Many of us (who, me?) are in the habit of ignoring our feelings and needs during the week, in favor of being “productive” — which can lead to a big backlog of stuff (that’s a technical term) when we hit the weekend. If you tend to get headaches or other physical symtpoms on the weekend, it’s an even bigger problem (see the post on weekend headaches if this describes you!). But for all of us, it’s just plain healthier and feels better to stay at least somewhat balanced during the week — it improves both your week and your weekend! Here are some suggestions:
1. Formal awareness practices – meditation, tai chi, yoga – were developed specifically to keep us in touch with our bodies, minds, and feelings. Try doing one of them, once or twice during the week. (Be aware, though, that some yoga classes are essentially aerobics in disguise – pick one that guides you back to your own body, rather than pushing you through a workout.)
2. Take time for “active relaxation” during the week. By this I mean a leisurely walk, a fun cooking project, making music or listening to music, dancing, or a relaxed dinner with friends. Unfortunately, watching TV doesn’t count. It does help you forget about work, and slow down physically, but it’s basically a way of shutting off your mind. It doesn’t get energy moving, or bring you back to yourself.
3. Give yourself a mini-weekend: do something really fun, partway through the week. Preferably something that makes you laugh your head off. (Okay, this is the one exception to the TV-and-movies-don’t-count rule!)
4. Exercise during the week is a great way to get energy moving. Just make sure you’re not bringing the same attitude of forcing yourself through it so you can check it off your list. Or watching the TV at the gym and trying to ignore that you’re exercising. Try to relax and actually feel your body moving. If you pick something fun, or exercise with a friend, double points!
5. Connect, connect, connect. Spend time during the week with people who know who you are outside of work, even if it’s just on the phone. Get some support if you need it. You may not want to tell people at the office that you’re worried about your kid’s health, or scared you can’t do this project at work, or feeling vulnerable in a relationship, but having a place to talk about those things during the week is super-important.
6. Be aware of your body and your feelings during the work day. It really is possible to bring your whole self to work, and still get things done. It’s actually okay to go through the day feeling sad, and writing a report at the same time. This takes some practice. Begin by just taking 30 seconds to notice your feet on the floor, take a deep breath, and check in with how you’re feeling. You don’t have to do anything about it, just know that you’re there. Some people set an alarm on their computer every hour or two to remind themselves; others use outside interruptions, such as the phone ringing, as a cue to take a minute and drop in. Cultivating a formal awareness practice (see #1) can also help build this skill.