It has officially been one month since I arrived on Ko Lanta. I know, I can’t believe it either! Time really does fly…
Apart from finally managing to get my Abu Dhabi trip all written up and posted, it might seem to you that I’ve been sitting back, taking it easy, and not getting much in the way of “work” done. Well, you’re not entirely wrong. But you know what? I’m not beating myself up about it. Not any more anyway.
See, during my year of intense student life, every single minute spent doing anything other than burying my nose in a book was riddled with guilt. There was always that feeling of “I should be doing <something>”, no matter how much I’d already done that day or week. That kind of guilty auto-response is probably familiar to a lot of people, whether you’re a student or a worker or a parent or just a person. And this is exactly the kind of automatic response-to-self that I am trying to escape, and that I have realised is unnecessary, pointless and even harmful. Harmful to your own sense of happiness and well-being. Why is it that we condition ourselves to berate ourselves far easier than patting ourselves on the back – or even simply giving ourselves a break?
I’m not talking about the kind of guilt following something you know you’ve done wrong, that perhaps warrants an apology or some other form of amends-making. Rather, it’s the kind of guilt that follows you around, that sits on your shoulder like a little cartoon devil when you’re finally relaxing in front of the TV after a long day, when you’re tucking into a tasty meal, when you’re going for a walk around the park – always whispering “no no no this is wrong you should be working right now you don’t have time for this get back to work and stop wasting so much time!”
It’s all the wrong way around. In fact, time spent caring for and nurturing your Self is the most valuable! Taking those breaks when you need them enables your body and brain to recharge and come back to the original task refreshed and energised. Doing those nice things for yourself helps your busy mind to switch off for a moment and return to a mindful appreciation of what you’re doing right now. Chilling out for a bit by doing things you enjoy lets your soul sing in the delight of indulgence, just for a moment… or a day.. or a week…
For me, my down time in Ko Lanta has somehow stretched out into a month. I haven’t been completely useless, I have been chipping away at little things here and there. But I have mostly been taking full advantage of the fortunate position I find myself in, with no deadline or client or any pressure at all really. After the whirlwind of activity that took me from London through Dublin and Abu Dhabi to Thailand, it has been a dream to settle into the gentle breeze of island life… relaxing… meandering… swimming… reading… eating… drinking… partying… generally living the dream.
That little guilt-devil still pops his head up from time to time, but I just give him a gentle shove off my shoulder and let myself off the hook for giving my mind, body and soul what it needed. Down-time. Guilt-free. We all work hard in our lives and so this is something we all deserve. We need to shift our attitude from self-punishment for what we imagine we should be doing, to self-reward for what we have already done.
This is my challenge to you – acknowledge how far you’ve come, how hard you’ve worked, all that you have already achieved. And treat yourself! Go ahead and take a break, go for a walk, stick on Netflix, eat a chocolate bar slowly and mindfully savour every bite melting in your mouth. Better yet, do absolutely nothing. And when that little voice starts whispering in your ear, shut him down. Declare to yourself “I deserve this!” and know that you do.