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

The perfect excuse to slow down

So this is what happens when external events give you the perfect excuse to slow down.

At the moment we are dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak, with many public events cancelled and there’s even a question mark as to whether socialising with friends is a good idea.

I’m veering on the side of caution.

This means I’ve been working from home all week, and my weekend plans of a coffee date, dinner with friends and meeting to play squash, have been quashed. I’ve now got some extra time.

Silver Lining

And you know what?  

What’s going on is quite scary, and there’s lots of uncertainty. It’s not exactly a fun time. But, I feel that you can look at it as a silver lining. 

All I ever want is more time to read, watch films or TV series and cook delicious recipes. Here we’ve all got an excuse to, as a good friend said, ‘slow down, go back to basics and enjoy the simple pleasures’. 

We’re all so busy, even those of us like me who actively try to not commit to too much. Who hasn’t felt the rush of relief when there’s been a cancellation just when we’re feeling a bit overstretched and overwhelmed.

The Perfect Excuse

So this is the perfect excuse to use the extra time to catch up on sleep, take things slow, and enjoy not rushing. I’ve got a million books to read; enticing looking films, documentaries and series lined up, and recipes selected. I’m looking forward to getting on some podcasts and cooking. A few strolls in the park or time on the bike, and I’ll be happy.

And if you’re looking to change career and in a funk about that – it’s a good opportunity. Take time to read some inspiring books or listen to interviews, or do some writing activities to really find out what you want from your next career (lots of free resources can be found online). 

Or – do nothing.

Here’s to having a good rest.

If you’d like to sign up for life coaching sessions with me, sign up here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Taylor Simpson on Unsplash

Always in a rush?

I’ve realised something about myself recently. I always seem to be in a rush.

I put these self-imposed time limits on myself.

I’ve particularly noticed it happening in the mornings. I take it slow to start, ease myself into some Headspace meditation, then some yoga. I breathe, I’m slow, I’m basically waking up.

Then – action stations! The next few minutes are a blur of kettle on, shower, tea, dress, make-up, breakfast. I rush through it. Eating my breakfast I try to slow down and take my time – I hate rushing while eating.

But I realise I’ve got into the habit of rushing unnecessarily.

Now, I know mornings are a rush for most people. Busy people with jobs to get to, kids to get ready for school, commutes to make. Trying to get as much sleep as possible is the priority, so we get up the very latest we can and then rush through getting out the door.

But, a few years back I deliberately designed my morning to not be a massive rush. I made the decision to get up earlier, just so that I didn’t have to rush, and could have an enjoyable read while eating my breakfast. 

But slowly the habit has crept back. 

And it’s not just the early mornings. When I leave the house I then rush to my co-working space (I do enjoy the 30 minute walk, but it’s at a good clip). I burst into the cowork space, head down, no time for chit chat. I need to get my laptop on, pronto. It’s a vaguely stressful start to the day to be honest.

No ambling in for me, making a tea, having a chat. Taking my time to sort out my stuff and sit down.

This needs to change. I’m causing myself unnecessary stress.

At the weekends too – I sometimes wake up anxious. All I want is a slow, leisurely morning, reading in bed while eating breakfast and drinking tea. But I have a constant checklist of things to do, reply to that friend’s message, make a plan for later tonight, do the food shop, clean the flat, wash my hair…

I compress time in my head, I need to do everything, NOW! No matter that this is kinda typical at the weekend, I always have this stuff to do, and I get it done. It shouldn’t be a big deal. But somehow I’ve learned to make it stressful. 

So, now it’s time to break the old habits and make some new ones. Here’s my plan:

  • The only time I’m allowed to rush is when I’m actually running late, when I have 5 minutes in which to leave the house or I’ll be late. Anything other than that, and I need to chill out. 
  • I need to forcibly slow down when I feel like I’m rushing, and breathe. Do what I need to do calmly and slowly. 
  • Finally my plan is to leave for work 10 minutes earlier, to give myself time at the other end.

How about you? Are you a rusher? Are you feeling stressed? Or are you pretty zen in your day to day?

If you’d like to download my morning routines guide, do so here: 3 easy steps to a morning routine you love!

And if you’d to sign up for a life coaching session with me, sign up here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash

Hibernating (but how can I change career if I spend all my time hidden under my duvet?)

Hibernating. I love it. I think I’m actually a bit obsessed with the idea of hibernating in January. Partly I think my introvert side relishes the chance to do what comes naturally. Also, I just so enjoy the whole not doing much/watching films/eating chocolate/reading loads vibe I get to enjoy over the Christmas period, that I don’t want to let it go. 

I want to celebrate the joy of hibernating. Going along with nature, seeking out staying warm and cosy. Naturally using dark days and nights as a chance to take things slower, rest, recuperate from generally very busy lives.

However, on the surface this goes against my general advice when it comes to doing stuff like sorting out your life. Keep taking action, be productive, don’t spend too much time ruminating and not doing…

So how do the two tie together? Hibernate, spend as much of your spare time as you can watching films and eating chocolate. But at the same time focus on your goals and keep the momentum up? Well – I do think it’s possible. 

You might want 2020 to be the year you finally change career.  You’re kind of feeling pumped that you’ve made the decision to go for it. But also kind of overwhelmed about where to start, and generally a bit knackered from Christmas and feeling January meh-ness. 

Well, the main thing is to keep taking tiny steps forward. Plan out a series of small goals for the month. Things that are achievable but that are going to keep propelling your forward in your search. And consistently do them. 

So for example every morning or evening, set aside 10 minutes to focus on your career change goals. One email to enquire, get advice, ask a question. One 10-minute bit of research. 10 minutes completing a job application. A few minutes contacting people on LinkedIn who might be able to answer some questions about their industry. 

Try to make sure you are actually taking action during the 10 minutes, not just reading and day-dreaming. Make contact, create, or open opportunities for yourself.  

Once you’ve got into the habit of taking action every day (that’s the aim, anyway), you won’t feel bad about the whole ‘taking it easy’/pretending it’s still the Christmas holidays vibe I like to eke out. 

You’re still taking action, but you’re not adding to what can already be a slightly depressing, difficult month, by putting loads of pressure on yourself and berating yourself for not dedicating all your time to figuring things out.

Be nice to yourself, set some goals and make them happen, and enjoy hibernating with the best of us.

If you need some help with the whole goal setting thing, or in taking first steps to change your career or life, get in touch for some coaching sessions. You can also sign-up for a one-off 1-hour Get Unstuck! coaching call – designed to get you taking action straight away. Email me at joaopoku@gmail.com. It’s what I do for fun.

Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash