Invest 1% of your day in you

A few years ago, I often felt like a zombie after a demanding workday. My fatigue got worse as the week progressed, and by weekend, I was little better than brain-dead. I didn’t have much energy for anything. I teach, write and coach about the signs of chronic stress and burnout, but I hadn’t seen the signs in myself. I could see them in other people, but me? I was good. Until I wasn’t, and needed to use what I knew to pull myself out of the ditch without having to quit everything or go on stress leave – which was not an option at the time.

First, I had to stop believing that things would get better or settle by themselves. If I wanted something to change, I had to initiate change, to start small, and build from the foundation up. Could I invest small, 15-minutes breaks through my day for rest and replenishing energy? It felt reasonable, doable and realistic. And quick math check: a fifteen-minute chunk represents 1% of a 24-hour day. If credit card interest rate of 20% are the norm, how about investing just 1% in yourself?

It was so small as to be laughable, but I knew that 15 minutes would allow me to: take a break from my phone reminding me of the next demand; take a 15-minute walk outdoors to breathe deep and feel the sunlight; or even nap for 15 minutes. I came up with a list of small 15-minutes restorative breaks that felt like tiny moments of sacred space in my day. And it was easier to fit 15 minutes breaks in my day: maybe shorten a meeting or leave my desk 15 minutes early. It’s called a detachment break – it allows your mind to disconnect, your body to get a respite from sitting too long. Of course, a 15-minute break can’t replace eight hours of sleep, but it gives you a breather, time to recharge, a moment to yourself in a busy day.

Small steps work

What I know is that small steps work. They work, because they are small, easy to do, and unobtrusive. They work because they make you feel successful. They work because it feels like progress (and it is). Fifteen-minute chunks of time can look too small to make a difference, but because they are small, they are doable in your busy schedule, instead of waiting until (magic!) you have time for something bigger.

What happens in a fifteen minute break?

15 minutes is 1% of a 24-hour day, and yes, it works. No, it doesn’t replace a week at the beach, but it’s a huge step up from never stopping, feeling overwhelmed and continuing to drift through zombie-like evenings. Taking a quiet, slow 15-minute break, maybe a short easy walk can provide the mental and physical break you crave, away from technology and interruptions; away from demands and expectations, to rest and recharge your batteries – instead of running on fumes.

The result? You feel less tired, less anxious, have better focus, more energy. You feel more like… well, yourself. And you get all this in fifteen minutes, which is 1% of a 24-hour day.  Can you invest 1% of your day in taking care of you?    


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