A friend of mine recently shared an article entitled '5 Ways to Simplify Today'. It really resonated with me, so I thought you might be interested to read it too. :)
It links to what I'm trying to encourage with my own family, in an effort to keep in control of the craziness that can become everyday life.
It doesn't always come together, but it feels good when it does.
Each year the weeks leading up to Christmas seem to put more pressure on everyone than usual, so it feels like a good time to talk about this.
If you're already a master of the whole being calm and in control thing, I'd be really interested to hear how you do it – email me here if you’re willing to share!
Feeling in control isn't just a superficial thing. Having too much on, not having any down time, and living every moment connected to your phone, can have an impact on your health.
It can affect your sleep, your immunity and your hormones. For women it can affect your periods too.
I plan to write another blog which focuses more on the 'physiological science stuff' that explains how these things are linked, but for now I just want to keep it simple!
If you want some ideas to get started, I’m going to talk about each of these areas (which tend to overlap) that I'm working on at home:
- doing one thing at a time
- managing screen time
- a better bedtime routine to encourage better sleep.
One thing at a time
This links to the first suggestion in the ‘5 Ways to Simplify Today’ article.
Even though I’m very aware of the importance of taking my time and not taking on too much, I can still be easily distracted if I’m not careful. One of my weaknesses is wanting to make the most of my time. While on the whole I consider this to be a good thing, the area I am trying to focus on is linked to screen time.
I will often find myself ‘just checking my emails’ while I’m trying to do something else.
Last week I managed to ruin two lots of poached eggs because I got distracted. I wish I’d seen the article a week earlier. ;)
I really like the suggestion of giving your full attention to one task, whatever that task may be. If you have a lot on your to do list it can be quite challenging to do this, but I urge you to give it a go.
Even just for a couple of hours.
Since reading the article it has become my mission to do this every day.
When I do, I can sense my mind focusing more and I’m aware of a feeling of calm. I stop thinking about what I’ve got to do next. By giving ourselves permission to do one thing properly, we are in a much better place to do the next thing on our to-do list properly too. (And for me, to cook the perfect poached eggs).
If you read this and think ‘I get all that but I just have too many things on my to-do list’, then I urge you to read point three in the ‘5 Ways’ article right now!
This is a such big thing! When I was the age my children are now, in fact even when I was in my twenties and thirties, screens were just not on my horizon. The advent of the Smart Phone has changed everything.
I love my iPhone. My life is pretty much on my iPhone.
I can transfer money, check emails, access my work documents, check my children’s school attendance as well as take lots of pictures of my dog when we walk every day!
Smart phones are fantastic things that can make our lives so much easier in so many ways.
However, if we’re not careful they can take over and have a detrimental effect too.
The Blackberry Drop Down
I saw Jerry Seinfeld (an American comedian for those of you that don’t know) perform at the O2 a few years ago – 2011 I think. Part of his stand-up routine was about what he coined the ‘Blackberry Drop Down’.
Change the word ‘Blackberry’ for whatever phone you/ your partner/ your child/ your friend uses.
I imagine there won’t be many people reading this who haven’t either experienced, or been the perpetrator of the ‘Drop Down’!
Seinfeld was referring to when someone is distracted mid-conversation by a text or notification on their phone and ‘drops down’ their head to look at their phone and proceeds to ignore the person they had been talking to.
The ‘Drop Down’ is a real bug-bear of mine, and one I try hard not to commit!
Here are some things that you could try to help manage your screen time. Some of these things were suggested to me by the same friend that shared the article – you know who you are and ‘thank you’ it has really helped!
1. Turn off the notifications on your phone
I no longer have email, news, facebook or Instagram notifications popping up every few minutes. It’s amazing the difference it makes to your focus and your stress levels (something I’ll explain in more detail in another blog).
I made one compromise and still have notifications of my text messages. However, I have a special sound for the important people in my life, so it’s only when I hear my son or daughters sound (and sometimes my husband!) that I will check my phone. I’ve trained myself not to look at my phone for any other messages until I’m ready to.
I also have notifications off on my laptop. I now check emails at various points during the day. This means I am in control of when I see them and deal with them.
2. Sacred (screen-free) time
I class meal times as family time. There are always times during the week when we can’t eat together as a family, but regardless of how many of us are there, I endeavour to make it screen-free.
The rule is supposed to be no phones or gadgets on the dinner table at all. However, if they have to be there (and this is usually only for my husband), they are supposed to be screen-down so they are not an obvious distraction.
I bring in screen-free time if we are doing a family activity together too - playing a game or watching something on TV together. To be honest it’s not usually the children that find this hard and sometimes it’s them that suggest the screen-free time so their Dad doesn’t get repeatedly distracted!
This links back to the first point in the article about keeping things simple, as well as the fourth point about fully being with someone. It’s hard work to manage these things all the time, but I believe that it’s important to have something to work towards. Especially when it’s something as important as nurturing the relationships we have to those close to us.
3. Winding down before bed-time (without your phone)
For those of you that have children, or have spent any time with young children, you are probably familiar with the benefits of some ‘quiet time’ before bedtime. In our house when the children were little, it would generally involve bath-time and then story-time.
Inevitably on some days (Christmas, birthdays, when friends were visiting) this wouldn’t always happen. I was then very aware of the consequences – trying to put over-excited children to bed is a stressful experience!
I think it’s the same with adults and grown up children too.
I find that if I have my own version of bath-time and story-time before I try and sleep, it is much easier to get to sleep and have a restful night. Not being distracted by my phone is an important part of this.
As such, I am working on putting down my phone at 9:30pm. My children now have a set time that their phones need to be out of their rooms too. Most of the time even my teenager can see the benefit in this!
It’s up to each of us how we structure this. I’m enjoying using aromatherapy in my pre-bedtime routine along with making some time to read my book. When I make the effort to have a warm shower as well, I really notice the extra sense of calm and relaxation that it brings me. Add in an aromatic body lotion, aromatherapy spray or roll-on and I’m almost asleep there and then!
I still haven’t got myself an alarm clock, so I do still use my phone for that. However, I’ve been checking out alarm clocks online, so very soon my phone will be joining the children’s phones on the landing too!
One step at a time
None of these suggestions are particularly ground-breaking, but small changes can have a surprisingly big impact on your life.
Why not pick one thing, try it for one day and see how you feel?
I’d love to hear how you get on.