How to Lighten Up
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“Man, unlike the animal, has never learned that the sole purpose of life is to enjoy it.” ~Samuel Butler
I love my work. I really love it deep down in my bones and could sit at my computer all day writing and creating and connecting with other people. Yes, I realize how wonderful it is to feel passionate about my work, but I'm also learning how important it is to step away from it — frequently. A healthy lifestyle requires balance, which means we have to lighten up sometimes.
It's so easy to get bogged down, wrapped up, intently engaged.
Even if you don't like your work, fear or obligation can keep you immersed in completing projects and putting in the “required hours” to appear productive and useful.
Tasks multiply like bunnies, and they have a way of seducing us into believing we will eventually conquer them if we just keep working.
One of main the reasons I started my own business was to have freedom and flexibility. Now, ironically, I find myself drifting back to my computer in the evenings, on Saturday mornings, and yes (yikes) even on vacation. But recently, I've been recalibrating my lifestyle. I'm really a firm believer in the power of fun and relaxation. They are the B12 shot for your mental and emotional energy and creativity. (Tim Ferriss's book The 4-Hour Workweek,
was a real eye-opener for me!)
Remove Your Hands from the Keyboard and Step Away from the Computer
I have to remind myself of this regularly. I have to get my butt out of my chair and do something else. Something light and breezy — with body movement involved if possible.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but here's the deal about sitting for long hours at your desk staring at the computer.
According to an American Cancer Society study:
- Women who sit more than six hours a day face a 33% higher risk of early death from cardiovascular disease compared with women who sit fewer than three hours a day. Long-sitting men have an 18% increased risk of premature death from heart disease.
- Failing to exercise plus sitting for long stretches proved even more hazardous. The combination of little physical activity and long periods of sitting was linked to a 94% higher risk of premature death for women and a 48% higher risk for men compared with those who sat the least and exercised the most.
- Uninterrupted sitting may cause large muscle groups to shut down and lead to damaging metabolic changes.
- There is also a potential increased cancer risk in long-sitting women (not so with men).
Too much time at the computer can also cause problems with posture, back and neck pain, eye strain, headaches, circulation, and digestion. It can also lead to insomnia and depression. Yowsa. That's reason enough to step away.
If you read my post of last week about the future of technology, you know that we will become increasingly engaged with computers on every level. Many jobs that now require some movement, physical labor, or one-on-one interaction will be handled by computers. The temptation to disengage from the “real world” and tend to work or other online pursuits will be even stronger.
I had a coaching client tell me recently that she feels guilty when she's not doing something productive or income-generating. I used to feel that way. Now I'm so very grateful that the scales have been lifted from my eyes. I'm so relieved to know that loosening up, lightening up, and living life are not only OK, they are essential.
How to Lighten Up
Do you agree with me on the value of lightening up? I hope so. Work is important, but I believe lightness is equally important. Lightness provides the time and space for fun, movement, relaxation, or doing absolutely nothing. Lightness is stepping out of intensity, stress, and hard work, and into pure freedom of mind, body, and soul.
Here are some thoughts on lightening up:
- If you work in a job with long hours, is this your choice or a requirement? If it's a choice, then choose to work less. You will be far more productive by lightening up than you'll ever be by overworking. If it's a requirement, there are ways to negotiate your in-office work hours. Tim Ferris offers some great strategies on this in the aforementioned book.
- Will it be catastrophic if you work less? Really? Or will you just feel weird about it? Most of the time we overwork to impress someone or make ourselves feel important and useful. These beliefs are chimeras that trap you on a treadmill.
- You can create boundaries for yourself and protect your lighten-up times. You don't have to answer every email, phone call, or text the minute they come in. You don't have to allow yourself to be interrupted or pulled into another project. It's your time and your choice. Even if someone else gets their panties in a wad about it.
- Sometimes we think we might miss something important if we don't stay connected or available 24/7. This might happen, but do you want to stay vigilant and “on” all the time just waiting for an off-chance opportunity? If you're respected, needed and wanted, they'll wait.
- Do you feel there is some nebulous “rule” that you have to work long hours and be constantly available? Do you feel like you won't be good enough, smart enough or reliable enough if you don't live up to that rule? Remember, you're an adult and can make the rules for yourself. So make the rule that life balance is a priority for you. Then define what that balance is.
Here are some of the things I like to do to lighten up:
I love to read. It is a great escape for me, especially if I'm reading a really engaging novel. I just finished Stephen King's Under the Dome (long but a real page-turner), and I'm currently reading The Passage by Justin Cronin — supposedly this summer's blockbuster novel. So far, I carry it with me everywhere. I also like to have a motivational book on hand. Right now it's Time Warrior by Steve Chandler.
I ride my bike. I've written about this before in a previous post. It makes me feel completely free and happy. And it's great exercise.
I take a walk with my friend. We walk through my very hilly neighborhood and hardly notice that our lungs are about to explode because we're yapping so much.
I go to the movies. I much prefer going to an actual movie theater over watching one at home. This weekend I saw Horrible Bosses (silly but very funny) and the new Harry Potter movie (same characters with even more of He Who Cannot Be Named).
I drink coffee and sit on my front porch. I do this in the morning. It is so quiet and peaceful, and that first cup of coffee is just heavenly. I just sit and sip.
I regularly share a meal with friends. I live on a cul de sac and have several lovely friends right next to me. We are on a drop-in basis and frequently share meals together and of course laugh a lot. They share my perverse humor.
What do you do to lighten up? Please share your ideas for fun and relaxation.
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