The fact that I’m writing this way into December is probably a good insight into how November was for me and how it’s left me feeling. Part of me felt like skipping reflecting on November, I feel exhausted and I feel like I haven’t stopped. But actually, this is one of the best months for me to sit and reflect on; when so much is happening, when we do have a fleeting moment to reflect, we always attach one over-riding emotion to the entire 30-ish days, but when you take the time to think about it, more often than not, there are always ups and downs.
So much work, in fact too much work is the better description
I work a lot of hours in my job, and I can’t just blame my job for it, I know it’s down to my approach to work that causes it too. I’m a big believer in go big or go home, making the most of everything and frankly, there was just simply a lot of things going on last month at work that need my attention.
It has been a particularly demanding month, we’ve launched a new website, confirmed the acquisition of another company, launched a tonne of press releases, had 3 new employees start, rolled out a new brand and all whilst working on a £multi-million pitch for a new piece of work. To say my days have been a tad busy is an understatement.
The thing is, I know I can cope with this level of work, for a ridiculous amount of time - work doesn’t often cause me stress. I’ve had my demons with work in the past and I know very well how to lock them away when I’m too busy to worry about it. The bigger thing is making sure you do deal with them when you can. What does cause me more distress is the impact my long working hours has on other people.
24 hours of mobile-free relaxation
After my extended trip to Dubai, I finally came home and thankfully, completely coincidentally, the hubby and I had a night in a spa booked the first weekend I was back.
Reading, sleeping, eating good/healthy food and being pampered (and it was one of those spas that serves alcohol which always makes it more relaxing in my book!) was exactly what I needed to feel human again. Yes it’s luxurious and yes, we have some very nice friends to thank as it was actually a wedding present, but if heading to a spa for 24 hours isn’t possible for you, there is an alternative. I genuinely believe that the bit that made me feel the most relaxed - was not having phone reception.
I have a challenge for you all and it’s a challenge you should set yourself - in the next month - turn your phone off for 24 hours. Don’t do it whilst at home and you’re just pottering about the house, that causes too big a temptation. Free yourself from it, go for a long walk, lock yourself away with the challenge to read a book, a long bike ride or even just a long afternoon in a pub. Anywhere that you can free your mind and focus on the people you’re with or even better, focus on yourself.
Over 10% of young people now check their phone every few minutes and 70% of people checking it at least once an hour. You're not alone!
Lunches with people I love
It was only when I sat back to write this that I realised how many lunches I have squeezed in this month with my friends. Normally lunches aren’t a big thing for me, but as I’ve had a month where my average time of leaving the office has been approximately 9pm, standard dinners with friends have been out the question.
I made a decision a long time ago after a period of time in my life where work was horrendously busy and I could feel the impact it was having on my relationships, my soul, and state of mind, I declared to myself that if I had to work late, I’d find the time in the day for a phone call or lunch, or even dinner, even if that meant I had to work later into the night. Being able to break up a day of work spending time with people I love, has had an amazingly positive impact on my ability to stay sane and make it all feel worth it.
This month, has been the month of lunches.
A surprise lunch with a good friend of mine who just happened to message on a morning where I felt like I could actually leave the office for an hour, made my week. For those of you that are regular readers, you will know that spontaneity isn’t my strong point but as a big fan of grabbing an opportunity, when someone else is being spontaneous, it works well! Hurrah for having spontaneous friends!
The first lunch with two of my favs in over 6 months, one who has recently had a beautiful baby and this was the first time the three (plus little-un so 4) have met up together since the little bundle of joy arrived. I felt so proud of her when she was talking about being a mum; this was a girl who doesn’t like kids and she has seamlessly brought a baby into the world, loves it with all her heart and has kept her absolute cool-ness about the world. I have upmost respect for her.
And a lunch that was a brainchild of a friend that decided we were old enough, and should be mature enough, to go to Michelin star restaurants (just at lunchtime mind, when they do set menus so we didn’t all bankrupt ourselves!) A most sophisticated lunch and an exciting prospect that this is going to be a regular occasion. A group of friends that I have known for a long time, not too long mind, as they are people I love spending time with and can’t imagine them not being in my life.
So I have worked 7-days a week, roughly 12 hours a day and the fact that I can now sit back and remember that I’ve actually spent time with some of my favs relaxes me a little. I knew that this challenge I had set myself would be worth it… Try it. Maybe you’re an avid diary writer, and in which case, I totally applaud you and maybe you don’t ever look back, you only believe in looking forward but there’s a lot to be said about balancing your view of your world by seeing all the day-to-day ups and downs at once and giving yourself that tiny chance to reflect.
I know that when people put silly hours in at work, it’s so easy to go into a little hole (I do this a lot), but finding balance is always an option. The hardest thing is to crack your code and then stick to it. For me that code was friends and family; I know that I need to have points in my week where I break away and pretend to myself and other people that I have a ‘normal’ 9-5 existence. Yes, it normally means less sleep and yes, they do need to be understanding that you will probably be late and will check your phone at least every 3 minutes, but having people that care about you, care about you when you are busy, keeps you in a good place. Well it does for me and there will be a code for you all.
Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, knew where he was, dream world or reality, because of the token he spun, or Will Smith in In Pursuit of Happiness, training to be a stock-broker and committing to the inside truth that he knew he would succeed. This inner belief takes time to find, but when you find your secret code, it opens up a big influx of relief and satisfaction that you are in control of your own life, however busy you are and however long it takes you to find the path you know you can follow.
Overcoming a massive fear
You may already have seen me blog and tweet about this, but earlier this month, I got back on the snow after a fall a few years ago that left me having general surgery on my knee. Skiing - never one of my favourite pastimes, I did it for the boy mainly, but after falling badly and doing badly by my ACL I had months of walking with crutches, not being able to get to work and generally feeling really incapable.
I’ve managed to avoid skiing holidays for the last couple of years, actually with genuine work based reasons but this year, with nothing committed in the work diary, I had to say yes to a trip in the coming March. I was however, not going to book flights until I had been on the snow again and not cried.
A few weeks ago, I made myself take a trip to the local snow dome and get back on the saddle as they say. I could have freaked out, but thankfully I didn’t. 2 hours into a lesson on which way to put your boot into a ski and how to go down a slope and then stop, left me re-assured that I will be fine on the holiday. I could have cried when faced with a downhill slope and skiis, but I didn’t and now I know that I can do it. (I’m sure when it’s more than a 10m slope and more than a 30 degree angle, I may have something different to say about this) Belief and the fear of being the wuss on the top of a slope in Hemel Hempstead can empower anyone.
And the rest…
The rest of the month was made up of trips to Newcastle and Nottingham for friends’ birthdays and trying to work out how we could effectively retire and have a very enjoyable life. (we are still working on this, we’ve not found the answer yet but when I know, be sure, I will share this new found knowledge). A very fun night at a pop-up restaurant in the depths of East London (East London has always known how to do a good pop-up) where I learnt that drinking cocktails out of a cooler bag slung over your shoulder could be the height of sophistication in certain circles. (pretty specific circles but I’m happy to associate myself within them). And to top it all off, a trip to an observatory where we had the most incredible view of the moon, Girl in the John Lewis advert, eat your heart out!
So we maybe half way through December now, but this has been good, therapeutic even, for me at least. What’s good, is that I already kind of know that December is going to be good, I have the benefit of a sneak preview!
Enjoy looking back.