will you take a break?

I’ve been silent – it feels like I dropped off the face of the earth. Nothing mattered for a while, only me. I nursed my pain and I licked my wounds in the darkness. Surrounded by everything and needing nothing. The road I was on started to feel too rocky, too unstable. I needed to let it go and start afresh.

Things had gone so wrong that I didn’t know where or how to start repairing myself. I had just left a confusing situationship, my business was taking up a lot of my time and I was going through a tough career transition. I felt stretched and I was spreading myself thin on an already empty emotional tank.

Checking out of life is important; taking a break and affording yourself some self-compassion is key to maintaining your mental health.

During this period of overwhelm, I decided to check out, and thus its been 1.5 years since my last blog post.

In the last month I’ve finally had some breathing space to pause and take stock of the changes that have occurred, the experiences I have been through and how much change I have endured. Many times people go through life at high speed, never taking a break to look back and reflect. When was the last time you did this, particularly after a challenging period of life?

Human beings are in a state of continuous flux and evolution. From the simple things such as the food you eat everyday having a quick and direct impact on mood, weight and energy levels, to longer term factors such as shifting value systems, career changes, relationships or overall lifestyle. Whilst the former is rather simple to notice, like a lactose intolerant person eating dairy products and feeling sick two hours later….the latter is more complex. What I thought I valued two years ago has now changed or deepened. My career has changed, I’ve bought my first home, I have loved and lost..and now open to love again.

It would be easy to keep going through each day without re-evaluating all these changes and having a type of “internal debrief” session but I needed to take a moment to make sure I am okay. Space to reflect and make sure I am growing in the direction I want to be, not in a direction influenced by others or life pressures.

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If this is something you have never done before, below is a rough guide to get you started in some self-reflection. It may take 30mins of your time to go through these and analyse your answers, but it will have a beneficial impact on your life by consciously resetting your mind and putting you in a position to see the successes, lessons and gaps in your life to date (or current stage of life). You will then be in a more informed position to plan your next steps or just simply take some time to celebrate how far you have come.

So…think about 5 changes in your life over the last year or two, big or small, positive or negative.

These changes can sit within several categories, or transverse across a number of them i.e. academic pursuits, mental development, career aspirations, physical health, financial wealth, family relationships, social networking, recreational ventures (including hobbies, interests, sports, vacations) and spiritual development (including contributions to society, volunteering etc.)

Against each of these, note:

  1. How you made this change happen; Were you the only contributing factor or did it involve a number of people/circumstances in your life? If it did involve other people, what elements did you have control over?
  2. How it made you feel, especially towards yourself; Did it build or break down your self-esteem? Did you feel anxious, energized, depressed, excited?
  3. What you would do differently if given the opportunity; Are there any emerging patterns in your behaviour that you want to keep or start to change?
  4. What you learned about yourself with each instance. Whether or not the outcome of the change was good or bad, the lesson learned about yourself can only be positive (self-awareness gives you the opportunity to change for the good in future) so train your mind to frame your self-evaluation in this way.

Whilst we all live busy lives where embedding this level of self-reflection may not be possible every week, or even month, the more frequently you do it, the more attuned you will be to who you are and how you are constantly developing. This can give you a quick sense of achievement. You will also allow yourself to understand where you have gone wrong and start to re-align your life back to a more fruitful purpose. I guarantee it will be worth your time!

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