Yesterday morning, I woke up very early so I could go for a long run. I knew I was going to be running for 2 and a half hours and instead of dreading it, I was actually looking forward to it because I knew how it was going to make me feel whilst I was doing it. I had a presentation to deliver in the evening so I knew I could practice some more as I ran and had the rare luxury of just allowing my mind to wander where it wanted. The weather was lovely and I was relaxed and I just felt... happy.
This got me thinking. The people I know who are most 'in control' of their lives and most satisfied and happy on a day-to-day basis are those who have an outlet, a hobby (for want of a better word!). I often ask clients what they do when things are stressful in the office - what can they turn to or rely on knowing it will calm them down and allow them to carry on with the rest of their day. Mostly, they don't have one and a few say they go outside for a cigarette. Obviously I don't recommend that but what do you do when you need a time out? You know what stresses you but more importantly, do you know what de-stresses you?
Hobbies are what we all have as kids but only some of us have them when we grow up. It is so good for your health and mind to have something you enjoy in your life as a regular fixture and know that in times of stress, you could escape to do it knowing it will get you back on track.
Its obviously harder for some people to find any spare time in the day - like mothers with young children, but even if it's 15 minutes in the middle of the day to do something distracting, it's worth everything.
So what could you do?
The hobby needs to be something that is mentally all consuming so that it demands 100% of your focus so you don't worry about what else you should be doing. Life is too much about worrying what we should be doing and that's why taking this break is essential.
Try running, cycling, swimming, golf, dancing, gym classes, walking and gardening.
And distraction techniques don’t necessarily have to be activity based. My sister-in-law is a busy Company Director but she manages to lose herself in sewing when she needs to wind down and refocus. I also know people who get lost in writing, photography, art, scrapbooks, reading and cooking.
And for those who are in need of a fix in the office, try walking round the block, or finding a quiet spot for lunch and sitting and relaxing or listening to your ipod.
It doesn’t matter what the strategy is, you just need to make sure you have something that you can always rely on to fix a bad mood, distract you from anything that’s bothering you at the time and move your thoughts to a new and positive state of mind. Don't stay stewing.
So think about it now. What do you turn to when you need a break to unwind and recharge?
Photograph by Reza Vaziri (Flickr)