You know how sometimes self help stuff can sound like the writer just dialed it in? (Or is that just me?) Well, I'm about to pile another one on that heap of tips you have laying around somewhere in Google Keep. These are seven lessons from my real life experiences so I hope they help.
Life Can Change in an Instant
If you’re like me, you might lead an active, fast-paced life. Work gets busy and you can easily lose ourselves in the time developing proposals, putting out fires, managing teams and taking care of the busy work that comes with having responsibilities. And many of us try to lead a healthy work/ life balance that involves a reasonable amount of sport activities to stay in shape. After all, it's about being fitter, happier and more productive, right?
Last December I had an accident on my bicycle which resulted in a mild concussion. Thankfully, my helmet possibly prevented it from being a more acute injury. Unbelievably, a short time later I had a car accident caused by another driver that resulted in my car being totaled. Really?! Who does that happen to??? Fortunately, I was not injured in the car accident thanks to the airbag but having two incidents occur in such a short time was not good for the recovery from the concussion.
A fellow cyclist who had also suffered a concussion a few years ago described it as the “ultimate slacker illness” because you are forced to chill out. Although there may not be obvious signs of an injury, a concussion can cause headaches, nausea, acute light and sound sensitivity and greatly increase your sensitivity to screens while drastically limiting your mental and physical stamina.
In the days and weeks afterwards, everyday activities became monumental tasks.
I couldn’t really use my phone or watch television because of the sensitivity to the blue light from the screen. Walking was tiring and often disorienting, I couldn’t concentrate for more than about 30 minutes at a time and often times couldn’t focus during even a short conversation.
This unfortunate series of events unfolded during a time that was very busy for me at work - multiple projects to manage, places to be and things to do. It was hectic to say the least. Although I knew I needed to take the time off to recover, it became a source of anxiety because I was unable to do everything that I needed to. Thankfully, the accidents happened right before the start of the holiday season when some clients typically break for a few weeks.
I had to reconsider how I managed my time and my days not only because it was necessary for the recovery process but also because I was physically and mentally incapable of doing anything else. Here’s what I learned:
1. Make the most of your time. I had to really maximize the hours during which I was most alert and able to concentrate. For me, that time is in the morning so that was time of the day I did tasks that required concentration. Find your time, block it out and get to work.
2. Communicate. There is a school of thought in business that you have to be tough all the time, seem impervious to pain and never need to sleep. The thought of being sick is out of the question. I communicated what happened to my clients and they were very understanding. This type of openness helps to maintain a good relationship and manage expectations.
3. Take Breaks. I always knew that taking breaks throughout the day was helpful but sometimes they just didn’t happen. Breaks became a very important part of my day during the recovery process because I was unable to concentrate and became fatigued after short periods of time. But taking breaks actually aids in concentration levels and the ability to solve problems in general. Now I build it in to my schedule.
4. It’s OK to do nothing sometimes. Doing nothing is no easy feat, let me tell you! Sometimes we feel that we always need to be working. If not on professional work then personal work and we feel a bit lazy if we’re not doing anything. I have to admit that this is still a work in progress for me. Doing nothing means letting your brain take a break. Maybe it’s something repetitive like tending to the sand in a desk Zen Garden or a creative endeavor like painting. Or it is just sitting on a bench and watching the sea.
5. Start small and be consistent. I tried to remain as active as I could whenever I felt like I was up to it. I started walking again to maintain my stamina. At first I could only walk for a few minutes but I kept at it, increasing it little by little until I worked my way up to a few miles. The same principle applies to things that we need to do. Start at the beginning and be consistent in tackling it bit by bit rather than thinking of it as one giant challenge.
6. Do something meaningful. Life can change quickly. I was lucky to walk away from two accidents but each of those scenarios could have ended very differently. They did serve to remind me to do meaningful things in my professional and personal life. If there’s something that you want to do, stop putting it off and make a plan to do it.
7. Be thankful. You know what? We complain about a lot of things that really aren't that bad. While you should understand the significance of things that happen to you and take care of yourself accordingly, it's important to put them into context. Be thankful because if you are around and well enough to complain about it, there could always have been a much worse outcome. And wouldn't you rather use that energy to move forward anyway?
I have come a long way but I am still recovering and testing my limits on the road to getting back to my normal strength. Life teaches us lessons from our experiences. We glean from them what we want. The most important thing is that we take what we learn and put it to good use.
I'm a strategic marketing communication consultant who works with premium brands to tell compelling brand stories, guide perception, drive engagement and build loyalty to win hearts and wallets. Find out more about me at www.royanndean.com, follow me on Twitter @royanndean and Linkedin.