On Sustaining Ourselves: One Moment at a Time
Yesterday was one of those days. Multiple deadlines,
back-to-back meetings, dozens of unanswered emails in my inbox. When I looked up at 4:45 pm (only because I
had set an alarm so that I wouldn’t forget to pick up my children from
daycare), I realized that I hadn’t eaten since 10:30am. Everything I know about what it takes to be
healthy and productive flew out the window.
I left the office to pick up my kids in a daze, chomping on
a cheese stick for sustenance; my mind racing in extreme planning and execution
mode. I had 10 minutes to decompress
before I got to the kids. I tried to
concentrate on mindful breathing, but it didn’t do much. Not surprisingly, my interactions with my kids
once I picked them up were less than ideal.
I’ll spare the details, but they included some yelling (me and them) and
lots of frustration (me).
Finally, after dinner and getting my children into bed, it
was quiet again. My instinct was to head
straight back to the desk, finish up a few more emails, get a little more done.
Just a little bit more. But some quiet
part of me said, go outside. Go outside before the sun sets.
So I did.
I started my run with the same intense energy, moving a mile
a minute. But as I charged my way up the
hill near my house, I paused at the top to catch my breath. I turned around and
noticed a few things. The air was fragrant with spring blossoms, freshly cut
grass. The sky was painted with the most
beautiful hues of purple, pink. A light
fog was slowly creeping in. The peeper
frogs were out in the marshlands, singing their song. The day was ending but something else was
beginning - the evening air was alive and vibrating with activity.
I stopped to listen, feel, and observe the evening sky. My run and the details of the next very
important action item forgotten. I walked the rest of the way home, moved by my
experience, immersed in the night air.
Much calmer and present. I chose
not to return to my work, went to bed early, and started today fresh and
I relearned something on that walk that I continue to
relearn, over and over.
I am not an endless supply of energy, as much
as I wish I was.
None of us are. We all need time to rejuvenate, renew, reset.
It’s part of our responsibility as leaders. It is one of the most persistent
challenges. I get it. Life is busy and there are so many competing
and important demands on our time.
Here are three of my favorite practices that help me to keep
this front and center.
Time outside, even 10
minutes of it, often puts me in a different state of mind. Much
has shown that time in nature
(yes, urban nature too!) reduces stress, anxiety, increases vitamin d, and
just five minutes a day using focused breathing has transformed my life. In the
moment, I am better able to make decisions and stay clear on what my priorities
for the day. The cumulative benefit is
that I am better able to pay attention and act on those quiet moments of
For me, music is an instant
pick me up. I have a set of playlists
with my favorite songs for every occasion on Spotify…songs for inspiration;
higher energy; calm. When I pair the
music with some dancing, even better! A
five-minute dance break can make all the difference in recharging my
perspective and getting me moving.
What do you have in place to support your
ongoing ability to recharge? If you
don’t have something in place already, I encourage you to identify a practice
that you can engage in regularly for 10 minutes a day. It doesn’t sound like much, but I know from
experience that with regular practice, it will make a tremendous difference.