By Dawn Shuler
As a small business owner, mother, and wife, I’m a busy gal. And as a creative entrepreneur, I have enough ideas to keep me going 24/7 for years to come. And I like to paint, draw, quilt, cross-stitch, write, run, hike…
Unfortunately in some ways, though, I seem to be wired to work, work, work, and play after. “I’ll do such and such AFTER I do my work.”
Guess when that happens?
Yep … never! I never get ALL my work done. What I noticed was that I would get to the proverbial end of regular business hours, and I felt frenetic and panicked and stressed.
“Oh, no! I can’t quit now! Look at all this there is to do! I’ll have to work tonight after dinner and after the kids go to bed!” or a plaintive, wailing, “Everything I didn’t get done today will have to get done tomorrow! And tomorrow is already full! I have to keep working!”
Every day that was my life.
Then, a year or so ago, instead of sleeping in, I started getting up with my husband at 6:00am when he would take my daughter to school. I fixed myself a cup of tea, curled up in my favorite red chair, and read or journaled.
The very first day I did this, I noticed a big change. By the end of the day, I felt more centered and grounded. No frenetic, stressed energy. I had a more realistic, objective view of the items left on that day’s to-do list… “It will get done… all in good time.”
It was an amazing feeling not having that stress and panic starting to build during the afternoon and reaching a crescendo by late afternoon/early evening.
I wanted that feeling (and the lack of freneticism) every day, so I started getting up early every morning for Dawn time.
Here’s what I found: I have to have that me time first thing in the morning. For years, I’ve said I should take a break in the afternoon to go for a walk, go shopping, read, do artwork (because why work at home if you can’t?). And it just didn’t happen. Once I started rolling in the deep of work, the momentum just wanted to keep going, and it was pretty difficult to stop it (no matter how less frantic it was).
But when I did my thing at the beginning of the day, that worked. What’s funny is that I was and am much more likely to take some of those breaks during the afternoon, too. It was like an easing into my day instead of jumping into it, running like mad, and collapsing at the end.
Instead, my day starts out with a metaphorical warm-up, some aerobic exercise, maybe some intense weight work, periods of rest, more aerobic, and then a cool-down at the end.
I like this much better!
Here are my top 10 ways to center and ground myself for a happier life and more productive work. Feel free to adopt and adapt any that work for you!
1. Get outside! I go straight to our terrace, which I have decorated with solar lights and colorful doo-dads to make it a warm, inviting space. Hopefully, you have your own sacred space where you live, whether it’s a balcony, deck, porch, or terrace. Make some space outside your go-to space that you can get to immediately. If you don’t have a space like that, find a park near you that you can escape to easily.
2. Move my body. Now that the weather is warmer, if I’m going to move, I want to do it outside! Whether in or or out, just moving in general changes your energy and lifts you up. Dance, box, jump rope, hike… whatever you love.
3. Journal. I tend to journal when I’m overwhelmed with emotion or daily life, but I’ve been trying to just be and capture my thoughts on a more regular basis. Your life doesn’t have to have a lot of drama in order for you to get value out of journaling.
4. Read. Personally, my go-to books are epic fantasy fiction books, but lately I’ve been reading a lot of spiritual and metaphysical books. Either way, transporting yourself to a different land or concept removes the chatter of life and reestablishes your connection to what really matters to you.
5. Putter. When I get uber busy, things start to fall into disarray around my house. Clutter, a heaping laundry basket, dishes that need to be washed all cry at me, “You’re so busy! You don’t care about us!” And while I don’t have to have a perfectly clean house, any clutter starts to erode my energy. I have found I am much happier if I spend 15 minutes every day puttering: put this thing away, go through the mail, wash the dishes…. I can feel an “Ah….” as the energy settles instead of swirling around undone things.
6. Artwork. I never thought I was creative or artistic, but then I found clues that I was: quilting and cross-stitching, and then recently drawing and painting. If I can let that side out (with no preset outcome or goal), I feel more complete and balanced. Find something you love to do (preferably with your hands), and spend a few minutes doing that. I guarantee it will change your breathing, your attitude, and your emotional state.
7. Environment and sacred space. Special ambient lights, my diffuser with my favorite essential oil, candles…. when I pay attention to my environment, I’m more present and conscious. Suddenly, it’s not all about how much work I can get done. It’s about being fully present in the moment and with each task and action.
8. Music. Not only do I have an eclectic music library (who else has a playlist with Lawrence Welk and Led Zeppelin?), but I have it organized by many different playlists: Songs Dawn Doesn’t Hear Enough, Songs that Stir the Soul, Songs that Make Me Smile, Super Charged Energy, Friday Got Love it… I pick a playlist (or artist) to fit my mood – or, more frequently, to create the experience and energy level I want. If I have to do bookkeeping, for example, I put on the most rockin’ out music I can. If I’m feeling a little disconnected, I’ll put on my top rated or Songs that Stir the Soul playlist.
9. Color. There are certain colors and color combinations that just do something for me. My personal color palette is made up of purple, green, blue, and teal. But I also love any beautiful, intense color. Whether it’s part of my environment (#7) or noticing the bright red cardinal on the bird feeder outside my office window, I pay attention to color. Focusing on color (not letting it just fade into the background) is a way to be more in the present moment.
10. When all else fails, take a shower. This works especially well for me when I’m feeling cranky. I get in the shower and let the running water wash the crankiness away. (There’s something about the moving, energetic negative ions helping to push away the clunky positive ions.)
It’s all about being aware of what’s going on inside you, honoring it, and then doing what you need to raise your energy level or your vibration in order to be the most aligned you that you can be.