Insights for High Stress Professions
To manage your time well, you need to get really good at protecting your time from things that aren’t as important. A way to protect your time is to create time blocks. These are designated slots of time in your schedule that are allocate for specific tasks.
This works because we tend to protect things that are scheduled into our calendars by not scheduling other things to occur in the same time window, and limiting multitasking. These time blocks tend to be protected for things like appointments, meetings, transportation, and family time. The time that isn’t already dedicated to something can look like free time when you glance at your calendar, but we know better. There are things we need to work on, tasks we need to accomplish. We need to protect time for those too. Say you are the lead on a project. Others might see you as “available” and come ask questions. It’s important they do this, but it also prevents you from getting your tasks done. If you block time in your calendar to get your stuff done, others know you aren’t available right now and can come at another time. This also helps protect you if someone else can schedule your time. If they see white space, they assume you are available; if they see time blocked out to work on something, they know you aren’t available.
What are the things you need to get done but never seem to make the time to complete? What are the things you aren’t able to get done because others assume you are available to help them? These can be work related things, but they don’t have to be. Time blocking is just blocking out time in your calendar for what needs done. If it’s the first 30 minutes of the day for checking email, if it’s time at lunch to eat away from your desk, if it’s exercising in the evening, if it’s protecting family dinner time, if it’s a time of day you no longer check your phone or email, it can be blocked out in your day so you (and others) plan around it.
Time blocking simply protects your time for a particular thing, but it doesn’t tell you how you spend that window of time. To be efficient and effective in our time blocks, it can be helpful to use a strategy called power hours. Power Hours structure how we spend our time and help us get the most out of our limited focus, build in recovery, and accounts for “warming up” to the task and common distractions.
We have a limited ability to focus intensely on one task. With training, we can get up to about 90 minutes, but most of us are at about 15-30 minutes of focus or concentration. Once our focus is broken, it takes 5-15 minutes to get back to the level of focus we had before.
Power hours help ease us into the work we need to get done instead of expecting us to go from flow and focus on one thing to flow and focus on something different. A power hour consists of 3 phases.
Phase 1: Warm Up (5-15 minutes)
In this phase, we are “warming ourselves up” to the task and the focus it will take. We establish our goals or what needs to get done, we gather necessary materials and we reduce distractions. Ways we can reduce distraction include filling our water or coffee, silencing our devices, going to the restroom, clearing the desk, etc.
Phase 2: Intense Focus or Work (30-40 minutes)
In this phase, we are getting work done according to the plan we created. If we have a small distraction, we bring ourselves back to the task at hand. If we have a large distraction, it may be better to see to the distraction and restart the power hour once you’ve dealt with the distraction. This time window is flexible based on your ability to maintain intense focus. If you can focus without interruption or distraction for 15 minutes, then phase 2 will last about 15 minutes. If you have trained your ability to focus without interruption for 90 minutes, then phase 2 will last about 90 minutes.
Phase 3: Reflect and Recovery (15 minutes)
In this phase, take a few minutes to reflect or review what you accomplished. (What did you get done? Did you plan your work well? Did you manage your distractions well?) Then you do something to recover. Take a walk, get a snack, refill your drink, watch a funny video. Get up from your chair and do something to let your brain shift gears.
If you have 3 hours blocked for a particular task or project, you can break it into 2-3 power hours based on your ability to maintain intense focus on that task. If you’re on a roll and want to stay in phase 2, it’s up to you. If you stay in phase 2, you can maintain momentum, but will likely be depleted when you finish. If you move to phase 3, you can recover some energy and brainpower and pause to look at the big picture, then do an abbreviated phase 1 before getting back into a groove in phase 2. You will lose some momentum, but you’ll check in on the big picture and manage your energy and brainpower better throughout the day.
A Power Hour is adapted from a study skills strategy taught to cadets at United States Military Academy.
#calendar #timemanagement #priority #powerhour
Entrepreneurial You by Dorie Clark is a helpful book for individuals looking to start or grow their business. To be successful as an entrepreneur, you need to have multiple streams of income. Period. She then walks you through many successful strategies to diversify your income streams.
Dorie did a great job of providing real life examples of successes and blunders to help normalize the rocky and sometimes unpredictable road of being an entrepreneur.
(Note: sketch notes are a mix of sketching and taking notes that graphically organizes the information).
Clark, D. (2017). Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive. Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press.
Rohde, M. (n.d.). What are sketchnotes? Retrieved from https://sketchnotearmy.com/sketchnotes.
#sketchnote #Entrepreneur #business
Thrive: the Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington is a book that has reshaped the way I see the world and my choices in it. We have an inaccurate and unhelpful view of what makes someone successful. Success is traditionally measured by power and money. But when you reflect from the perspective of eulogies, that's not what people talk about when describing someone. There need to be a third metric of success.
When we cultivate wellbeing, wisdom, wonder and giving, we create the third leg of a stool to what makes someone successful, so we create a success that is more balanced and sustainable.
To create this third metric in our lives, we need to figure out little practices we can do regularly to build the factors that make up the third metric. This can be having walking meetings, scheduling time to be away from your technology, or crossing things off your to do list because they really aren't that important.
(Note: sketch notes are a mix of sketching and taking notes that graphically organizes the information).
Huffington, A. (2014). Thrive: the third metric to redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder. New York: Random House.
Rohde, M. (n.d.). What are sketchnotes? Retrieved from https://sketchnotearmy.com/sketchnotes.
#sketchnote #abundance #wellbeing #wonder #thrive
Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz is a really interesting book to read. It's easy to assume that having choices is a good thing. However, having too many choices can create a larger conundrum than having limited choices. is a powerful and motivating book. He describes the challenges with making decisions with too many choices, and provides some guidance on how to navigate those tricky situations.
I'd like to highlight two distinctions or tendencies in one's approach to making decisions. When trying to make a choice, you can be a maximizer or a satisficer. Maximizers believe that there is a perfect solution, and are dedicated to ensuring they make the best choice. They tend to agonize over decisions and collect a lot of information (often times even after a decision has been made). Satisficers have clear standards for the solutions they are examining, and once they make a choice that meets their standards, they they make a decision and they move on.
Here's what's really fascinating: maximizers spend an extraordinary amount of energy researching and comparing to make their decision, and are more likely to regret the choice they made than satisficers. Satisficers strategically limit their choices based on their goals and expectations, and are more satisfied with their choices than maximizers.
(Note: sketch notes are a mix of sketching and taking notes that graphically organizes the information).
What does it mean to hustle? To work hard, put forth effort, to move with a purpose? To push, strive, rush, grind, or hurry? To stay busy? Growing up, hustling was a good thing. Hustling meant put in extra effort. It meant the difference between achieving your goals and not.
Hustling has earned me many good things in my life. I have earned advanced degrees and have had great jobs. Hustling taught me how to set goals and focus, how to put in the effort required to get what I wanted. Hustling brought me a sense of accomplishment, it brought me praise and acknowledgement.
Hustling has earned me more than just these things. It’s gotten me stress. It’s secured my place on the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill describes the need to strive for what you want, only to immediately want greater things once you get what you wanted. Hustling has also earned me an extreme discomfort with the status quo, a discomfort with quiet and stillness. I feel like I must always be striving for something.
There’s no doubt the hustle got me where I am, and I like where I am. But constantly hustling is uncomfortable and draining. Constantly hustling makes it hard to appreciate where you are and what you have because you’re always pushing and grinding for the next thing. The hustle can be a powerful and positive driving force, and the hustle can also be vicious cycle that grinds you down.
Was I hustling because I wanted to accomplish greater things? Or was I hustling because I didn’t feel I was good enough as I was? Was I hustling to lift myself up? Or was I hustling to run away or to prove I was worthy? Who was I if I wasn’t achieving great things? Who was I if I wasn’t grinding away at the next thing? Brene Brown describes this as hustling for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing and proving.
As a business owner, I have to work hard to be successful. But I don’t think I need to hustle. As a parent, I want to cultivate a good work ethic, but I also want to cultivate a comfort with quiet and non-busyness. I’m trying to remove hustle from my vocabulary and mindset. I value hard work; I value focus and targeted effort towards goals. I do not value busyness for the sake of being busy. I do not value wasted effort. I do not value proving my worth or value by how busy I am or how much I’m hustling. I’m trying to learn to value quiet, to value peace in what I have in the moment. I'm even trying to remove "busy" from my vocabulary when describing my state of affairs.
There’s a time to hustle. That is, there is a time to work hard, to strive, to put in the extra effort. But there are also times when that’s not important. You can’t drive and grind full out all the time. You can’t push and strive for 110% in all areas of your life at the same time. I’m trying to get really good at noticing the difference between the times and things that need the extra effort, and the times and things that don’t.
I’m also trying to cultivate comfort with quiet, with non-busyness. To cultivate compassion and acceptance for my value in moments when I’m striving for something and in moment when I’m not. Yoga, breathing and mindfulness are strategies that help me cultivate quiet. As my work schedule gets fuller, and we approach the holiday season, I’m also practicing boundaries on how I protect my time and effort.
What helps you cultivate quiet?
Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. New York: Random House.
#hustle #stress #worth #worthiness #worklifebalance #cultivatequiet
What is stress? Stress is a demand placed on your body. Stress is also the non-specific response to those demands.
Stress is a good thing. Stress mobilizes energy so you can rally and overcome the challenge you are facing. Stress protects you from danger. If you’re getting chased by a cougar, the stress response helps you fight or escape from that cougar.
But stress management is a $13.9 billion industry. Stress is bad when it becomes chronic. We aren’t generally getting chased by cougars, but we are bombarded with stressors and irritants on a daily basis. It’s hard to escape stress. Not only that, we can turn our stress response just by thinking about something stressful. This makes it near impossible to stay away from stress triggers. We never really turn off our stress response anymore.
If we were a deer, and we were chased by a cougar, the stress response would kick in to help us escape the cougar. Once the cougar was gone, the stress trigger was gone, and our body can go through the natural reset process to bring us back to a non-stressed state. As humans, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to go through the natural reset process to bring us back to a balanced energy state because we are bombarded with stressors, we relive stressors, and we anticipate stressors.
Saying “the stress response” is still pretty vague. Let’s dig into what’s happening in our body with stress. Most of us are familiar with the fight or flight response, but it’s a little more nuanced with that. Polyvagal theory identifies three different branches of the stress response.
The newest development in our stress response evolved in primates. This branch emphasized the important of social cues and social interaction. When there’s a potential threat, we look around to see what others are doing, and this determines how we respond. If others don’t perceive a threat, we stay grounded, open and calm. Picture a small child that just fell. The child instinctually looks around to see how others reacted before they react. If we rush over with concern in our faces, it signals that what happened was bad and unsafe, and the child starts crying. If we don’t react, or we react with positive emotions, the child will generally stay calm.
The next branch of the stress response evolved with mammals. This branch is the traditional fight or flight response. When there’s a potential threat and we perceive ourselves as being able to handle this threat, our body mobilizes energy so we can fight or flee. Adrenaline kicks in, our respiration and heart rate increase, all so we can get more energy to our arms and legs. This response also turns off digestion, reproduction and our immune system, as these functions aren’t needed if we are currently being chased by a cougar. If we enter fight mode, we might feel anger, frustration, or irritation, and get fidgety with our hands. If we enter flee mode, we might feel anxiety, worry, panic or fear, and get fidgety with our legs.
The oldest branch of the stress response evolved with lizards. This branch is the freeze response. When there’s a potential threat that we perceive to be beyond our ability to fight or flee from, we enter the freeze mode. When we are in freeze mode our body shuts down and withdraws from external stimuli. It conserves energy, decreases blood pressure, and physically and/or emotionally isolates you. In this mode, we may feel numb, dissociated, withdrawn, trapped, shut down, depressed or hopeless.
In all my years learning about the stress response, I pictured freeze mode to be “deer in the headlights,” literally freezing up in an unhelpful way at an inopportune time. As a result, I never thought I spent much time in the freeze response. With this more nuanced understanding, I realized I spend a lot of time in freeze mode. When my stress level gets really high, I don’t want to talk to people, I numb, I avoid people and any non-essential activity, and I just want to wait it out until it gets better.
What’s really powerful about this deeper understanding of the stress response is the power our perception has over how the stress response impacts us.
What can we do with this information? Stay tuned for the next blog post where I’ll cover some strategies to impact the stress response.
NicheHacks, (2018, December 18). Stress Yourself Into This $13.9 Billion Dollar Niche That Has Millions Of People Frustrated For Relief. Retrieved from https://nichehacks.com/stress-niche/
Porges, S., (2011). The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation. W. W. Norton & Company.
#stress #stressmanagement #stressresponse
“Good Enough” means different things to different people. For some, it means you put your best effort in, and you’re ready to call that task done. For some, it’s the benchmark where you’re off the hook for trying any harder. For some, it’s when you give up and walk away. Regardless, it’s a really loaded term. Even these descriptions can be interpreted multiple ways. Good enough could mean you put in your very best effort, or it could mean you put in the very best of what you had that day, or it could mean you put in the very best effort of what you had to spare on that task.
For some, good enough is very freeing. It gives them a sense of satisfaction and the ability to move on, focusing their energy on different projects. For others, good enough is not freeing at all; good enough is a cop-out, a flimsy standard that excuses not putting your best effort into something.
I think we need to be better at embracing the idea of good enough. In order to do this, we need to redefine our understanding and standard of good enough. There are a few reasons we need to redefine this. Good enough can feel like it’s lowering our standards. It’s not. It means you met the mark and can move on.
If good enough means we put in our best effort, that’s great, only “best effort” is hard to measure. My best effort on a task is probably different than your best effort. But even within myself, my best effort on a task might change based on time, energy, competing priorities, etc. Is my best effort my all-out best effort? Is it the best effort of what I have to give that day? Is it my best effort of what I have to give that day if I ignore everything else? How can I use best effort as a benchmark for good enough if best effort isn’t constant?
Another reason to redefine our standard for good enough is Parkinson's Law. Parkinson's law states that work expands to fill the time allotted. At my old job, if I only had an hour to prepare for a training, I could spend that whole hour preparing, organizing my notes and reviewing timing. If I had a full day to prepare for a training, I could spend the whole day preparing, organizing my notes, rehearsing, reviewing the timing needed for activities, etc. I had a core set of things I did to prepare, beyond that, I could spend a little or a lot of time preparing, but beyond those core things, the rest was just busywork. If you have weeks to spend writing a paper, you could spend weeks writing that paper. If you only have tonight to write that same paper, you could write it tonight. It should be noted, that shrinking the time window for a task can result in rushed and sloppy work, but the point I want to make with Parkinson's Law is that while chasing “good enough,” I could spend a little time or a lot of time. Based on how much time I have, my standard for good enough might need to change. But If I allow it, chasing good enough can take way more time than is appropriate for the task.
Finally, and this is what I try to focus on the most when defining what good enough means to me, is diminishing returns. There’s a point in my productivity where suddenly it’s a lot harder to get the same results. For example, in school, I knew about how much effort I needed to put into a class to get the grade I wanted. I could put more effort in to get a higher grade, but it would have been an extraordinary amount more time and effort to get the extra few points. Proportionally, it was a substantial amount more effort for only a slightly higher grade. This turning point, where it suddenly takes way more effort to yield the same increase in outcome, is the point of diminishing returns. This is the point where I try to place the good enough mark. I could do better, but it’s not worth the extra hustle to get to that mark.
I like working hard on things I care about. The more I reflect, the less I like hustling. To me, hustling is running around busily spending energy that doesn’t necessarily yield a better result. It’s spending energy to prove my worth instead of knowing I am enough, regardless of how I do, what gets done, and what doesn’t get finished.
If you find yourself hustling for the extra results, ask yourself two questions:
When evaluating the big things in your life, it’s important to remember there’s a time to rally, and there’s a time to move on to the next gig. There are things in your life that are worth the extra effort to strive for your best. But there are things in your life that aren’t worth your extra effort. It’s important to determine what these are ahead of time before you get stuck hustling on the hedonic treadmill.
Basco, M. R. (2000). Never good enough: How to use perfectionism to your advantage without letting it ruin your life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Malone, K., Gonzalez, S., Horowitz-Ghazi, A., & Goldmark, A. (2018, November 21). Episode 877: The Laws Of The Office. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/11/19/669395064/episode-877-the-laws-of-the-office
Parkinson, C. N. (1958). Parkinson's law: Or, The pursuit of progress. London: John Murray.
Schwartz, B. (2004). The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. New York: Harper Perennial.
#goodenough #satisficer #besteffort #productivity #diminishingreturns #hustling #haveitall #haveitall
How many hours of sleep do you need per night? To function? To feel rested? How often do you get that much sleep per night?
I need about 8 hours of sleep per night. I can function on as little as 4 hours, as long as they were uninterrupted. When I say function, I can keep my family and I alive and do basic tasks that don’t need much cognitive power. I will be cranky. I will make a lot of mistakes. It will just be a harder day. In short, I will pay for it. To feel rested, to function well, to be a decent human being, I need about 8 hours. I prioritize my sleep over getting everything done, so most nights I do get the sleep I need (unless my toddler decides otherwise). I think I’m the exception when it comes to prioritizing sleep over productivity.
At this point, we all should know that we need 7-9 hours. This is often an area where knowing better doesn’t always mean doing better. So why don’t we get enough sleep? Maybe we rationalize that while most people do need that much sleep, we just don’t need that much. First, only 1% of the population can be classified as “short sleepers,” needing less than a full night’s sleep each night. Second, maybe we have been rocking 5-6 hours a night for so long, that’s our “normal,” but we have no idea how much happier, more emotionally stable and productive we would be if we were getting 7-9 per night. Here’s a hint. If you depend on an alarm to wake up, if you hit the snooze button, if it’s kind of hard to get up and running in the morning, if you don’t feel like a human until you’ve had your coffee in the morning, you aren’t getting enough sleep.
Working with Soldiers, I noticed a slippery slope with caffeine and sleep. The less sleep you get, the more caffeine you need to get through the day. But the more caffeine you have during the day, the less sleep you’re likely to get. I would have soldiers line up across the room according to how much sleep they get per night (no sleep on one end, 10+ hours on the other). Then I would have them line up according to how much caffeine they have each day (no doses on one end, 6+ on the other). Soldiers that were in the middle on sleep tended to stay in the middle with caffeine. Soldiers that got very little sleep tended to move to the opposite end of the room for caffeine intake (indicating they have A LOT of caffeine each day). There’s a chicken or the egg conundrum here. Are they getting less sleep because they ingest more caffeine? Or are they ingesting more caffeine because they are getting less sleep? It’s hard to tell. Work and family demands compete to take more and more of their waking hours, encroaching on their sleep. This lack of sleep necessitates higher caffeine intake to stay alert and functional. This higher amount of caffeine takes longer to leave the system, interfering with our ability to get to sleep.
Why else don’t we get enough sleep? Because it’s hard! Given everything that’s on our plates between work, family, school, hobbies, self-care, etc., there’s just not much time left for sleep. It seems like the easiest thing to sacrifice when you need more time. Maybe staying up late is the only alone time you get in the day. As I said, I prioritize my sleep. It’s a choice I make. This choice means there are dirty dishes in my sink in the morning. This choice means I sometimes miss out on spending time with others.
So what are we supposed to do? We can’t make each day 28 hours. We can’t necessarily delete things from our days to allow more time for sleep. I’m not here to tell you that you need to find a way to get 8 hours a night (you should, but you know that already). I’d prefer you focus your effort on increasing the quality of the sleep you are getting. If you’re only going to get 5.5 hours a night, how do you get the most out of that 5.5 hours? 5.5 hours of good quality sleep is certainly better than 5.5 hours of crappy sleep, and probably better than 8 hours of crappy sleep.
First, however much sleep you are getting, do what you can to protect it (easier said than done with little ones). Make it sacred. Do what you can to establish a set bedtime every night, but more importantly, establish a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is a simple set of steps that you always do to get ready for bed. Think of the sleep routines you build for toddlers to help them wind down from the day. We benefit from these as adults too. Maybe your routine is to brush your teeth, read a story, and go to bed. Maybe your routine includes listening to music, journaling or meditating. This means avoiding work and screen time. But be deliberate about what you do to prepare yourself to go to bed.
Second, increase the quality of sleep you get by practicing sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a set of practices that promote good sleep to maximize daytime alertness. Some basic sleep hygiene practices include:
Now that you’ve optimized the sleep you are getting, start thinking about increasing the total amount of sleep you get every 24 hours. How can you shift things around to get an extra ½ hour of sleep? One way to get more sleep is to incorporate naps into your day. Naps can be more beneficial than caffeine for boosting energy and alertness. There are different recommendations on naps, based on what you need to boost.
How much sleep do you need a night to survive? How much sleep do you need a night to thrive? What’s one change you can make to get closer to thriving instead of just surviving?
Ramsey, L. (2015, December 15). People who can survive on 4 hours of sleep a night have these common characteristics. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/some-people-only-need-a-few-hours-of-sleep-2015-12
Reddy, S. (2013, September 03). The Perfect Nap: Sleeping Is a Mix of Art and Science. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-perfect-nap-sleeping-is-a-mix-of-art-and-science-1378155665
Rested Life. (n.d.). Sleep Hygiene Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://restedlife.com/resourceshttps://restedlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Sleep-Hygiene-Fact-Sheet-Rested-Life.pdf
#sleep #rest #nap #productivity #energy #thrive #haveitall #haveitall
When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Working with Soldiers, I got to see how they were often bombarded with competing prioritize and how they sorted through the noise to stay focused and productive.
When having Soldier clarify their values, it was common to have a value relating to work (mission first) and a value relating to family (family first). Having two core values of family first and mission first creates some challenges. You can’t have them both come first all the time. It creates an impossible standard; something has to give. When faced with an impossible standard, we sometimes stall until a decision is made for us. When the decision is made for us, it can breed resentment and victimhood.
For example, say you have a core value of spending quality time with you family, and you also have a core value of fueling your best performance by getting 7 hours of sleep a night. You’re watching your favorite show with your family one night and you’re faced with the choice of staying up late to watch another episode (supporting the value of time with family) and heading to bed (supporting the value of you getting enough sleep). If you choose to watch another episode, you are sacrificing sleep. If you choose to go to bed, you are sacrificing family time.
This can feel like a no-win situation. Either way you choose, you are sacrificing something important to you. If you delay making a decision, auto-play will kick in and the next episode will start. If auto-play makes the decision for you, you go to bed late, you wake up groggy, and you will be cranky the next day because you didn’t get enough sleep. Throughout the episode you may even be grumbling to yourself about how frustrated you will be the next day. You didn’t get sleep, and you didn’t enjoy the time with your family. You might be resentful towards your family or towards the show you’re watching for interfering with your sleep.
When we make the choice, we act with integrity and intention and accept the consequences of our choice. Intentionality (making deliberate choices) flips the script. You know something has to give, so you mindfully make the best choice. Then you accept the consequences from your decision. You take ownership over the choices you make--and the choices you don't make.
For example, say you make the choice to watch another episode and spend that time with your family. With this decision, you know you are sacrificing sleep, so you make some additional decisions about what you expect of yourself the next day. Maybe you do a shorter workout or push a few things from your to do list to a different day because you aren’t able to bring your best. Maybe you find a way to squeeze in a nap.
Say you make the choice to go to bed on time. With this decision, you are sacrificing time with your family. You are protecting your ability to bring your best effort the next day, but you didn’t spend as much quality time with your family. Maybe you find another way to spend more time with them another time (do a shorter workout or work it out to stay up late another night).
The goal with this isn’t to choose one particular value over the other all of the time. The goal with this is to maintain your power to make the right decision for you. This helps you maintain healthy boundaries. This helps you maintain a balance of give and take when your values compete with each other.
Which of your values seem to compete? How can you be more deliberate and intentional in the choices that you make to balance this?
Are you holding out for your vacation? Are you grinding away while telling yourself you don’t have time for self-care until you’re able to completely get away? There’s another way.
Self-care could be exercise, taking time for yourself, going for a walk, getting a massage, going for a hike, taking a vacation, getting your favorite drink at the local coffee shop; but self-care still gets a bad rap. It’s seen as an indulgence or a reward after working hard. It’s seen as time consuming, expensive and a chore. I can admit that it’s often one of the first things cut from my day when I get busy or overwhelmed; but that’s exactly when I need it the most.
My preferred recovery activities include going to the gym, reading novels, getting massages, and walking in nature, and good chocolate. These activities all take time or money (or both). When I think of the time or money I need to allocate to actually do the self-care I know I enjoy and need, it can just add to the overwhelm I’m feeling. It feels like a frivolous use of my time (which could be spent building my business or spending time with family) or money (which could be spent building my business or helping my family). Then I become trapped in the all or none fallacy, believing if I can’t “do it right” then I shouldn’t bother fitting in self-care at all.
Self-care is one of the things where knowing better doesn’t necessarily lead to us doing better. To have balance, to be a high performer, to be able to give to others, we need to practice self-care. So what are we to do?
To combat barriers (excuses) to engaging in self-care, I recommend the strategy of micro dosing.
In medicine, a minimum effective dose is the lowest dosage of a medication that provides a clinically significant response. In self-care, a minimum effective dose might be a 20 minute walk, a 30 min bubble bath, 2 hour nap, or a 60 minute workout. If that’s the minimum effective dose, what’s the point of trying if I can’t set aside the full allotted time?
In medicine, the concept of micro dosing is gaining popularity. A micro dose is a “sub therapeutic” dose of medication. This dose isn’t high enough to produce noticeable changes, but still has a cellular impact. Applying this principle to self-care, a micro dose might not produce the same noticeable positive impacts that a traditional “dose” of self-care would, but still has a positive impact on your body. It’s more effective to do a microdose of self-care than to do no self-care at all.
The beauty of microdosing self-care is that any recovery strategy can be microdosed.
Therapeutic Dose: 60 minutes of meditation in the morning.
Therapeutic Dose: a 75 minute yoga class.
Therapeutic Dose: full 60 minute massage.
Therapeutic Dose: bubble bath.
Therapeutic Dose: A good night’s sleep.
The true power in microdosing self-care is the compound effects of multiple microdoses spread throughout the day. Maybe I can’t go for a massage as often as I would like, but I can take better care of my body if I do 5 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation 1-3 times per day for my neck and shoulders than if I do nothing.
The best sort of microdose is the kind that’s portable. When you are brainstorming ways you can microdose your self-care strategies, try to think of strategies that don’t require equipment. For example, a 15 minute chair massage as a microdose for a full body massage still requires you to set aside time and money to actually go do it. Whereas progressive muscle relaxation can be done on your own at any time.
What are your preferred self-care strategies? How could you start to microdose them?
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Wiest, B. (2019, January 26). This Is What 'Self-Care' REALLY Means, Because It's Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake.. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2017/11/this-is-what-self-care-really-means-because-its-not-all-salt-baths-and-chocolate-cake/..
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