As my Mum is always telling me, I have a tendency to ‘overdo it’. Burning several candles at both ends is my Achilles’ heel. I put this down to being 3 things:
A perfectionist – You’ll often find me working into the early hours, finessing a slide deck or blog post to the nth degree until I’m completely happy with it.
A hedonist – I’m forever in search of my next pleasure-kick, and find it impossible to say no (just one more bar / bite / episode / orgasm).
An optimist – Optimists believe they can fit more tasks into limited time than possible, which makes us unrealistic and constantly late (read more about this here).
The Ultimate Challenge
New York doesn’t help. There are a million and one mind blowing activities at any given moment: from ice cream museums and underwear runs to pickle markets and morning raves (that’s just this week). Being single makes it all the more tempting to be out and about, with no hot man or hot dinner waiting at home.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself lying on my back at 2am, buzzing with adrenaline – having failed to wind down properly (again).
Sooner or later, lack of sleep and being constantly ‘on form’ takes its toll. In my first year in New York, the silver flecks in my hair multiplied. I suffered a chest infection, tonsillitis, thrush, and a fair few episodes of exhaustion.
To survive, I’ve had to carve out pockets of peace in the city that never sleeps. Here are 10 ways I’ve learnt to recharge my batteries:
1. Plan-less nights
To counteract my hectic social calendar, I reserve 1 to 2 nights a week to stay home, cook vegetables, watch Netflix, paint my nails, cocoon in bed early, read, and decompress.
New York nail bars are constantly packed for a reason – they’re a speedy escape from the hectic streets. There’s something undeniably mellow about sitting in a quiet, comfortable chair at the end of a crazy day, and having your feet pampered.
3. Hit the river
When my head is cluttered and I’m feeling claustrophobic, I head to the East River or the Hudson. The water helps me breathe more deeply, and gives me perspective on whatever I’m dealing with.
4. Gentle exercise
Switching spinning and circuits for yoga and pilates has left me flexible, lean and content. I find it a mental workout as much as physical. My favorite yoga studios are Yoga Vida and East Yoga. For pilates I like Sal Anthonys Movement Salon and Body Evolutions.
5. Phone detoxes
When over-stimulated, I turn off my phones (work and personal) for a few hours. If you’re a phone-addict like me, you’ll find it surprisingly hard to do – but once you commit, the calming effects are instant.
This is a sure-fire way to ground and slow the mind. The Headspace app is amazing – with bite sized meditations on different themes, including stress and restlessness. In-person, guided meditations are also powerful – I like the Kadampa Meditation Center.
7. Regular vacations
Leaving New York, even if just for a weekend, reminds me how to function at a slower, more patient pace.
When finances allow, massages are my dream way to switch off. Physical touch is soothing, and it forces me to be still both physically and mentally. As muscles gently relax, the brain follows suit.
9. Get creative
Focusing on a creative activity, like cooking, writing or drawing, gets me into ‘flow’ mode. In ‘flow’, one is completely absorbed by the task at hand, which stops me thinking about the outside world.
10. Emotional check ins
When I get home from work, I try to take 10 minutes to breathe (one hand on the belly; one on the chest) and check in with myself. How am I doing? What happened today? How did it make me feel? It helps me connect with my emotions, and register what I didn’t have time to feel in the day. It’s a great way to make sure that nothing gets trapped or suppressed.
Take It Slow
For me, the ability to switch off and power down is a skill that requires practice, and these 10 techniques are helping me get there. The perfectionist in me says it’s a work in progress, the hedonist says to enjoy the journey, and the optimist says it will get easier.
I’d love to hear your top tips for powering down. Feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.