I realise that I am crawling in at the end of February with something akin to a new year post. My excuse? It seems to be taking this long for me to process anything these days (thanks peri-menopause) and sitting down to write is increasingly squeezed out by my schedule. But a lifelong lesson of mine is being kinder to myself, so ‘better late than never’ it is.
Anyone who has been following my ramblings for some time, will know that I like to reflect on what has passed and try to learn from it. Historically, I’ve done a workbook at the start of a new year to guide me in this, whilst encouraging me to consider hopes and dreams for the year ahead.
I love the fact that this blog enables me to read annual thoughts from yesteryear, but something occurred in 2020 (three guesses) which caused any purposefulness to dissipate. Shortly after, an unhelpful nagging voice kept telling me that all of this was far too introspective and self-absorbed, so I stopped. I’ve since realised how much I missed it and what a useful process it is for me – both the thinking and the writing.
2022 was another challenging year for all sorts of reasons: accumulated impact of the pandemic (not to be underestimated); an enduring home life situation which never seems to get easier; then of course those old midlife hormones doing their worst! We also hosted a young Ukrainian woman for the best part of 7 months, which was a positive experience but did add a little extra pressure.
My husband and I have probably both teetered on the edge of burnout (thanks Dr Chatterjee for a very informative podcast on this subject) a couple of times over the last few years. For me that looks like: holing up (avoiding people), not wanting to make plans, struggling to pursue anything that looks vaguely like self-care, and generally losing my MOJO. For the most part, when one of us is struggling, the other one isn’t; a kind of see-saw if you like. But at the end of 2022, both of our ‘seats’ were scraping on the ground.
Largely thanks to therapy, I am pretty self aware. I usually recognise the warning signs that something isn’t quite right but this time I took a little longer to do anything about it. During a very chilled out Christmas/new year period (holing up has its benefits) I had plenty of time to reflect and think about what changes I needed to make. It was then that I decided my word for 2023 would be ‘Intentional’.
My Year of Intentionality
I wanted to write down some of the things I have begun putting into place this year. You’ll soon see that none of them are rocket science, but they are helping me and might be worth considering for you too…
I read a book a number of years ago called ‘The Best Yes’. My old book group pals and I still affectionately challenge one another with “Is that your best yes?”. I have revisited this concept again recently, realising the importance of considering what I say ‘yes’ to (both physically and mentally) in everyday life.
For all of us there are certain non-negotiables that have to be given top-tier priority (immediate family demands, dog walking, work etc); then there are other things I want to do. Anything that doesn’t fall into either of those categories (this might include someone else’s agenda) goes to the bottom of the heap.
In short, I no longer say ‘yes’ before consulting my calendar and mentally giving it the once over. I will likely disappoint some people in the process (and have to deal with the fall out of that) but it is a key way for me to avoid overwhelm, and remain healthy.
2. Daily Movement
I’ve fought it for a long time but at just over 50, I am officially middle aged. With middle age comes a middle tyre and various other side-effects which I won’t bore you by listing! Since the beginning of January I have done a body balance class every week, and feel so much better mentally and physically.
I don’t want to put loads of pressure on myself, or become too prescriptive, so daily movement can be a gym session, a yoga/body balance class, or a 30 minute walk.
3. Starting Well
During lockdown I got into a good routine with starting the day well, but as predicted, once ‘normal’ life returned it slipped.
I wouldn’t consider myself ‘religious’ (by that I mean that these routines or practices are not something I need to do in order to be accepted by God) but I know from experience that my day, and mindset, is better if I start it in quiet reflection with God. You may already start the day with being still, or perhaps in meditation, mine just has a God focus.
4. Doing Things for Me
The first thing I’ve had to acknowledge is that I deserve to spend time doing things I like, and that I need to consciously say ‘no’ to other things or they simply will not happen (back to point 1). The second thing, is deciding what those activities are.
I’ve always loved reading, especially in bed. To start with I am making time and space for reading and I’ve set myself a small (but not too onerous) goal to read 12 books in 2023. I really benefit from setting goals; the trick is not to go too big or I will give up – expert by experience here!
5. Doing Things for Others
A few years ago I heard Russell Brand speaking about what keeps him from giving in to his addictions. He stated two ‘lifesavers’ that he does every day: praying and doing something for someone else. Simple hey?
I want to incorporate this but with intentionality (see point 1). For the next 6 months we are assisting the NHS in running a course for carers of someone with severe mental illness. We feel that we have some lived experience to offer this group of people who are largely void of support and often silenced. Yes it takes up a chunk of our time, but it isn’t a totally selfless act because we gain so much from it ourselves. Russell Brand was right!
A couple of challenges for you before I sign off…
- What do you enjoy doing? Are you making time for it?
- Could you knock one thing off your daily to do list that isn’t a non-negotiable? It’s quite liberating!