Downtime

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Downtime.

A word (two words for the pedantic) that we’re all familiar with. But just how often do we spend relaxing? With National Stress Awareness day being brought to my attention this week, I thought it fitting to have a chat about how I’m learning to manage my stress levels.

We’ve all read enough research to know that relaxation generally makes you a happier and more productive human being. Hardly rocket science I know, but it’s surprising just how little time we take for ourselves. I’m not just talking the odd two week break from work (although according to new research by American Express, 47% of people find it hard to switch off even when on holiday), but our everyday leisure time.

 

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Here in the UK we have a fairly relaxed approach to work in comparison to a lot of countries (I’m looking at you, America), and the company I work for in particular is wonderfully flexible in terms of where I work and how I manage my days. One of the biggest causes of stress for me personally, is an uninspiring, demotivating work environment. When you’re cramped in a dingy overcrowded office longing for your lunch break all morning, you know you need to make some changes (or find someone else to work for). I often sit back and feel incredibly thankful to be working for a company like Harvey Nichols who really care about their employees’ wellbeing and encourage an inspiring, hands-free working day.

For the last year however, it’s my leisure time I find to be the most stress causing. Like many people, I find it hard to completely switch off. Up until six months ago my ‘me time’ was either spent sleeping or commuting. The rest of my non-working hours were spent frantically planning my life, exercising, blogging and creating plans to become the best ‘me’ I could possibly be.

I crammed so much into my small days that I decided to book myself a week off work last Christmas to relax, but ended up having three panic attacks and spent the holidays in bed feeling terrified of having so much time on my hands. It was a few months later when I had a meltdown over ‘struggling’ to find time to shower that I realised just how ridiculous I was being. No one, no matter how well organised, can live their lives with a completely jam-packed schedule.

 

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I want you to take a moment and think about the last time you did something for yourself. It could be anything – enjoying a cup of green tea, going to bed half an hour earlier to read, or taking an afternoon for some well earned retail therapy.

I can guarantee it wasn’t as recently as you might have thought.

We’re all so caught up with working that we’re starting to see being ‘busy’ as the norm. I’m trying to teach myself that having nothing to do for a few hours is a good thing. Yes I probably wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t freak out every five minutes about being ‘lazy, but I realise now that being happy is the only way I’ll be able to get shit done in the long run.

This is one of the reasons I haven’t moved into London yet. I’ll openly admit it, I’m a country bumpkin. Weekend’s spent in the fresh air away from city life is one of the only things that clears my head and keeps me grounded. As appealing as moving to closer to work is, there is the constant fear in the back of my mind about not being able to get away from it.

There’s something about clambering into the car on a crisp autumn morning and driving to the middle of nowhere to help you relax. Plus I almost always try and time my wanderings with a stop at a country pub on the way home for a roast dinner and a warm fire. Plus there’s zero guilt or fucks given when you’re somewhere you can’t physically do work.

Sure, I could jump in the car if I lived closer to work, however I’d get out of the drive and then sit in traffic for two hours or sit on a sweaty tube for just as long. I can think of nothing worse for high stress levels.

The only advice I can give is the advice I’m slowly teaching myself. That it’s okay to have spare time, it’s okay to be a little selfish, and it’s definitely okay to down tools and flee to the countryside to find a little space without 4G.

 

 

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