You are probably expecting tips on how to read faster or multitask even better. In fact, the opposite is true. This blog is about relaxation, taking time and attention for yourself, and how that affects your work performance.
Our own Hedy van der Poel of Fellow Digitals is a holistic masseur (Dutch website). We asked her about her thoughts on how everyone is so busy and doesn’t seem to have time for anything anymore. Hedy sees the human being as a whole; everything is connected. Not just nerves and bloodstreams but also the body and mind. When you don’t feel well, you also notice this mentally. You don’t feel like doing things you normally do, and with more severe illnesses, you might also experience anxiety and worry.
But it’s also the other way around: if you feel down or suffer from other mental discomforts, it can have physical consequences. A Burnout can impair memory, reduce the ability to concentrate, and can lead to high blood pressure and heart palpitations.
Busy, tired, and no time for anything
These days, we are very busy. By the time you drop the children off at school, you have already scanned your work inbox for important messages, walked the dog, and scheduled a meeting with a friend, all the while realizing that you probably won’t be able to do so until next month.
When was the last time you really paid attention to yourself? We are very good at getting past ourselves. Because of everything we “have” to do, we are constantly in our thoughts, and sometimes we no longer feel the signals from our bodies. With attention and touch, we can bring ourselves back a bit.
Touch and attention as a basic need
Touch and attention are more important than you think. We need them. It starts at a young age when a kiss and comforting words work better than a band-aid. But even now that we are adults, we enjoy a little attention. Partly because of the Covid-19 era we’ve ended up in, we’re missing out on attention and touch, even though it’s nourishing to our well-being. Policies forced us to stand still, so we couldn’t move past ourselves for a while.
Touch brings you closer to yourself. This may sound fuzzy, but exercises that focus attention on your body make you aware of how you actually feel and what you need. You may notice that your body is tense or very tired, even though you didn’t realize it. Or you may find that you are not listening to your body’s signals enough, discover that the things you are doing are not making you happy, so you wonder if you might be ready for a change in your life.
Relaxation makes you more productive
You think you are being efficient when you do everything at once. You shove a sandwich in your mouth while you read the newspaper on your screen, check your email, and schedule a doctor’s appointment for that back pain that won’t go away. You may gain a few minutes that way, but in the long run, it costs you energy. When your body and mind are in balance, you feel good and are energized, which allows you to function better. Not only at home, but also at work.
If your concentration drops, you can keep working, but that will not improve your focus. It is much more efficient to take a break and do something else. Take a break and make time for it. Time for yourself. Even if it’s just a few minutes a few times a day. You’ll notice that your concentration increases again after a little break, making you more productive and creative than if you just kept going.
Tips and Exercises
1. The 1-minute bodyscan
Close your eyes for 1 minute. Move your attention to your body as if you were doing a scan. Start with your head and slowly move your attention further down until you reach your toes. Do you feel tension, pain, or perhaps fatigue anywhere?
This scan is not meant to get rid of things that you discover during the scan. The point is to make you aware of them.
This is an exercise you can do three times a day. Some can do it during a meeting, others need a quiet corner.
Tip: Our colleague Corinna swears by a 20-minute body scan at the end of the day. Just give it a try with this example!
2. Lunch with attention
Have lunch in a place where you can enjoy the food without looking at a screen. Put away your phone and let all your senses work during the following exercise:
- Eat a bite of food as you always do.
- Then look at the second bite you are about to eat. Try to activate all your senses before you even put that bite in your mouth. What does it look like and smell like? Can you hear, feel, and taste it before you eat it?
- Now eat your second bite. Does it taste any different from the first bite you took?
- Have a nice lunch. Enjoy your meal!
3. Go for a silent walk
Instead of grabbing coffee during your afternoon dip, take a 10-minute walk. Leave your phone at the office. It’s only 10 minutes. You should be able to do that, right? And if you’re walking with a colleague, try experiencing walking in silence. Breathe in the fresh air and look around you.
4. Listen to your body
On your way home, scan your body and listen to what it says. Listen even if it whispers, and don’t wait for it to scream. That means, don’t keep complaining until it gets worse. If you are tired, that is a sign that you should take a break and cancel appointments. Watch your boundaries and don’t overstep them.
5. Take a foot bath or massage
After a busy day, it’s time to give your body some attention. Relax on the couch with a book and take a warm foot bath. Your body will relax and you will feel better mentally.
After that, massage your feet. People always think it is very difficult, but it is all about touching. Put your hands on your feet and move your fingers; touch them everywhere.
Sit back and relax!