On Unplugging

Oh, the irony.

Two weeks ago, I posed a prompt about Unplugging to the Reflective Writing Club community, #CCCWrite. I knew just what I would write about. And didn’t write within the timeframe I should have. Rather than feeling shame for this and ignoring the prompt entirely (which part of my brain was nudging me to do), I am responding here, late.

Last August I changed jobs. There were a lot of nerves wrapped up in that decision. One of the things I was nervous about was that I had established a weekly routine for unplugging. I attended a pilates class (mat pilates, that is, not reformer/equipment pilates) three days a week. Establishing a routine that allows me to get away and focus on my mental and physical health has not been easy for me. I have a complex health history and have had to learn how and what I am capable of doing, physically. Finding pilates last year has been a gift. And I was so afraid to I’d let it slip by moving into a new role, knowing I’d be negotiating new responsibilities and a new schedule.

That kind of sounds funny as I write it because, after all, I work from home, which, I know, is such a privilege! When I think of the time I save not having to drive to and from work every day, I think, “You have no reason to not exercise.” Yet, I find that drawing boundaries between life and work is even more difficult when there are no physical boundaries. When work and family co-exist under the same roof, we must be even more mindful and intentional of creating routines that allow us to unplug.

When I started with my new team back in August, we had a face-to-face retreat. Each of us was asked to bring something (an object) that was important to us and share it with our team. This ice-breaker was intended to be a way to share and get to know each other. I appreciated that. I had lots of ideas about what I’d bring but settled upon my yoga mat. When I walked in the meeting room and saw the other personal items people had brought to share, I felt a little silly. But when my time to share arrived, I told my team mates about my reservations around losing sight of my established routine. I told them the days and times of my classes and let them know upfront that I won’t be available during those times. I told them I will feel guilty for marking myself as “busy” (as that’s the way many of us feel when we put ourselves before work or family), but I also shared that I will be a better team mate and a better performer if I commit to this priority. That was not an easy thing for me to do, but I’m so glad I did. It has helped, as my team has recognized my commitment and valued it. In the end, starting with this communication has made it easier for me to get away for my classes.

Now, seven months later, I can share that I’ve been successful at regularly attending my classes as long as I am not traveling. Travel is the one thing that still interrupts my flow of unplugging. But I’m working on that. There are some great apps that provide virtual workouts. That’s my next goal. When I do miss a few classes (as I did last week because of two out of town meetings), I feel a big difference. When I get back to my mat, I notice that my mind doesn’t unplug. Even though I am in my class physically, I fight the endless thoughts about work that flow through my mind. I think that is an important point — unplugging really isn’t a physical thing. Unplugging is mental. We need a space (which could be anywhere, even in your workspace) and we need to engage in a regular practice of mindfulness in order to unplug.  But, first, at least for me, I need to make it a priority and I need to communicate that priority to others.

Let the guilt go. You are your priority.

One Comment to “On Unplugging”

  1. Liz du Plessis

    Michelle, I relate. At the end of every workday, I *must* sweat in some way for 20 minutes to decompress. I alternative among jogging, weight lifting, and Stairmaster at the YMCA. A workout must happen or I simply can’t wind down and sleep at night.

    It’s a tight fit between leaving work and picking up kids — then there’s the race to cook dinner, help with homework, bath/teeth time, story time, and repeated “quiet down and go to sleep!” time — before I can finally relax (and read blog posts, among other things). I barely squeeze it all in, but it’s do-or-everything-falls-apart for me.

    BTW, I’m behind on my final #CCCWrite post but still plan to finish it!


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