This past weekend, I slipped out of town with seven girlfriends for a much-needed getaway on the north end of Whidbey Island, a beautiful, rugged spot about ninety minutes northwest of Seattle. Despite this being a particularly busy time in my world – coming off nearly a week of snow days (read: child at home and very little work being done by yours truly) and with 67 items still on my big, hairy launching-a-business to do list – a weekend off the grid (not literally, of course – otherwise how would the hot tub have been powered?) for a push of my figurative reset button was exactly what this girl needed.
It was clear to me that some serious tuning in, reflecting, and recharging was in order. Luckily, I know that sometimes in order to tune in, you actually have to check out.
The thing about checking out is that the more hectic our lives get, the more we tend to resist taking time off. We’re afraid that if we slow down, we’ll loose our momentum, we’ll miss the deadline, we’ll fall behind, or worse. We worry that if we actually slow down, we might realize we don’t actually like what we’re doing or we’ll be forced to get cozy with negative feelings we’ve been shoving away.
Still, I say, check out and tune in. Why? Because it helps you better show up for absolutely every aspect of your life.
So, fully recharged after a weekend of chilling out, running, lounging by the fire, eating amazing food, playing pool, listening to music, wearing fleece aplenty, and napping whenever I wanted to, I hereby offer you…
10 STRATEGIES FOR CHECKING OUT IN A RESTORATIVE WAY:
1. Commune with Friends: I love me some alone time, but I also get so much out of my close friendships. For me, spending time with friends who appreciate my odd sense of humor, think I look more beautiful without make-up then with it, trust me enough to be completely TAO (transparent, authentic, and open) in our relationship and expect the same from me is, simply put, soul-feeding. Even better, quality time with my girlfriends usually means bouts of laughing ’til I snort, occasional MC Hammer dance offs, and deep conversations about the stuff that really matters.
2. Get Back to Nature: Andrea Faber Taylor, an environmental psychologist, says that “Looking at nature is another activity that gives our directed attention [the kind of attention we call on for tasks that require focus] a chance to recover.” For me, just being in nature is instantly rejuvenating. Hiking, skiing, running, walking, or sitting on the sand looking out across the water – no matter what it looks like for you, spending time outdoors in nature is healing for your brain, body, and soul.
3. Watch Oldies But Goodies: If I turn on the TV and stumble upon the classic movie When Harry Met Sally, I’m not going anywhere until the credits roll. The same goes for Some Kind of Wonderful or Annie Hall or Dirty Dancing. Because for me, these movies and others like them make me happy on a very core level. They tap into my nostalgia (the good kind) and reconnect my current self with my inner teen who is in turn deeply connected to my raw, emotional self. Watching Footloose this past Saturday night with my girlfriends had this very effect, and brought me incredible joy with each bad perm, cheesy line, and Flashdance-inspired dance move.
4. Disconnect: When I said I was off-the-grid earlier, I mean I survived a solid weekend with no wi-fi. No wi-fi meant no iPad, which meant no easy access to email and other social networking apps. Sure, I had my iPhone, but I’m a big-screen kinda gal, so not having access to wireless meant I didn’t feel the need to stay up-to-date on my newsfeed, my Twitter feed, or my inbox. And as much as I like to be in the know, being disconnected can be oh so freeing.
5. Exercise: For some people, exercise might be a “have to do,” but to me and my friends, it’s a “love to do.” Unfortunately, for most people exercise ends up being the activity that gets kicked off the list when work and school and life gets busy. For me, it’s exactly during these hectic times that my exercise is more crucial than ever. It keeps me grounded and healthy and sane. It gets me out of my head and back into my body. My hunch is it will do the same for you.
6. Eat Treats (Guilt-Free): I’m not saying to eat “guilt-free treats” like air-popped popcorn or apple slices or carrots. I’m saying that every now and then it’s restorative to “eat treats without the guilt.” This just so happens to be a strategy I’m quite experienced at, so I can attest to its restorative powers. Over the past three days I treated myself to mini-chocolate bars, chocolate chip cookies, grilled sticky buns, and copious amounts of chips with guacamole. And since I allowed myself to indulge without judgment or guilt, I enjoyed every last morsel in the moment. (And isn’t that what tuning in is all about?)
7. Read Inspiring (or Trashy) Books & Magazines: How often do you allow yourself to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon cozied up with a good book or magazine that isn’t something you’ve got to cover for school or work? Even though I love to read, it’s somehow been relegated to being a “before bed” activity, almost like an afterthought. This I’m bound and determined to change. This past weekend I gave it a go with a rather eclectic selection of reading material: US Weekly (my guilty pleasure reserved for special occasions), a David Sedaris book, and The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, the latter stolen from the bookshelf of my 7-year-old son. (What can I say? It worked for me.)
8. Get Cozy: Fleece. Warm slippers. Soft wool socks. Elastic waste bands. Soft layers. Ample throws. Need I say more?
9. Ditch the Schedule: As a recovering control freak, going with the flow is relatively new territory for me, but once I fully embrace the notion of no clocks, no “have-tos,” no expectations and open myself up to the possibility of experiencing whatever comes up, life can be very fun, and light, and interesting. By truly letting go and staying fully in the moment, you create room for delicious accidents and plenty of synchronicity. And that, my friend, is where the real magic happens.
10. Notice the Beauty: As the Navajo Beauty Way prayer says, there is beauty above us, below us, in front of us, behind us, to our left and to our right, all around us, and within us. When we take the time to stop and notice the beauty in everything – a crack in the street, a decaying leaf, the pattern the rain makes on the windshield, the sound of a ferry horn – we tune in in a way that brings true peace and clarity and a sense of connection. Beauty really is all around us.
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My goal for this week? Find time to weave each one of these strategies into my “real” life at least once in the next seven days. How about you? Will you join me in giving it a go?