Archive for January 9th, 2011

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Today, I was reading a wonderful blog, Writing A Blue Streak written by Allissa Haines, a fellow massage therapist. I  love her blog because it’s funny and honest and she doesn’t take herself too seriously.  In her New Year’s post, she talked about creating more voids, as in space in her life, for relaxation and  enjoyment (versus work, work, work). It’s a good reminder for me, the Queen of Overcommitment.

One of the things I struggle with as a massage therapist, teacher, coach, business owner and graduate student, is balancing time for my clients with time I need to care of myself and my other obligations. Sadly, I have not managed to find a way to create the 80-hour day (and as a friend, pointed out, I would find a way to fill all 80 hours if I did!). So this often means I have to say “No” to some potential client bookings or other things I’d like to do in order to say “Yes” to myself and my other obligations.

Being in a helping profession, I am a natural helper. I like to help people and I like people. But many of my work and school obligations require me to be solitary. I can’t concentrate if I have a lot of noise and that includes noise in my head. We often talk about relaxing or taking a break as in giving our bodies a break. But our minds need rest too and that’s not just sleep rest. We need mental rest.

This past week, my boyfriend and I had the good fortune to be able to take an actual entire week off of work (between school terms) and visit St. John, one of  the U.S. Virgin Islands. We spent the week hiking, snorkeling and relaxing. Aside from the many many bug bites we got (which I will discuss in another post!), we had much mental relaxation. Looking at colorful fish and coral, navigating steep mountainous roads while driving on the left, photographing beautiful blue water and sandy beaches was such a  nice break from my day-to-day living.

Flowers overlooking Hanover Bay in St John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut.

I can’t always take a vacation when I get stressed, however, and that’s where I find I need other ways to give my mind a mental break. One way to take a mini-vacation is seriously to close my eyes and just focus on my breathing. Doing some yoga also gives my mind a much-needed break. (And it’s not so bad for my body either!)

Little Lameshur Bay in St. John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut

Think about your own life. Do you find yourself rushing from task to task and feeling overwhelmed, stressed out or irritable? Do you get sick frequently? Do you feel burned out?  It may be a time for an actual vacation. Or it may simply be time for you to take a look at your schedule and cut back some oblations to give yourself more time for mental rest.

St John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut.

Putting Space Between the Notes

To me, mental rest is like listening to music. If all the notes were played simultaneously it would be a noisy cacophony. You could not hear each note distinctly. By giving yourself “space between the notes” you give yourself time to appreciate and hear all the wonderful music going on in your life. Whether it is your kids’ first steps, the successful completion of a big project at work, or the sound of a good friend venting to you about their own life’s accomplishments and struggles–those times are best heard and experienced when we have space in our lives to appreciate them. I know it’s a tall order for many of us. During the term there are days I go from my computer to clients to class to my computer to write a paper. Those days the space I get is few and far between. My head hits the pillow before I get a chance to breathe. But those are the times I have to breathe! And be in the moment, not in my head.

If I only have a  few minutes to walk up 10 flights of stairs or walk to class, I savor those “alone time” moments. Or I may use my travel time to kvetch with my boyfriend via cell phone as I go from work to school. But if I over commit and book that one extra client that I really don’t have time for but feel guilty if I don’t accommodate, I can end up being frustrated, irritable and burned out. Which does not make fora happy or effective massage therapist or coach! So I’ve learned that as hard as it is to turn down more work. there are times I have to to keep mentally healthy!

St. John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut.

Here are a few tips to help you find time for mental rest

1. Listen to relaxing music when you drive versus news radio, or loud music like rap or rock.

2. Spend at least 10 minutes a day in a quiet place, where you won’t be interrupted by cell phones, emails, or other people. If the restroom is the only place people will leave you alone, so be it! You get to sit down and relax. If a s stairwell is available at work or a massage table (for those of us in the field), use that area. If you can care out 10 minutes at home to just lay on the bed or floor and breathe, that’s another great way to find this mental decompression time.

3. Take an electronic holiday at least time once a week where you don’t go on the computer, use your cell phone or watch tv. Get outdoors if possible and experience the natural world.

4. Schedule time for yourself and don’t give that time away for work, family or friends. At can be 60 minutes a week or a 20 minutes a day, but make it an unbreakable appointment.

5. Say “Let me think about it” before committing to volunteer work, the PTA, extra work on the job or any obligation that is nonessential. And if you think all obligations are essential, you may be headed for burnout and exhaustion! I tend to say YES and then later regret my acceptance of two many time committments. Asking for time to think about it lets me mull over future obligations and reduces my over commitment.

6. If you tend to over schedule as I do, set up your appointment book so that you only have certain blocks of time available for extra work, volunteer work or other obligations. If that time is booked up, don’t try to fit in an extra something else. Because at that point your are sacrificing your mental well being for someone else.

View of Round Bay in St John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut

7. And lastly, forgive me if I don’t blog as much as I originally did. When I started blogging, I posted about every day for the first year.  Now with grad school and other commitments, I am lucky if I can blog once or twice a week.  But I would rather blog less frequently and write higher quality posts. So enjoy the posts I still have time to write. I know I really do!

Me relaxing on Lameshur Bay trail, St. John, VI, snorkel gear in my backpack. Image by Sue Shekut.

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