for you and you alone – this could be exercise, meditation, yoga, a walk or simply listening to your favourite podcast, but it must be for you and on your own so that you can disconnect for just a short time.

For more info and help

If this blog has given you some ideas on how to improve your downtime, then I am delighted. If it has opened your eyes to something you may need to change, then please do get in touch to see how I may be able to help you. Once you can “win your day” then everything else will fall into place.