Yesterday I spent my day sat in a conference room with about 14 (mostly retired) people listening to motivational speeches about teamwork and how to better focus our energies as a panel. Some of the activities were fun- at the very least we all got to chat more and get to know each other better, which is always pleasant with people that you normally only talk business with. However, it was the last part of the day that I want to discuss- the concept of ‘turbocharging yourself’ as the instructor put it.
Personally, I would prefer not to think of myself as a car, because I’m sure I wouldn’t be a race car, I’d be some sort of sensible four-door family car, and also because cars are huge and I’m a human woman. But I get the analogy. Your body is a fuel tank and if you don’t top up your fuel tank, you will die. Or more likely, you will fall ill as you wear yourself thin giving too much of your time to other people and chores and not just taking care of yourself, getting a good night’s sleep and making time to treat yo’self.
Here is where his explanation got a bit confusing though. He asked us to make a list of ‘treats’ and ‘turbocharges’, where a treat is something little that will give you a quick boost of energy, hope and liveliness, and a turbocharge is something that is more long-lasting to promote mental well-being and a relaxed lifestyle. I understand the benefits of making such a list, but why would a fuel tank want a treat? Am I still a fuel tank? And a turbocharge is not something you fuel up with is it? I was under the impression it was like a boost button in a car that James Bond would drive.. clearly I know nothing about cars. Turbocharges are probably very real in tech-language.
But I was mainly surprised to see how many nodding heads there were around the room. When he’d started his shpeal about the ‘biggest problem in the UK today’ (not poverty or cancer but lack of sleep apparently ranks higher on his charts), I thought to myself “you’re barking up the wrong tree here mate, these are retirees- what do they have to be stressed about? They don’t spend all day staring at a computer because half of them don’t know how to turn one on!” Maybe that’s a little generalised, but considering earlier in the day he’d had to show one of them how to plug in her iPad (given to her by the company- don’t think for a moment she chose one herself), I thought this was a fairly safe assumption. But they’re all nodding along with him, and saying “Yes, that’s right. I fuel my car so why can’t I fuel myself?”
So for the sake of argument, let’s say that if even these old dears are feeling stretched thin with their hectic lifestyles of walking the grandchildren to the post office and popping to the garden centre, the rest of us must be screwed right? This is the part where I share what he was trying to say in a very non-vehicle related way.
You need to look after yourself so that you can look after everyone/everything else in your life. You need to take the time to prioritise your own needs. That is not being selfish, that is ensuring that you are healthy and happy, something that everyone around you will also benefit from. You cannot do your job, or raise your family, or support anyone if you are constantly tired, grumpy and run down.
I hear the outcry now- “But there isn’t enough time in the day!”
“But I can’t just not feed my kids and not take them to their clubs and not help them with homework then clean the house etc etc!”
There are always reasons to say no, but you will be happier if you make the time for yourself. There is always enough time in the day, it just needs to be organised a bit better. And remember to start small. I’m not saying take a trip to Bali, I’m saying take five minutes to make yourself a hot drink, to sit in the garden, to have a bath and read your book.
Here is how you start. You make a list with two columns. The first column is ‘Treats’- we’ll keep that title because it makes sense. ‘Treats’ are little pick me ups that excite one of your senses. A piece of chocolate, a glass of wine, lighting a scented candle, taking a brief walk to feel the breeze on your face. The second column is called ‘Treasured time’ or whatever you like, and has more long-lasting ideas to cheer you up by activating more than one sense. Examples include going out to dinner with friends, watching a new film at the cinema, and having a massage whilst listening to music.
The idea is that when you are down or feeling frazzled and nothing feels like it’s going to help, you turn to your list and you pick a couple of things that you can do right now to treat yourself, or a bigger thing that you will make the time to do.
Of course taking back control of your life is not always easy, which is why I’m focusing on these baby steps. Once you start thinking more about what you need, it’s easier to manage your timetable with this in mind. Maybe you don’t run around all evening looking after everyone else- maybe other people can help you, maybe there are some things that they can do by themselves, or maybe there are some things that really aren’t necessary and can be cut out?
Life is not meant to be stressful, and we are not meant to be grumpy. When we are children we are comfortably happy a lot of the time but as we grow and are forced through school and into work, we lose the ability to know how to treat ourselves.
Here is my list to give you some ideas:
Have a nap, drink hot chocolate, sit in the sunshine, listen to my happy music playlist through my good headphones, have a glass of wine and lemonade, use a face mask, paint my nails, put on a cosy jumper or change into my pjs, read in bed, call family or friends for a chat, have sausages and eggs for breakfast, eat ice-cream, sit with cats for purring comfort, hug family, look through Pinterest, eat cheese on toast, take a break at work to chat or make some tea…
Read my book in the bath, go out for dinner with company, have my nails done at the beauty parlour, go to yoga class, go for a swim with my partner, visit the garden centre and smell the flowers, go shopping and try on lots of clothes then treat yourself to one thing to take away, get a haircut, go somewhere new with family/friends…
I’m tempted to put ‘go on holiday’ here but that’s too broad really. In one way, a holiday is the ultimate ‘treasured time’ as we step out of the routine of our lives and spend time choosing what we want to do much more spontaneously; lie on the beach, eat at that restaurant etc. There are loads of treats and treasured time activities back to back to make one happy camper. However, it also includes things like sitting on a plane for hours, which I’m not a fan of, or the anxiety of trying to catch a taxi or find your hotel without a word of the local tongue. So I’m keeping it separate, but that’s just me.
You can hear all the advice you like but at the end of the day you have to personalise it to your way of doing things. Find your happy!