I don’t know who needs to hear this, but your wellness routine does not need to be “productive”
Ok, it’s me. I need to hear that. And often! Working remotely for the last 14+ months has been quite the education (crash course?) in time management, boundary-setting and sticking to a wellness routine. Since March of 2020, we’ve blurred the line between work and personal time even more (which, in 2019, I would have thought was not possible!).
We’re constantly being told (ironically, on social media) that we need to try to find ways to:
- Reduce screen time…
- Be more present…
- Attain enlightenment…
- Get 8 hours of sleep…
But, also, do ALL the of the things.
- Get that promotion!
- Lead that project!
- Get that accreditation!
- Train for that race!
- Don’t forget to water the plants! (guilty)
It can all feel overwhelming and at times contradictory. Most days, I find it hard to even find the line between my work and personal life. Let alone hold that boundary when it feels like there are not enough hours in the day!
Companies are (finally) prioritizing mental health
One positive result of the pandemic, so far, has been the increased focus on wellness for employees — it is now highlighted by most companies as a top priority. Most of us have probably noticed this trend over the past few years. The work from home set-up has really brought the issue to the forefront of discussions in corporate culture.
Some employers have a budget for employees to use on classes, apps, and other resources to maintain and increase their mental health. “Wellbeing” has become a metric, albeit a subjective one, that is often cited in leadership reports. Organizational evaluations now include a way to understand how employees are doing; and work-life balance and mental health are finally getting the spotlight they deserve… even as many of us are finding it more difficult to achieve that balance!
Creating a wellness routine you can stick to
So how do you do it? How do you set up or keep to a routine in (gestures wildly) all of this! A routine that allows you to be productive and connected when you need to be, yet allows for that time to disconnect, clear your head, and breathe?
Many of my friends and colleagues have tried to use the additional time at home to develop new wellness habits — meditation, cooking, yoga, anything to try and structurally disconnect from their screens. The goal is to be better focused when they do inevitably return to their screens.
I know that I have (unsuccessfully) tried to begin a regimen of daily yoga, meditation, reading and piano playing throughout the course of the last year. I still do these things, but my initial structure of “I will be able to play this song on the piano by this date” or “I will spend this amount of time reading each day” fell apart quickly.
I’ve found that I can pick up these things when they suit, and that’s worked better for me. It’s completely okay that, a year in, I can still only play the chorus of Tiny Dancer.
Failing to plan, is planning to fail?
So here is my hot take: One of the pitfalls to achieving the elusive goal of mental well-being is… not having a goal at all.
Hear me out! If you are someone striving to do the most in your career, it can seem hard to justify setting time aside that is not dedicated to reaching a specific goal or achieving something tangible. It feels like we are on a treadmill, constantly striving for ‘x’ or ‘y’ – and that can quickly spiral into burnout – which is something many of us have at least flirted with.
That mindset of working to the brink of burnout can carry over when we commit to things we should do for enjoyment. It is obviously great if you have goals associated with recreational activities, too. But that should not make those activities stressful — we clearly have enough of that! Ask yourself, is your yoga session any less valuable if you were not able to hold the crow pose? No!
Some of us have a sense of guilt when we feel that we are not “accomplishing” anything, so let’s try to unpack that a little bit.
Why do we feel guilty about taking time for ourselves?
I could probably write a whole book on the various reasons but for the purpose of this article, let’s frame it as… living in a culture that places value on productivity at all costs, most often at the expense of our mental health.
Mental health isn’t just something to think about when you’re having a tough time. It’s important to create a wellness routine that strikes a sustainable balance between all of the things in your life. Sometimes that means meditation at 6am, sometimes that means binging reality TV before bed with a glass of wine. Both are ok, and equally “productive” if the “goal” is doing what makes you feel good.
We only have so many hours in a day, so if we take some of that time to read a book for fun, watch reruns of Grey’s Anatomy, or just stare out the window for a while… and that is helping to balance the constant bombardment of work and, you know, life, so be it! Do you. You do not have to validate your enjoyment. Just make sure you take time for it, regardless of what it looks like.
So let’s take this opportunity with the spotlight on mental health to take that space to do whatever it is that makes you feel good. Do things for you. Create that wellness routine, queen! Your enjoyment is enough. Your wellness and mental health are enough.
A native New Yorker via Boston, Laura Debenedetto works in tech policy and is currently based in Dublin. When not writing for the CPQ blog, she can be found in the mountains, on a bike, or trying to perfect her pie lattice technique in her tiny European kitchen. She’s on IG as @ldeben and her dabbles in travel writing can be found here.
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