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Calm Your Farm! How to Relax When It’s So Full On. 

Feb 04, 2024

We are now a few weeks into the term after holidays and the predictable has happened… school has become VERY full on. My calendar has filled with meetings, inboxes are hitting triple digits and the stack of papers on my desk is reflective of one of those TV shows about hoarders.  

Work on Your Timelines 

I once had a line manager who was a massive fan of marking emails with one of those high importance exclamation marks. I pushed their jobs through ahead of the other work I was doing until I realised 80% of their emails had one of those exclamation marks. It was then that I decided to work on what was reasonable, important and a priority in my own timeline.  

Working on your own timeline means being honest with what can be done in the time you have. You might have read my post from last year called ‘Loose Fences’. Here is an example: what needs to be done and what can perhaps go through the fence a bit? If someone is relying on you, communicate your need. Saying ‘I can get this to you, however, it won’t be until…’ is both realistic and honest. It also reduces the frantic momentum of trying to get everything done which often results in errors, superficial task completion and burnout.  

Priority Post-Its 

I know things are full on when I have post-it notes covering my desk. The post-it notes are my way of triaging tasks and working out what needs to happen now. The key is to keep the post-it notes small so that you can’t write too much on them (5x5cm are perfect) and then move them into two groups – what needs doing now and what can wait a bit. The satisfaction of throwing a post-it in the bin when a job is done is a relaxation technique that truly deserves its own heading! 

Take a Walk. Reduce the Noise or Change the Noise. 

When everything is full on my internal monologue can go into overdrive. Phrases such as ‘How am I going to get this done?’ and ‘I will be here all night!’ play in my head whilst I try and run through the million and one things on my mind. The rational part of my brain knows that this doesn’t help and I should relax but the irrational part says ‘No time to relax, we have panicking to do!’.  

Whilst it seems counter-intuitive, taking 5 minutes to go for a walk and then come back to the task list can be just the circuit breaker you need to relax for a moment and get things back on track. Say to yourself ‘I’m walking to the bathroom and back. When I get back, my brain will be calm and I will look at this more clearly’. Count your steps as you go to the bathroom and back, breathe deeply as you walk just don’t allow the noise to keep going in your brain. Wash your hands and pay attention to the water. Run the water on your wrists and imagine the calm of the water running right through you. As you walk back, tell yourself that when you arrive back in your workspace you will be fresh, clear and calm. It really does help and provides you with a moment to step away and re-evaluate what needs to be done. 

If you feel that the mindful bathroom walk isn’t your thing, try the next best thing – go visit a class. Nothing snaps you out of being in your head like a class of Prep students! Going and having a 5 min visit to a classroom, seeing their work and having a quick chat is a great way to remind you of what really matters. Where are the students in the work you are doing? By the time you come back to your desk there will be clarity in what is important and what can wait. 

Stretch and Deep Breaths 

As a pilates enthusiast, it’s amazing what a good ‘roll down’ will do for a person. Hands above your head, slowly fold the top part of your body down until you are touching your toes. Let your arms hang, swing them from side to side and nod your head yes and no. Repeat 3 times. I always feel absolutely amazing after this and the tension held in my shoulders and neck completely release.  

Meditation 

I am getting back into meditation a lot. I find this has helped slow down the ‘monkey brain’ that chitter chatters away at me. When I am facing the lot of noise and voice and excitement and information of the first week back it can be really hard to wind down at the end of a day. Using meditation in the car, when I am parked of course, before or after work helps settle the noise and gives me opportunity to emotionally recharge. Dr Adam Fraser in his excellent book ‘Third Space’ speaks to this. The place between home and work or two other places that provides a transition and balance.  

Step Away From the Phone 

Why is it that when we have five minutes of quiet time we naturally pull out our phones and start scrolling. It’s a habit like lighting a cigarette back in the day. For some that might work but for me it just doesn’t help, it doesn’t calm me, it actually makes things worse. I find if I am using my phone as a mental time out, I am actually filling the space with another form of noise and energy. It doesn’t drain me further, it’s more that it just stops my chance to recharge. I know people who play Candy Crush or Solitaire as their way to calm down and honestly, if it works, happy days. For me, the lights and glare of screens through emails, updates, online shopping or any other app that does something on my phone hypes me up.  

Remember – You Are One Person But Not the Only Person 

You’re not the only one who has full-on moments. Be mindful of others and don’t allow your stress to add to their stress. Snapping at someone is not only unprofessional, it adds to your and their task list. The person is now wondering ‘What did I do wrong?’ or ‘What’s their problem?’ which has now been added to their to-do list and you have now added ‘Apologise to that person at some point when I’m less overwhelmed’ to yours.  

You are one person and you can ask for help if things are overwhelming or look to prioritise when things are full on. 

You are not the only person and you need to respect that other people are human beings with feelings, emotions and their own load to carry. 

This week take a moment to catch your breath and work out how you can best relax when things are full on. What do you need to manage yourself best?  

Just remember: you can do anything today… you can’t do everything.  

Anne-Marie 

 

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