French philosopher Simone Weil once stated that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. Some of you may be giving a lot of attention to things such as work, family, kids, emails, extra-curricular activities and, well, the list goes on. Sometimes we do these things because we just have to, and other times we do these things because they make life seem fulfilling and worthwhile. But what is the price of overcommitting, or running around so much that you feel like you’ll internally combust any second now?
Well I’ll tell ya, it ain’t pretty. I have found out over the last few weeks that my body, mind and soul have just about had it. Stress, anxiety, exhaustion and lack of sleep are all things that I willingly induced, because I forgot to focus on myself. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better, right? Well, I say no. It’s time to grab the bull by the horns and turn things around by gifting yourself with attention for a change!
Yeah that’s right, I’m asking you to channel your inner Narcissus (just don’t stop to look in puddle reflections or car windows all the time) and remember to pay attention to the being that you are.
Now sleep is one of the simplest things to gift your body with. I found this was lacking in my schedule. I would try to adult (which, fyi, is pretty damn hard in general) and go to bed at a reasonable hour of 10pm. But I found myself lying in bed for a few hours, worrying about what I was going to do the next day, or about all the things that I had coming up over the next few weeks (big mistake). To make matters worse, I would cling to my phone as if it were an IV drip keeping me alive, making sure I didn’t forget to reply to an email or post on social media.
PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!! Said a loud voice in my head, as 10pm quickly became 1am and I had sacrificed precious hours of rest time. The common belief is that your body needs 8 hours of sleep, but more recent research suggests that the ideal time for adults to complete their entire sleep cycle is 9 hours. Yes, 9 solid uninterrupted hours of sleep. The best way to do this is to:
- Go to bed at a reasonable time …. and be consistent about what time that is.
- Put your phone/any screens that emit light away from you, as it reduces the amount of melatonin your body induces for rest and messes with your Circadian rhythm.
- Exercise and eat a balanced diet - sadly that means not sneaking that chocolate cookie before bed!
However, there are a couple of extra secrets I am willing to share with you. One of the simplest things you can do to help calm your soul and prepare your mind for sleep is to use lavender oil.
Yeah, it really works. I have been massaging a few drops into my temples, sprinkling some onto my pillow and inhaling the glorious fragrance to lull me to sleep. The chemical properties of lavender calm the nervous system and reduce waves of stress. Aside from inducing sleep, lavender oil is also used for medicinal purposes to treat scalp conditions, insect bites and increase circulation within the body - just fyi.
Apart from the fragrance, the practise of breathing, prompts mindfulness. As the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race (unless you’re 2008-2016 Usain Bolt!), so do this with your breathing. Taking deep, long breaths for a few minutes, away from technology (or any other distraction), is perfect. It certainly works for me! If you enjoy the scent of lavender, and can handle taking some deep, long breaths, then definitely try it!
If lavender oil isn’t your thing, try dimming the lights, putting your phone away, lighting some candles and meditating for a few minutes. You don’t have to do anything laborious apart from sit cross legged on your bed, shut your eyes, and breathe deeply. Inhale…. Exhale… That is all you need to do. Sometimes people are so caught up in the hustle and bustle of their lives, they simply forget to breathe! If you find your thoughts drifting through this process, that’s ok! Because you are still practising mindfulness, allowing your mind to drift to something else. Think of it as a wave fluctuating back and forth…
So remember, be generous with your attention, not just to others, but also to yourself. Hopefully you’ll find some relief. Instead of dreading the week ahead, you will look forward to it like I (now) do.