Slow down again

First week of January. It’s a tiring week for everyone even in normal times. Likely back to work after a bit of a break, suddenly having to get up to an alarm clock, remember passwords and what you actually do in your job. An onslaught of news, catching up, things that need to be done. Add in the fact that it’s January 2021 and there’s just so much to take in. Covid, sinister new strains, lockdowns, issues with the vaccine, Brexit, Trump, doom and gloom, cold, rain, darkness. So overwhelming

Suddenly we have to deal with a million thoughts other than ‘what leftover bit of dessert am I going to eat next and what are we going to watch on Netflix tonight?’

It’s absolutely overwhelming, a total gear shift. 

I know I’m finding things overwhelming when I can’t even bring myself to deal with Whatsapp messages from lovely friends – at the end of a busy day it feels like just another screen to look at, more thinking to be done, more energy to be expended. 

All I can think to do is try and slow down again. So here are a few things I’m going to try to do these early weeks of January. 

  • Get away from the computer when I need a break, instead of desperately searching for feel good articles or torturing myself with another news update, or simply ploughing on. Step away from the computer and read a book for 5 minutes.
  • Stick to checking the news once or twice a day, tops.
  • Get up and stretch or walk around. Rather than just thinking about the fact that I should get up every hour, do it instead of staying welded to my seat.
  • Walk – walk in the morning, at lunch, in the evening, any other time I can. It always makes me feel better.
  • Call a friend and have a chat – don’t hide away.
  • Listening to a short Headspace meditation can make all the difference, forcing me to slow down, breathe deeply, close my eyes, rest.

This is my own little checklist anyway, a few things to remind myself of during the day.

Reading the news doesn’t make me feel good, being at the computer all day doesn’t make me feel good, sitting all day doesn’t make me feel good.

Regular breaks to move and change my focus help.

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One good thing about January is starting to work with new clients on their career change! If you’d like some career coaching with me, you can find out more about me on LinkedIn and send me a message. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

Looking Forward to Autumn

I do love Autumn. An excuse to start hunkering down. A whole ‘new’ wardrobe of long forgotten jeans, shirts, jumpers and shoes. And slippers! 

Here are a few things I’m looking forward to doing in the coming months.

Reading MORE books – I have Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts and Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club next on my book pile. And audiobook versions of Claudia Winklemen’s Quite, and Caitlin Moran’s More Than a Woman. I feel and hope that they are all going to be warm hugs of books. I just finished Emma Gannon’s Olive which I loved. It was the reading equivalent of cuddling up on the sofa with a cup of tea. So when you actually read it on the sofa with a cup of tea, even better. 

Films – with Halloween coming up, it’s the perfect excuse to find some spooky films to watch. On my list I have Coco, Hocus Pocus and I feel like rewatching Edward Scissorhands. And quite honestly, right now I want comforting old PG classics like Back to the Future, Parenthood, Father of the Bride

Popping into a café on my own, for a read and a coffee. I haven’t done much of this at all this year, with the restrictions in place. But it’s such a joy, to just take a moment, read, people watch, see life passing by. 

TV – I am so excited to watch the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing…and whichever new BBC dramas are on their way. I’m looking forward to watching some Netflix documentaries, the one on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The Social Dilemma, the new David Attenborough series A Life on Planet Earth

Cooking – I got into some serious cooking during lockdown, opening up unused recipe books and experimenting. This is the perfect time to try out some more new one-pot dishes, hearty, warming, delicious. And maybe the odd cake here and there. Nothing really beats a cup of tea and a bit of cake. 

Lighting candles. I love it when the evenings get darker and I want to create a cosy feel, there’s something magical about candlelight. It feels like a little ritual, lighting my candles and enjoying the glow. 

Walking – at last the season of wrapping up warm and heading out for some leaf kicking! I want to spend as much time in nature as possible, just enjoying being outside. After the seriously restrictive lockdown here in Spain and then hot summer days where you can’t easily walk around, I’m so happy to be able to comfortably walk and walk and walk…

Playing card games – another thing that helped me through lockdown – I’ve realised one of my happy places is playing a game while listening to music at the same time, singing along. Something about that combination makes me so happy. I guess you could call it ‘in the zone’, concentrating, being present. Perfect for when it’s crappy weather outside but you don’t want to watch TV all day.

There we go. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my plans for Autumn and things to look forward to and enjoy. Maybe it’s encouraged you to think of your own. Have fun!

If you’d like to try career change coaching with me, contact me via LinkedIn or at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

True Rest

I read an article today about the lost art of true rest. It struck a chord with me. Because just this week, something’s been nagging at me. Even though I’m a big supporter of not doing too much, taking proper breaks, resting when you need to rather than powering through – I’m starting to feel as though every second of my working day is filled with something.

Yesterday as I went to work, walked around at lunch, walked home, walked to the gym, walked back, prepared a snack, cooked, tidied up, got ready for bed – during all those moments I was listening to podcasts. 

Now, I’m the biggest fan of podcasts. But sometimes as I walk along I feel as though I have a thought trying to push through. On the whole I’m quite good at stopping the podcast to have a think. But I’ve started listening to a new BBC drama series which is seriously spooky and gripping. So I’m racing through the episodes. And it’s bringing with it a sense of urgency. Yesterday I felt that I was pushing down those thoughts trying to come up. And actually it means I’m not giving myself thinking space when I need it. 

In this article the writer talks about a few types of ‘real rest’, and one of them is to walk outside in nature without a device. That struck me, as I pretty much always stick a podcast on when I’m walking outside. There’s just so much to take in and get through…

And I realise that’s not necessarily a good thing…feeling like you need to get through stuff. That list of podcast episodes piling up, all the tv shows coming out that I’m adding to my mental to watch list, and I’m wondering when I’m going to find the time to watch them all. All the books I’m desperate to read and want to ‘get through’.

It’s all mental clutter isn’t it? It’s all gentle pressure, adding to that feeling of always being on, always doing.

I so rarely just walk along quietly, not listening to a podcast. Just taking in the sounds of the park, the birds, the city sounds in the background. 

The other day I was waiting in a little courtyard to meet a friend for a cup of tea. I went out with my tea, and just…sat. I looked up at the sky, and sipped my tea. I felt the coolness of the air and listened to the sounds around me. I let myself think whatever random thoughts I was having. When my friend arrived, she joked that she didn’t want to disturb me, I looked so peaceful. She was right. That’s a proper rest. Not doing anything other than sipping a tea and thinking.

So I’m going to try and do that more often. Sit without any distractions. Step outside without plugging into a podcast from time to time. My aim is to delete all but around three podcast episodes so that I don’t always have this long list to scroll through and make decisions about. I can always add something back in if I really want to listen to it. But I feel the need to ease back on the clutter a bit.

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PS After I finished writing this article I went to leave the flat. I automatically reached to put my headphones in…and took them out again. I told myself that I could at least try starting my walk without a podcast. If I felt desperate I could always plug in. And do you know what, I survived. And it was really nice. The little voice in my head was free to chatter away, with time and space to do so. I arrived at work feeling calm and ready to go. 

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I help people going through a career change. If you’d like to start on your career change journey, book in for some coaching sessions with me. Find me here on LinkedIn , or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Anxiety and looking after yourself.

I’m not a fan of the term self-care. I feel a bit sneery about it. I think it’s one of those terms that’s been so overused that I’m just bored of hearing the words. But, increasingly, I’m considering its meaning and importance:

‘The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.’ Oxford English Dictionary

I’ve been feeling quite anxious and worried. I think most of us have in recent months. I still haven’t been able to visit my family and friends in the UK, and I’m really feeling it. Currently living in Spain, up until February this year I’d been returning to the UK  every 1-3 months. Six months feels like a long time, and I mean that literally, I feel the longing, the homesickness. And it’s bringing up all sorts of worries and concerns. 

So I like the idea of actively trying to protect your own well-being during periods of stress and anxiety. Consciously figuring out things you can do which you know will make you feel better. And for me, it comes down to a few usual suspects. 

Yoga

I’ve been doing around 10 minutes of yoga every morning for quite a few years now. I’ve always enjoyed it as a way to wake up and stretch and ease into the day. Recently, I feel as though I’m appreciating it even more. I’ve really noticed how good it feels to do it by an open window, the cool breeze coming in, morning light reflecting on the wall outside. Me, following the moves, stretching up, breathing deep. It’s a peaceful moment. 

I’ve also realised that it’s great to do right before bed, to release tension from the neck and shoulders, to stretch, breath slower, calm down. It just feels like your being nice to yourself, giving yourself a quiet moment.

Meditation

Also something I’ve done for a while now, probably a good 3-4 years. I started doing meditation when I was going through a stressful time, planning to leave my then job. I started with 10 minutes in the morning using the Headspace app. 

But recently, I’ve discovered the joy of a short meditation session in the afternoon. When I’m feeling tired, or my eyes can’t take looking at the computer screen or any other screen any more, I take myself off to lie on my bed, and close my eyes, and listen. It feels so good.

Even just closing your eyes for a period during or towards the end of a busy working day does wonders. Your eyes get so tired. And listening to the meditation just forces you to slow down, breathe deep, stop the whirring mind for a bit, or at least slow it down. 

When I feel anxious I know my breathing becomes short, so anything that makes me slow down my breathing, such as yoga and meditation, feels good. 

Walking & podcasts

I’ve known for a long time that walking and listening to podcasts is one of my favourite pastimes. It always makes me feel better. Always. I had a renewed love and appreciation for it when we were finally let out of our strict quarantine to walk for an hour a day. It’s almost indescribable how good it felt, to get the blood pumping, energy flowing, to see the city, to listen to clever, entertaining, inspiring people. To hear about other people’s experience of lockdown. 

However I’m feeling, I know that I am guaranteed going to feel better if I get my trainers on and go for a walk, whatever time of day.

Gym classes

I’ve also realised just how much exercise and going to gym classes helps me mentally. I’ve found classes I love, pilates and weights classes. I have my routines, they’re built into my day. And I find comfort in the routine, I know what I’m doing, I know that even if the class pushes me, I feel so good afterwards.

The music, being around other people. It’s like meditating, you’re focusing on what you need to do, the music, the voice of the instructor. Even if your mind starts spinning off into a to-do list – you can’t focus on that for too long, you’ll get lost in what you’re supposed to be doing.

I have a feeling that my mood is better on days when I’ve done a class. 

Writing things down

I also find journaling beneficial, that fancy term for keeping a sort of diary. It’s basically getting everything out of my head, onto paper, or the computer. In the mornings I do a one hour online writing class, which is when I write these blog posts. But some mornings I just write whatever’s on my mind, worries, to-do list for the day, for my life, what I’m scared of, what I’m grateful for. Things that happened yesterday. Things I want to do, plans. Pondering. Comments. Realisations.

And I do the same in the evening in a notebook, for however long I need to. Sometimes I have nothing to say, I just write down a few things that made me smile that day or that I enjoyed. Other times there’s a lot to let out. It helps put my mind to rest.

Massage

And the last one – which I haven’t experienced for a good 5 months now but I’m excited to have one booked in, a massage. I love massages. I get a lot of tension and tightness in my neck and shoulders, from stress, anxiety, from sitting at a laptop all day. To have someone work away at the knots is so amazing, such a release. And it feels so intimate, and caring. That’s what self-care is right?

I hope you’re looking after yourself.

If you’d like some coaching sessions with me (I specialise in career change coaching), find me here on LinkedIn , or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Beatriz Moraes on Unsplash

Coming out of the quarantine bubble

Here in Spain we’ve just reached a new stage in loosening the quarantine restrictions. We can now meet up to 10 people in someone’s home, or in a park. We can go for a drink or meal on a cafe or restaurant terraza, with the establishment at only 30% capacity. 

After 9 weeks of a very strict lockdown where for the majority of it we could only leave our houses to go to the supermarket or pharmacist, and no daily walk until the past couple of weeks, it’s a big shock to the system. 

I’m aware that my situation is good. My little quarantine bubble has been comfortable and has felt safe. My family are well, I’ve worked from home, I haven’t had to head out, I haven’t had to home school.

Still, I’ve felt quite anxious about yet more changes to our day-to-day lives.  It feels like a massive jump. A bit like we’re nocturnal animals coming out blinking into the daylight. 

More changes

We’ve only just adapted to our new routines of staying in, working, exercising, entertaining ourselves indoors. It’s given us an element of security and control amidst something so difficult to control.

And now suddenly we’re confronted with decisions, albeit positive ones. Do I go out for a drink with friends? Do I meet up with people? Is it really safe? Is it going to put into jeopardy the possibility of flying to see my parents and family anytime soon? 

On the other hand, isn’t this what I’ve been dreaming of, having a beer in the sun?

What’s comfortable for you?

After much deliberation I went out for a drink the other night for the first time since early March. It was really lovely to see friends, have a drink, have a chat, relax, enjoy being outside on a balmy evening. Hearing the everyday sounds of chat, laughter, glasses being clunked down on the table. Dogs barking, general neighbourhood noise. Sounds of life and activity.

But around an hour was enough for me. When that time passed I was ready to go for a bit of a walk then head back to the sofa to watch TV. 

And that’s ok. 

I think each of us has to work out what we are comfortable with, easing back into ‘normality’ bit by bit. I guess it’s the same with any change, big or small. Take baby steps and do what feels comfortable or doable. Staying paralysed or stuck is never a good thing. But with something as big as this, I think we can afford to be easy on ourselves.

If you’d like to sign up for a career change coaching session, you can do so here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Alex Vasey on Unsplash