This is a one-off, different kind of post (don’t worry I’ll be back speaking about Brand Strategy tips shortly!). I don’t usually write posts on mental health but as Mental Health Awareness Week is coming up soon and, we are in the middle of the Corona lockdown where people are struggling, it seems appropriate.
I want to share with you something which I have found really helpful and quite possibly life-changing. I hope it might help you.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
The problem. Modern life is relentless.
I’m a creative who likes to please people. Left to my own devices I would pack my days and always be on the go. With work. With speaking. With projects. With meeting people. With family. With friends.
If you looked inside my brain it would probably look like Liverpool Street Underground Station in London with things whizzing all over the place. The hustle and bustle of ideas, projects and clients which move in and out without ceasing.
I work for myself and my boss is a jerk. An absolute slave driver.
I’m also very active on social media. It’s part of what I do as a brand consultant. If people don’t know about me they won’t be able to hire me. So every few moments an alert would pop up and my brain would want to know what it was all about. Being constantly connected meant that I would often find myself looking at social media first thing in the morning or checking emails late at night. I’d struggle to focus sometimes. Always being distracted. Some days I’d not get the first thing done on my to-do list. I'd be shifting mental gears. I’d feel guilty that I was not spending time with my family and other commitments. I was unsure how to balance everything. Somedays I'd feel a little overwhelmed.
Any of this sound familiar? I know I'm not alone. Modern life is relentless.
This was my life about 3 months ago. Frankly it was becoming a problem.
I've not solved all of the complications of modern life. But I do have something in the way of a solution.
The solution. We need calm.
The solution is quite simple.
One Friday, just after Lockdown began, my wife, frustrated by me being distracted by yet again another “buzz” on my phone, said, “Why don’t you just turn that off for a day”. For some reason, I agreed. Deep down I was tired with it all. Something in me was craving a break.
We agreed to turn all phones, computers and digital devices off for 24 hours. Friday night to Saturday night.
This solution actually goes right back into antiquity. The idea is to deliberately pause from active ‘work’ for one day of the week.
The ancients did it. The Bible calls it the “Sabbath” (Hebrew for “To stop”). In Jewish culture, it is still a major part of life. In fact, I had recently travelled to Israel and seen it in action. I also have Jewish friends who actively mention it on their social media ('Shabbat Shalom - I'll be back online on Saturday Night'!)
In our modern world (and in my interpretation of it) it means turning off the noise of screens and mobiles for 24 hours. To carve out that time to refocus on what's important. To stop, reflect, spend time with family - if you are religious (like me), it’s also a brilliant time to refocus on your faith. But even if you are not. The mental health benefits are well worth considering.
By the way, this is not to say you don’t spend time with family (or God) throughout the week. Of course not. But it is about blocking in time. To give your brain a rest. To allow it to be calm.
I’ve found this incredibly powerful. I’ve now been doing it since Lockdown began and I intend to keep it up into the future.
Here are a few benefits I’ve discovered:
Focus. Somehow I feel I can focus more, plan better, and get stuff done.
Reenigised. When Monday comes around I’m raring to go (even more than before!).
No-guilt. My family know they will be spending quality time with me so are happier for me to have my head down during the week.
Creativity. I have loads of ideas when I’m shut off from the digital world. I write them down on paper but I don’t seek to “work” on them.
Reading. Having no screens around forces you to read.
Enjoyment. Although I struggled with the first few, I now find myself looking forward to these rests.
If you want these things, give it a try for 4 weeks. Let me know. I'd love to hear your stories. Will it work? I've no idea. I'm no psychologist but I can tell you from experience that its helped me.
So, this Friday as the sun does down I’ll be offline. Tomorrow I’ll be spending “Daddy time” with my kids - who are all looking forward to it and have projects lined up for me to do with them. I’ll take an hour or two to read - with a real book (not Kindle!). I’ll sit in my garden and reflect. I'll be present and paying attention to my family - who after all are the most precious things I've been blessed with. And then when Monday comes around I’ll be all the better for it. Raring to go as always. Knowing I can fully throw myself into my projects as might be needed but having the reassurance that this time next week I will be enjoying another Digital Sabbath - and my brain will get the rest it needs.
I hope this idea helps you. Try it for 4 weeks. You will be amazed.
P.S. Apologies for my usual readers interested in Brand Strategy - I’ll be back next week with some exciting tools for you 👍.
Bonus. Interested in this kind of stuff? Here are a few books I’ve found helpful which relates to this subject: