I don't know about you, but if you're anything like most of the people I know, you have left nothing on the track this year. You've given your all, you've done your best, you have now gotten to the pointy end and are really just holding out until you can officially stop. And it's not just the physical, energy depleted type of exhaustion you're experiencing, you're emotionally and mentally spent as well. Your patience, tolerance and resolve are on their way out (if they haven't already left the building). Those little things that you've never worried about are starting to bother you. More often than not, you find yourself asking the proverbial question 'what is wrong with people??' underneath your breath.
So why are so many of us at the end of our tether more so now than in the past? I attribute it to 3 things.
We neglect to set and hold firm boundaries that guard our attention and our energy.
Rest and recovery have not been prioritised.
We have become immersed in human doing and lost sight of human being.
Breathe, you're almost there. You've got this. Next year will be different....if you decide in this moment, it will be. How can you ensure this will be your reality?
Revisit Your Values
Remind yourself of your grounding principles, the values that you hold in high regard that guide your thinking, the way you behave and how you feel. Essentially, your personal values shape how you interact with the world around you. Identifying them is the first step, next you have to operationalise them and act with agency ~ determine the actions and behaviours that you need to commit to in 2024 in order to uphold your values. For example, if 'family' is in your list of core values, some things that you may be doing to live through that value include: coaching your sons basketball team, taking your mother to lunch once a month, calling your brother for a regular catch-up. Get really specific about what it is that you need to do, try to refrain from phrases like 'spend quality time with family'.
2. Set Firm Boundaries
Our boundaries get challenged on a moment-by-moment basis and this comes at a high cost to our attention. We are all vulnerable to consuming too much information. Too much information taxes the areas in our brain (primarily our prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex) responsible for decision making, planning, focusing our attention, forethought, emotion regulation and impulse control. When we use the fuel up in these areas (by simply consuming too much information), all of these functions become compromised. So if there is one boundary above all others to hold firmly, it is safeguarding our attention. Our values can help us do this through simply asking ourselves on a regular basis if our actions and where we are placing our attention are aligned with our values. We can also do this through time-blocking our days and setting time aside for deep work.
Where our attention goes, energy flows.
3. Make Time for Rest & Recovery
When we time-block our days, we can safeguard our attention and commit to periods of rest and recovery. Taking regular breaks throughout your day can improve your mood, boost your performance and increase your ability to concentrate and pay attention. But how often and what type of rest do we need during these breaks? From the performance research out there, we now understand that we function best when we are aligned with our ultradian rhythms; working in 90minute intervals and then resting for 20minutes enables us to harness our energy and refuel appropriately. During the 20 minute breaks, it's imperative that we refrain from scrolling our phones as this only depletes our energy and fuel further as it requires additional information processing. Instead, try letting your mind wander, daydream, walk in nature, clean or weed the garden. When we do these things, they activate our brains default mode network which enables our brain to recover and focus inwards through introspection rather than remain caught up in the outside world.
4. Adopt a Reflection Practice
This is really a non-negotiable. It is imperative that you make the time for a regular reflection ~ check-in with yourself to determine what's working well for you, identify where you're struggling and make tweaks along the way. What do you need to do more of, less of or stop doing all together? Are you feeling the way you intended or do you need to make some changes? Try doing this at least once a month (if not at the end of each week) and adjust course when necessary.
5. Connect with Others
Social connection fuels us, improves our immune system and leads to better overall well-being. Again, you'll need to block time into your busy schedules in order to make this a priority. Call that friend or family member, grab that coffee with a colleague or head out on an adventure with the kids but schedule this in. With the amount of information we are contending with on a daily basis, if we don't schedule in time for social connection, it's often the first thing to get sacrificed. Social connection is not a 'nice-to-have' it's a must-have.
Research at Standford University tells us that “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, feeling more connected also leads to higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being.”
So take the time these holidays to recalibrate and get intentional about how you want to feel and live life in 2024. Make it the year where you focus on what is 'right' with people.
You are the architect of your own future, so design your future with uncompromising sincerity. Debasish Mridha
Kirsten is a Performance & Leadership Consultant, Wellbeing Educator and Provisional Psychologist who works with individuals, teams and organisations to help them develop their potential and perform at their best. Get in touch with her today if you're looking for some support, accountability and motivation to become a happier, healthier version of you!