Wake your senses up

First thing in the morning, before the shower, or any time during the day, a two-minute dry body brushing session can give you energy, wake you up, and activate your senses.

Dry body brushing stimulates the lymphatic system and improves blood circulation. It also stimulates the nervous system, removes dead skin cells, and just feels incredibly invigorating. All you need is a brush and 2-3 minutes of your time.

Dry body brushing is done on dry skin (if you are about to take a shower or a bath, brush beforehand) with movements towards the heart. Start at the feet and ankles, move up the legs in smooth motions, then up the body towards the chest. Brush your arms from wrists to shoulders, neck down to chest, and back towards the armpits. The belly, the armpits, and the thighs can benefit from clockwise circular strokes. Stay away from sensitive areas such as breasts, genitals, face, and any skin that is sore or can get irritated easily. The strokes should be gentle.

You can treat yourself to the whole galore of dry body brushing, followed by a contrast hot/cold shower or bath, and finishing by moisturizing your body with body butter or coconut oil. Or you could simply body brush when you have a few minutes free and need to give yourself a little pick-me-up. I feel a lot more awake and productive after just two minutes of brisk dry body brushing.

Switch gears when needed

When you get sick with a cold or you are feeling down emotionally, take it as a sign to switch gears. Rest, listen to your body, take care of the most important things, and re-group. It often results in a clear mind, boosted productivity, and a fresh outlook on life.

It has been noted that young children often achieve significant developmental milestones after an illness. I have witnessed a case of it myself when my toddler had a week-long cold, five of those days with a fever, when he wanted to do nothing but rest, breastfeed, and be held. As he got better, within two weeks his conversational skills in both Russian and English have improved so significantly that even daycare teachers mentioned it to me with surprise. His listening comprehension has gotten much better, as well as his ability to follow directions in various craft activities and reading.

Now that I don’t plow through illness as I’ve learned to do when I was a child (staying home from school sick almost never happened), I rest when I need to and work when I can. I find that I accomplish more, feel better, and come out on the other side with renewed energy and fresh ideas. It helps not to leave things to the last minute, so that you do leave yourself some room to rest when you need to, instead of working on an important project due the next day while being sick.

It helps to get out of the routine, drop non-essential activities, and use whatever existing resources you’ve got. Have soup in the freezer? No need for cooking. Have someone who can take the kids for a couple of hours? Call them up. Have meetings coming up where your presence is not essential? Drop them. If you have mental energy, put your thoughts together in an email and send it to the meeting so they can aid the discussion. Take a day off work, or work from home if you can. Removing the commute, office noise and interruptions, temperature and humidity variations, bright lights, getting dressed, showering, and all those other things that come with working outside of the home will make it much easier on you, if you still must put in a full workday.

If you have time, pick up a book to read for pleasure, watch a quiet film, do a puzzle, take a bath – do something that is only about you and lets you drift away from reality. Your mind can rest from all the logistics of work and home management. Even an hour to yourself can make it much easier to face the rest of the day’s errands.

Create your own reality

Focus on the positive and productive things that happen during your day. There is bound to be at least one. Think of what you would want to remember about this day, five years from now.

A good friend’s comment on my recent birthday post reminded me of my tendency to take the best from each day. That truly is something so integral to me now that I am not even sure when I started doing it.

Looking back on that day, I could have focused on the fact that I spent a large portion of my birthday (which I perceive to be the most personal day of the year) at a public function helping other people to reach their goals, and another large portion of it being “stuck at home” taking care of my children. If I did that, I would likely have felt disappointed with my day. Instead I focused on the pleasure of spending time with friends at the breastfeeding function and during the study group, on the quiet contemplation of puzzling, beading, and listening to a good fantasy audiobook, on the excitement of the children at playing with us in the evening, on having some delicious food, and enjoying time with my partner after the children were asleep. The motions of the day did not change no matter how I looked at it. The perceived reality, however, is significantly different based on what I choose to focus on.

Skeptics say that pulling rose-coloured glasses over your eyes is not a valid solution to life’s problems. And I am not claiming it is. However, we often tend to get so entrenched in reacting to life’s little disappointments, that our reality can become one never-ending stream of irritation. Slow traffic on the way to work, long line-ups at a grocery store, poor customer service, an irritating co-worker or neighbour, need to re-park your car every three hours because your workplace does not have parking, unpleasant comment by a passing stranger, – the list can go on. But I do not want to think of my life as such.

So I find other things to focus on. My child smiling at me and running to hug me as he comes through the door. A bright bird perched on the tree limb outside. An email from a far-away friend. Smell of fresh-brewed oolong in the morning. Fifteen minutes of reading squeezed in during a work break. A brisk walk in cold air to re-park the car. Flocks of geese coming back after the cold winter months. My warm baby cuddling in against me to breastfeed in the drowsy morning. My partner’s appreciative smile at the end of the long day.

There are both frustrating and pleasant things in my life. It is up to me to focus on the ones I enjoy and let the others fade. Five years from now, it is the good I want to remember. No need to give the rest of it more power than it has. Reality is what we make of it – elevate the pleasant experiences in your mind and you will derive even more satisfaction from them.

Ride the efficiency wave

Are there three small things that can be done in the next five minutes? Do them. Feel the momentum? Keep going and tackle a few more outstanding tasks.

To state it plainly, it takes an effort to get off your behind and start doing things that need doing. It is so much easier to sit at your computer sipping on tea or wine and clicking mindlessly through never-ending enticing links. Break the cycle. Get up. Look around you. Are there toys that need putting away? Do it. Now you can move around the room without tripping over them every two seconds. Do furniture, pillows, tablecloth, books need straightening? Do it. Now your immediate physical space looks a bit more in order. Likely your mental space does as well.

What else can you do in the next five minutes? Take out clean dishes from the dishwasher, or put in the dirty ones? Start a load of laundry? Whip up a batch of iced tea or sangria? Approach someone with a problem to get their feedback? Make a couple of phone calls? Pay a bill? Write an email? Take action and see how every small accomplishment fuels you for taking on the next task.

Do it now

Is there something you need to do that takes under five minutes? Do it now.

I’m sure you are familiar with the nagging feeling of something that needs to be done, but has not yet been. And you file it away for a more opportune time. And you do it hour after hour, or even day after day, while having it in the back of your mind all the while. All that mental effort is exhausting.

Is there something that can be done in the next couple of minutes that would make you breathe easier? I think I’m going to get up right now from writing this and load a couple of blankets into the washer. It will only take a moment and I can “tick off” a task from my to-do list and feel more in control, since I had tackled something that has been nagging me for a few days.

And I’m back. That was easy. Now I have my mind free of distraction to deal with more intricate and interesting things.

Take a deep breath

Take a deep breath and ask yourself: What do I want to do right now? Pause to consider the answer that comes to mind. If it’s practical – go for it.

Too often we go on as drones just because we have a to-do list (which usually is never-ending) or because of a routine. Stop and consider whether the task you are about to tackle is necessary right now. If it is not, what would you rather do? Is there something more urgent? Is there something that absolutely has to be done today?

If not, give yourself the time to do what it is you want to do. It could be as simple as brushing your hair. Or you can take a break and smell a flower standing in a vase on your desk, or look out the window and take in the setting outside. Dive head first into what you want to do without regrets. Give it a try, and feel the freedom of choosing what you do next. Perhaps I shall go put a few pieces into my puzzle…