The service professionals I coach (small business owners and freelancers) are engaged in work that requires long hours at a desk, on a computer, on the phone and/or in meetings. I call it "head" work, which is work that relies primarily on brain power, and involves little or no physical activity. After a full day of head work, even when you enjoy what you're doing, mental fatigue is likely. Simple "transition rituals" can go a long way towards moving the blood supply from your brain back into your body, making it possible to more easily let go of the pressures of the day and relax into the evening. I discovered the benefits of a transition ritual a few years ago when I noticed that I, who wasn't particularly drawn to cooking dinner after working a full day, benefited greatly when I did. The shift from mentally engaging work to working with food brought me back into my body. As a result, whatever residual stress I might have been carrying melted away. In this more relaxed state, I was more readily available for casual banter with my family.
I was reminded of the value of transition rituals when a client recently reviewed his schedule in order to identify a few time slots in the week to practice his music. He also has a family, so identifying this time for his own hobby seemed tricky. In addition to some longer periods of time on other days, he decided that 2 evenings a week, after arriving home from work and before dinner, he could pick up the trumpet and practice for 15 minutes.
With the support of his family he was able to implement the new routine. He, too, discovered how much better he felt. He felt really good about implementing a practice that was important to him, and playing music for 15 minutes created a nice buffer between the busy workday and family time.
What if you're not a musician, or cooking is just not your thing, at all? Not to worry. There are other things you could do, depending on your interests. Following are other possible transition rituals to consider. If none of them call to you, maybe something else will pop up as you read through the list. 15-20 minutes doing any of these things can go do a world of good.
- Gardening, indoor or outdoor.
- Take a short walk. If you live or work in the center of a city, try a little window shopping.
- Any kind of art work, or simple craft. Heck, color in a coloring book.
- Watch or listen to anything that makes you laugh.
- House cleaning (Yes, I said house cleaning. It's helped me chill out more than once.)
- Do a diary dump. (The act of writing can put you back in your body, too, and empty your mind as well.)
- Sit down and play with a pet, or one of your children.
- If you have any kind of commute, turn on your radio or plug in that iPod and sing to your heart's content. Off key or on key, it doesn't matter.
- Chat with a friend, or connect with others on Social Media. (This one can backfire on you, so be cautious here.
If you're old enough, or are a rerun fan, you have probably seen the old sitcoms where the husband had a job outside the house and wife did not. The man comes home from work, greeted by his cheerful wife, who sits him down in "his" chair, takes off his shoes and hands him a drink. I know, ew! However, the idea is the same. It's a transition ritual. It was a way to relax, and to draw a clear line of demarcation between a full day of work and evening time at home.
I'm sure there are many more things that could be added to the list of 15 minute practices. If you've got one not listed here, I hope you'll share it with us in comments.