Wellbeing, self-preservation, self-care, mindfulness, balance, being present or building resilience.
These are all themes that have built up a lot of steam in the last few years, aimed at career-driven, hard-working professionals. Which is great. This needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind as they try to navigate a work/life balance we all want but often don’t put into practice. The email inbox grows before your eyes, the late phone calls keep buzzing angrily at you and the anxiety-inducing deadlines get closer and closer. It’s bloody hard work.
Something I’ve noticed though is that these columns, blogs and talks on this topic are usually championed by women.
Why? Because they’re better than men at it.
They are the masters of talking about their feelings to their friends, they seem to be in greater touch with their career/social balance and have a tighter grasp on their own general wellbeing amongst the young professional crowd.
Even many mature-aged men are very well versed in taking stock of how they are feeling and what their mind and body are saying to them after a monster week on the track. Experience talks.
The demographic that is missing from this conversation, and the one that is most guilty of not putting it all into practice, is the young professional male.
Whether it’s a piece on the importance of recharging and taking a pause, ensuring you don’t burn yourself out or generally looking after yourself, the majority of 20/30-something-year-old men just don’t tend to put forward an opinion on the topic, let alone do it.
So here’s my effort.
If I think back to when I was a kid, both my parents would often spend time individually over the course of the year, on retreat. They would go off to a quiet place down the coast or in the bush and just walk, read and generally chill out for a few days before coming back home. Yes, by themselves.
Going ‘on retreat’ probably isn’t a common theme in most households, but this certainly normalised the practice for me growing up. Even the idea of a married couple doing something on their own speaks volumes to not only the strength of my parents’ marriage but also the recognition from both of them for the others need to have some valuable alone time.
What it afforded them both was a pause from any major social interactions, stressful thoughts about work and hit the refresh button on their mindset heading into the next wave of work coming their way.
This has certainly rubbed off on me.
Since moving to London, (a city notorious for gobbling up Australians and spitting them back out) whenever I have felt a bit burnt out or overwhelmed (burning the candle at both ends doesn’t help…) I’ve taken myself away on solo trips. I’ve been to Whitstable on the east coast, Bournemouth on the south coast and Marseille in France periodically for long weekends of ‘Cal time’.
I go for long walks/hikes, write in my journal, get tons of sleep, cook, meditate, turn my phone off, read and generally whatever the hell I want. After 2-3 days of tranquillity, I’m recharged and ready to launch myself back into work life. Funnily enough, upon my return to action, I find that I am way more effective, creative and productive for it.
Rather than trying to bash your way through tough periods where you end up doing more harm than good in the long term, it’s an investment in itself to pull yourself out of the rat race for a minute and get your powers back.
I’m lucky enough to have had my parents who practiced this throughout my life, but specifically, I don’t think enough young men do it. Socially, it is deemed an odd thing to do (I’ve had a few conversations about it where people would say ‘What? By yourself?) but once you explain why and what you get out of it, people are generally really receptive and envious. ‘Oh, I’d love to do that!’ But they rarely do.
I can count on one hand how many men I know that have taken a solo trip to recharge the batteries. And the ones that have, always come back a bit brighter behind the eyes and ready to attack the next challenge.
So I encourage everyone (not just the fellas) to give yourself a pause every now then. You don’t have to necessarily go away to the coast for a weekend either, but there are micro retreats (I just made that up) that would have similar results. A morning in the park with a book. A walk in the woods. Anything that doesn’t involve the internet or your phone.
It’s probably not a life-changer, but it’s a conversation worth having with yourself and putting into practice when you have a spare minute in a very busy world.