You might think that you have plenty of time off work (or you might not, but that’s another subject!), but do you truly switch off from your business in that time?
Technology makes it harder and harder for us to ever truly be ‘off’ as it’s so tempting to just respond to this email or check our notifications and so on. This might just take a few seconds of your time, but it adds up.
This is a phenomenon known as time confetti (coined by Brigid Schulte). Those tiny little bits of time which bite into and fragment our free time. It might not even be work related at all, it could be messages from friends, or funny videos on TikTok, but it still means that we don’t get long uninterrupted stretches of time where we can truly switch off.
Let’s say we have an hour of free time, but during that time we respond to five or six notifications or emails. They only take a minute each, but that’s already ten percent of our time gone. What’s much worse though is that the chunks of relaxation time between interruptions are probably only 5-10 minutes long.
Why is this a problem?
This isn’t long enough for the mind and body to recognise that it’s time to relax, and the brain remains on alert, with a higher level of adrenalin, ready to deal with these incoming tasks. Over time, our systems start to get permanently unbalanced.
There’s nothing wrong with adrenalin per se, but we’re not meant to be in an adrenalized state all or most of the time. We also need down time when we can relax more deeply, and allow our mind to wander.
Our nervous system is comprised of both the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as rest-digest or feed-breed!) There’s a third gut nervous system, but enough biology for one day..
The sympathetic nervous system speeds up our heart rate, pumps us full of adrenalin and cortisol. and shuts down processes not immediately needed for survival- such as digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system helps us to relax, bond with others, digest our food, sleep…
Both these systems are designed to support us, but they are supposed to be in balance. All too often these days many of us are constantly functioning in fight-flight mode, which is like driving up the motorway in second gear. It’ll get you there but there’s a LOT of wear and tear.
A vicious cycle
Once our minds and bodies get used to over-using the sympathetic nervous system it can become more and more of a vicious cycle. We are literally addicted to the chemicals our bodies are putting out, and the feeling of being ‘in control’, and so we take on more and more stuff, and get busier and busier.
It then feels weird when we try and stop because the body is accustomed to the feeling.
We can even get to the point- and this used to be something I did a LOT- where we get ill as soon as we stop and take a break. The body isn’t designed to work like crazy for months and then suddenly stop.
How to switch off from your business?
Firstly we need to recognise what’s happening, and that it needs to be taken seriously. All this ‘sleep when I’m dead’ ‘lunch is for wimps’ stuff is just so much toxic nonsense.
Then we need to actively carve out regular times every day where we fully stop and relax. That might be walking without looking at your phone, or napping, or yoga, or meditation, but it’s really important that it’s regular, even if it’s as little as ten minutes. This helps to stop the crescendo building up.
It can take a while to change the habits of a lifetime, but, remember, there’s no business (and no income) wthout you.
So, what are you going to do today to fully switch off from your business?
If you’re an ELT freelancer/business owner you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all the business advice out there…
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