Avoid Summer Burnout (And Get More Good Stuff In)

Relaxing beach scene

Being a Summer baby, this is one of my favourite seasons.  But how can we avoid Summer burnout?

You see, I’m also one of those people who gets ill on holiday.  Was the same when I was at school too.  Fine all year, then as soon as I have time off, it hits me.

Summer months tend to be busier, as we enjoy getting out and about more, and want to make the most of our downtime.

But it can mean working extra hard in the run up to those precious weeks of annual leave, so how can we avoid hitting the metaphorical wall, and enjoy more of the good bits of Summer?

Planning Is Everything

Sounds an obvious one, but if you usually leave all the household tasks and life admin to the weekends, changing up your routine can help free up your free time.  Can you use your lunch break or weeknights instead, to avoid the Sunday night panic of trying to find clean clothes after a busy weekend.

Don’t Set Yourself Unrealistic Ambitions

If the weekend or holiday itinerary looks jam packed, remember you don’t need to fit in all the things at once.  If you need some chillax time, factor that in.  Often it takes the first few days of a holiday to feel the tension leave our bodies, so try not to overwhelm yourself.

Time off is time off. Period.

Be as precious with your time off as you are with your to-do list.  If you’re planning to spend some time with your loved ones, give it your full attention.  There’s nothing worse than being there in person, when your head is somewhere else.  You won’t enjoy it, and people around you can pick up on that energy too.  Switch the phone off.  Block out the time in your calendar.  Be present.

If You Don’t Want To Go, Say No (…but thanks for the invite!)

Its lovely to spend time socialising and catching up with people,  but you don’t have to accept every invite.  If you’ve had more BBQs than early nights recently, then it’s ok to take a time out and recharge.  Burning the candle at both ends can leave you feeling grotty, fuzzy headed and low in motivation, not to mention the overindulging!  Enjoy the events that you do go to, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to attend everything, if its impacting day to day.

So there you go, some quick ideas of how to add more of the good in to the Summer and avoid burnout.

Enjoy the rest, I think we’ve all deserved it this year!

Photo credit :  Yoori Koo via Unsplash.com

How Happy Are We Really?

How happy are we really?  And, how happy are we meant to be?

There’s a lot of talk about finding our joy, or happiness, just now.  We’re told to look for the good in the every day.  We must seek it out, in case we forget what it looks like.  Or in case we forget how to find it.

Which in itself can just add even more pressure.  Am I happy enough?  Am I meant to be this ludicrously smiley person all the time, and never get upset, scared or lonely?  And if I’m not happy, will people think I’m miserable, and does that make me a bad person?

The truth is, none of us can be happy all the time.  Of course we can’t.  But that doesn’t mean we should put up with situations that are making us unhappy.  Nor should we feel that we’ve got to settle.

What’s happy for you, isn’t for me

And it’s also good to remember that what happiness looks like to me, will be different for you. Our happiness thresholds aren’t set in stone either, and what made us happy yesterday, can bring up very different emotions today. Because it’s all about context.

Some of the simplest pleasures in life can make us the happiest we’ve ever been.  Finding something that you thought was lost.  Mastering something for yourself without having to rely on anyone else.

Waking up next to someone gently snoozing on the pillow next to yours can either be one of the best feelings, or the loneliest, for example.  I’ve known both sides, with the same person.  Again, it depends on context.  There’s no one state or another that is the right fit for everyone. And what’s right for us today, may not be tomorrow.

And it’s not just the small things.  Even the biggest achievements or successes can leave us feeling deflated.  Years of effort and hard work, and yet we don’t feel any different or better for it.

Working towards something, assuming that it will bring us automatic happiness, is a sure way to cultivate more of the unhappiness.

But by being aware of what makes us truly happy – big thing or small – we can start to follow it, and seek it out.

We need to create our own definition of joy. No one can explain it to us, or tell us what we need to do.

So yes, go find your joy.  But do it just for you, no one else,

Photo credit:  Simon Maage via Unsplash.com

‘Find Your Spark After A Breakup’ Guide Out Now!

My latest downloadable guide called ‘Find Your Spark After A Breakup’ is now available in my online shop!

Following on from ‘The Weekend Project’, this e-book is designed for people who may be experiencing a transition or shift, and are looking to regain their confidence.

This guide is for you, if you recognise any of the following:

  • You are emerging from a difficult situation and need a boost to get yourself back into the world again
  • You’re feeling a bit stuck at the moment or are struggling to find your direction
  • You feel flat and uninspired, and are looking to find that spark and bring joy back into your life
  • You don’t have the time or money to spend on in depth coaching

What this guide is

Using tools and techniques based in cognitive behavioural therapy it walks you through the process of identifying where you are now, what’s important to you, what may be standing in your way, and how to create a plan for moving forward.

It is a 28 page pdf guide, packed with hints and tips.  You can work through the exercises at your own pace, and begin to build a more positive outlook…and regain your confidence too.

What this guide isn’t

I should say it isn’t a guide to dating or finding your ideal partner – it’s about helping you to get your life back on track, and setting your intentions for the future.

For more info, and to download your copy of ‘Find Your Spark After A Breakup’, head over to the online store here.

Am I Living My Best Life?

Living my best life.  It’s become the antithesis of having a good time, right?

That’s usually the sort of thing we say when we’re doing anything but living our best life.  Usually on a bad day. Or even worse, a mediocre one!

But are we at risk of standing in our own way sometimes?  When do we encourage ourselves to have the best that we can have, or are we always waiting for something else?

We’ve all been guilty of that at times. I’ll be happier when I’ve lost weight, got a new job, achieved x/y/z…

We put constraints or conditions on our happiness by thinking we need to ‘earn’ it.  We need to earn time off, we need to earn indulging in a little shopping spree.  How often do we leave our ‘best’ clothes in the wardrobe and wear the same old things.  Or wear out old boots until the sole is hanging off (especially guilty of that one!!).

I’m not going to go down the obvious line of ‘life’s too short’, but it really is.  It’s true.

What are we waiting for?

If we’re always waiting for something to be different before we allow ourselves a bit of happiness, we could be waiting a long time.

And what messages are we giving ourselves? I’m not worth it. I don’t deserve it.

If you can imagine the advice you’d give to a friend who was saying these things about themselves, what would you say? Buy the damn dress. Go on the damn date. Life’s too short?!

Thought so.  Go give yourself permission to live your best life too.

Photo credit:  Austin Schmid via Unsplash.com

What Makes You Happy?

Happy little boy laughing

When was the last time you were as happy as this little guy?  Like, TRULY happy?

Children have some obvious advantages over us stressed-out adults…

They can find the simplest things hilarious.  They haven’t got the fear of laughing at themselves (or us!).   And they have a brilliant ability to be completely in the moment, without worry about tomorrow, or next week, or ‘am I good enough?’

As we get older, we lose connection with the things that made us happy as children. Life takes over, and we see ‘play time’ as an indulgence. Something we probably only get to experience on our holidays. If we’re lucky.

Time to reconnect

But what if we could make more time to allow those things that brought us joy?

Is this something you intentionally plan for in your week? If I’m honest, I haven’t planned in fun stuff for a while.  It’s the once in a while, a luxury or a treat.

And mixing the ‘working from home/living at work’ scenario of the last year, mean that the kitchen table now probably looks more like an office, rather than a home for messy play.

Making time for joyous activities should be as much of a priority though.  It allows us to reconnect with ourselves and wind down our body and our mind.   It bolsters our connections with others when we participate in things together.  The act of carving out time itself for fun stuff, means that we see ourselves as important, and not just here to run the treadmill of necessary tasks.

Design Your Summer

If there’s one thing you could take away, think about what you want to remember about this Summer.  Do you want to remember get togethers, days out in the sun, or lounging with a good book?  Do you want to look back in the Autumn with fond memories of happy, sunny (or rainy!) days?

We get to design our lives how we want them, in general.  Yes, we have obligations and priorities.  But we all have free time. And how we choose to use it, is up to us.

Enjoy the sunshine whilst it’s here.  And create memories for when it goes.

Photo credit:  Ben White via Unsplash.com

How To Stay Focused

Arrow hitting a target

Rounding up this month’s theme by sharing a few ideas of how to stay focused.

Over the last month, I’ve also talked about things that can get in the way and what happens when we’re not focused, so check out the previous posts if you need some further tips too.

Remember Your Why

Having the end goal or outcome in mind is vital – if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, then you won’t achieve it. Seems obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted by shiny things on the way, so keep coming back to your ‘why’.

But Be Flexible

If your ‘why’ has changed or the goalposts have moved, be flexible enough to alter your course. Sticking to a plan that is no longer working or relevant will hold you back. If you need to change,  it will give you better momentum in the longer term.

Eliminate Distractions

Being aware of where your time and energy goes can help to get rid of things that will distract you. Whether it’s your own actions, such as scrolling social media or making unhealthy choices. Or external energy zappers, such as people who need your attention, but aren’t supportive in return.  Be aware of where you might need to set some boundaries around your time.  Be firm but fair to make sure that your needs are being met too.

Find Your Tribe

Connect with others who have similar goals. It’s difficult to keep motivated when no one else around you ‘gets it’.  If you can find people who have been where you are, or are on the same journey, it’s so helpful.

Stay In Balance

Keep a healthy balance of all the other things going on in your life too. When you take time away from goal-getting, you allow space for your brain to assimilate the learning you’ve been doing, and it creates space for creativity. The best ideas usually come when you’re at rest…for lots of people it’s in the shower or washing the dishes.

Accountability

Regular check ins are key. As with ‘remember your why’, being able to recognise if something’s not working, or other areas of your life are being neglected, can help you to make changes quicker.

Just some food for thought if you’re looking to stay focused.

Photo by Ricardo Arce on Unsplash

Focus Is Crucial. But Can We Be Too Focused?

Image out of focus

 

 

 

 

I’ve been looking at the theme of focus this month, as it’s a crucial part of personal development. But can we be too focused?

If so, what does ‘too focused’ look like.  And why does it matter?

If I asked you to think about someone who is focussed, what images come to mind?

I bet that you are thinking of someone with their head down, getting on with something really important.  Stern faced.  Determined.

Having the right focus is so important, if we want to achieve outcomes.  But it’s possible that being too focussed can have a negative effect too.

What happens if we become too focused?

We become blinkered when we focus too much on one task, or when we become so attached to the outcome.  And we’ve all been there…When you’re working on something that’s really important, it matters.  We want to do well.  We want to be successful.

But how often have you kept pursuing something that isn’t working.  Chasing success that just seems to be getting further away.

Being overly focussed can lead to us becoming rigid and inflexible.  If we are not open to other possibilities, we lose our creativity and our ingenuity.

Some of the best problem solving solutions have come about because of trial and error.  We have to be able to try again if things aren’t working out…but try again in a different way, based on what we’ve learned through failing.

But also, most of the time, we don’t get there alone.  Being hyper-focussed can also mean we block out help and support, or input from others.  If we’re not open to collaboration and sharing, we could be missing a little nugget of advice that might make all the difference.

 

Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

9 Questions To Ask When You Find It Difficult To Focus

A jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece, representing loss of focus

How long do you spend thinking about a problem?  And how long do you spend thinking about the solution?  There are some questions we can ask ourselves when it’s difficult to focus.

When we have a problem or issue that we need to resolve, it’s so easy to get caught up in a spiral of negative thinking.  We go round and round, stewing on what’s gone wrong, and we become focussed on what we’re not happy about.

Solutions focussed therapy approaches problems by looking at the desired end result, and works backwards.  It can be helpful if you find that the same issues keep coming up, or you have cycles of negative thoughts or habits.

Taking some time to think through our issues, or journaling our thoughts can help to work through what’s going on, and helps us discover possible solutions.

Here are some prompts that you could use:

  • Where are you now on a scale of 0-10?
  • Where would you like to be – what’s possible right now?
  • What would need to happen for this score to improve?
  • Which elements can I control in this situation?
  • What can I change?
  • When or how could I do this?
  • How would things look in one week/one month’s time if I took this action?
  • How committed am I to taking this action?
  • What’s stopping me?

When we have recurring issues or problems, we tend to catastrophise, and we think that everything is failing.

We lose sight of the good things or our successes.  And we can underestimate our strengths and skills because our focus is all about the problem.

By being more aware of where our focus is, we become more open to solutions and ideas.  If we can imagine things being different and more positive, rather than focussing on what’s wrong, we can move forward.

So, if you’re finding it difficult to focus, I hope these questions will help.

 

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

How Focussed Are You?

An image of the dictionary definition of focus

This month, I’m going to be looking at the theme of focus.  This is a really interesting and important topic and focus is a key element of positive psychology.   When we are focussed in the right way, we can be at our most productive and fulfilled.   When we are focussed in the wrong way, or we focus on the wrong things, that’s when we can become demotivated and stuck.

The quality of all of our experiences depends on our focus.

If we are constantly thinking about what we lack, or where we feel we’re not good enough, or we fall into a comparison trap, then nothing we ever do or have will be good enough.

And we miss out on the best experiences of all…because our focus has us looking in the wrong direction.   We don’t notice what else is going on around us.

Often, when we think about focus, we probably have an image in our head about someone being very driven and determined and working towards a goal.  And they are very fixed about what they are doing and how they are doing it.

But this isn’t what focus should be about.  Yes, we need to have a clear direction.  Yes, we need to have drive.   But being too fixed and too rigid, and working with blinkers on, means that we can miss out on some of the most important experiences and the learning opportunities that come from trying to achieve something.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking more specifically at how we can assess whether we focus in the right way.  I will also share some ideas of how you can switch your focus to something that is more productive and pleasurable.   And I’ll also look at how focus can work against us – and what happens when we become hyper focussed and things start to veer off track.

Photo credit:  Romain Vignes on Unsplash.com

In Search Of Purpose

 

Purpose written on a wooden sign

The search for purpose is something that has been around for a very long time, and it exists in all cultures.

The Japanese have a practice known as ‘ikigai’, which roughly translates as ‘waking up to joy’.

The French call it ‘raison d’etre’, or reason for being.

The Ancient Greeks called it eudaimonia – the condition of “human flourishing”, or a life well lived.

These ideas suggest that to live a full and happy life, we must intentionally look for practices that create purpose.

Purpose, and the attainment of it, remains a central theme of positive psychology, because of how important it is in our overall wellbeing.  So, it’s not surprising that we hear a lot about it.

Having awareness of things which bring us enjoyment or a sense of mastery, and taking action to overcome things which stand in the way of our happiness, is central to most cognitive interventions.

Often, when we think about purpose, we think of it in terms of the work we do. We assume that if we find the right career, we’ll discover our passion.

But work can be where we feel a lack of passion, or joy, most strongly.  Especially if we worked hard to get there, only to find that the job isn’t all we’d hoped.  Or perhaps we have neglected other areas in achieving our successes.

If we put all our effort into cultivating our careers, we may find that other important areas of our life start to miss out.  Our relationships suffer, or we lose interest in hobbies or favourite activities.

And then we wonder why we feel so disconnected.

In order to find our true purpose, we have to look at our lives as a whole-rounded, interweaving, intermeshing thing.

How to find purpose

The most common diagram used to explain this, is used in the cultivation of ikigai.

Diagram to illustrate ikigai

 

 

 

 

 

(source:  Positive Psychology.com)

This process looks at different aspects of our lives and asks us to consider where these overlap.  It identifies things that we both enjoy doing, and which we are good at or have a certain level of skill or mastery over.

Some practices also ask what is useful to the wider community and what could we be paid for, by way of helping us to find a particular career path.

Often we put a lot of focus on only one area, e.g. in terms of work, we look at ‘what am I good at’, or ‘what do I enjoy’.  We don’t often put a lot of thought into examining how these things correlate.

If we feel unsatisfied, it’s usually because we are in a cycle of doing something purely because we’re good at it.  But we may not necessarily enjoy it as much any more.  Or we really enjoy something, but we aren’t able to progress any further than our current skill level allows.

If you’re struggling with your search for purpose, using a framework like this can be really helpful.  Especially if you have become used to doing things out of habit, as it may identify areas where you need a new challenge.

Or it could show you where you have an imbalance.  For example, if you’re putting a lot of work and energy into one area, which other bits are missing out?  And what effect is this having?

Our lives are not meant to be static and it’s easy to become over-comfortable, and we risk drifting.  As the world around us changes, we need to adapt too, otherwise it jars and we resist change.  And this can lead to feeling fearful, or frustrated and irritable, as we don’t see where we fit in any more.

To find out more about living with purpose, I’ve created a free mini guide with this months newsletter.  Sign up here to receive your free copy.