The Benefits of Walking Away

Walking Away Perspective

The year 2018 seemed to fly past and, with so many changes in the pipeline, each year appears to pass faster and quicker than ever before.  Yet it is important to take some quality time out in order to remain strong, supple and resilient.

When time is short and tasks never ending it is very easy to get caught up in the ongoing, relentless roller coaster of getting things done, completing and then moving on to the next thing.  Yet, I was reminded recently of the benefits of walking away for a while.

I had occasion to disappear for a month for reasons of maintaining my health.  Before I left I was working 65+ hours a week, briefing my support staff, tying down lose ends and contacting ongoing commitments to explain the necessity of my absence and assuring them that all was in good hands.  The long hours and countless communications were nothing unusual, just the context was. It did feel that I was walking away, but I knew I needed to.

Walking away gives you perspective

While I was gone, I kept an eye from afar that my arrangements were working and that nothing urgent or imperative was cropping up but otherwise I went hands off.  I maintained my personal promise that I would only check in briefly once a day and would not interact with work unless it was absolutely necessary.  I have never been so distant from my work for almost a decade and, though I had qualms and misgivings, I chose to ignore these and really apply myself to the break.

Reading was only fiction, science and fantasy.  Watching was only films, visiting was to museums and art galleries, eating was indulged with different cuisines tried, and sleeping was pandered to before anything else.  It took about a week before the ‘guilt’ abated but then it was complete and utter bliss. Walking away was painful at first but ultimately a brilliant idea.

Coming back from walking away

I returned totally refreshed.  My mind, whilst idling, had obviously need the peace and space as new ideas, perspectives and attitudes have suddenly appeared.  Previous obstacles now have potential solutions and no longer appear overwhelming.  New avenues to explore have presented themselves and, though my office has an avalanche of emails, calls and post to be dealt with, they are being tackled with clarity and efficiency that had deserted me before.  My days are calmer and more productive – a state I am determined to maintain moving forward. Walking away literally gave me headspace.

Try walking away for a while

However busy, frenetic or challenging your life may be, it is so important in today’s world to allow yourself time off.  Your brain, body and personal wellbeing need space and rest in order to function efficiently the rest of the time.  It needn’t be as long as a month (I’m lucky being self-employed), it could be making a concerted effort to ignore work at the weekend or turn off your electronic devices when you get home. Concentrate on the people, things, hobbies or pastimes’ that give you joy and enrich your soul. 

Walk away for a time from your work. Not doing so may well lead to the things we fear most; failure, dis-satisfaction and burn-out.

Stress Busting Techniques

We’ve all heard doctors, the media and various medical reports stating how beneficial exercise is good for beating stress but did you realise that it needn’t always be sweating away in a gym, lifting weights or pounding away at a treadmill knowing your body is so going to hurt the next day?

There are great alternatives which also have a soothing effect on your body and soul.

Gentler stress busting…you don’t have to feel the burn

Yoga: There are 7 main types of Yoga (not including the hot, sweaty one where I hate to think about the germs being bred everywhere) and Yoga has been practised for over 5,000 years. 

Hatha yoga: is one where you stretch into positions and hold them and is gentle on joints. I took up Hatha yoga 12 years ago primarily to help strengthen my now damaged joints (I fall over a lot) and have been amazed at how beneficial it has been.

Not only has it helped my joints but it does tone you at the same time. The stretches discover muscles you had forgotten you had and forces them to remember where they should be and how to act – a great antidote to tight shoulders, computer neck, and painful lower backs.

While you are doing it your mind slows down as it concentrates on the pose you are in.  Stress and worry evaporate and a feeling of calmness overtakes you which I wish you could bottle and take away from the class.

Meditation: Don’t groan.  Meditation or practising mindfulness really does calm everything down.  Your heart rate slows, your blood flow increases and thoughts are turned inward forgetting about problems and stress for a while.

It can be a little ‘grrr’ getting into the ‘zone’ but using an app (I use https://www.headspace.com/) which guides you through the process helps.  It also doesn’t have to be for hours like a Bhuddist monk, 10 minutes can be enough.

I have found that I come out of meditation feeling much more energetic and my mind is crystal sharp which helps me whizz through work problems with ease.

Massage: Apart from the obvious benefits of a professional manipulating your aching shoulder muscles, back, legs etc it increases blood flow around your body, muscles and into your brain.  It helps unblock lymphs and pores which in turn helps with circulation and, my favourite bit, it is sooo relaxing I often fall asleep so am not thinking about anything!

Other stress busting suggestions

Water: Some people find they must get sweaty to release stress toxins- so if you are that type then your stress busting technique may be more rigorous. However, to protect your body- I suggest something like swimming- it is great for stamina, strength and suppleness and if you do it first thing in the morning it can set you up for the day. Alternatively- harness the power of water with a good old-fashioned bath, plus essential oils. Showers are great for kickstarting your day, but a relaxing bath at night time can help you sleep.

Don’t forget to please your brain too- with an interesting hobby that is non work related.

Non-physical stress busting

Music: Sometimes you are almost too stressed to consider doing anything physical. This is where I find music can help. Not loud rock stuff- though that is good for getting anger out- but calming, gentle music, literally forcing your brain to slow down.

Music is very smart- it matches or interrupts brain patterns. I’m not talking about background music- that can help motivate you through household chores, or block out other noise. I’m suggesting that when everything seems overwhelming that you take yourself off to a darkened space, put some soothing music on and close your eyes to listen. Just ten minutes of this will slow your heart rate and give you a breathing space. This is especially good when you feel too tense to relax even though you know you are exhausted and ought to sleep.

Stress busting should suit you

These are a few of the things I have found have helped me but we are all different.  Try anything and everything at least once.  If you find you like it and notice a benefit then keep it up, if not then no-one is forcing you to do it (e.g. I did not get on with acupuncture at all!) so give it up and move on to something else. 

You owe it to your overall wellbeing to find ways that work to help you relax. Stress is not some imaginary concept, it is real and it threatens your health. Think of it as part of your routine, like brushing your teeth. If you do some form of relaxation regularly it maintains your health and reduces your chances of stress related illness. I’d love to hear your favourite stress busting techniques- leave a comment below and feel free to share your suggestions.