How do you recharge, refresh, and relax?

Cat relaxing in hammockHow do you ‘recharge?’ This week a dear friend of mine reminded me how important it is to rest, relax, and recharge during times of high engagement, demands, and busy schedules.  Not only is she completing her licensing requirements as a master’s level therapist, and her area of professional interest is quite demanding. She specializes in equine assisted psychotherapy and works with children and families coping with autism. We talk a lot about the concept of self-care and the importance of ‘recharging’.  As a therapist, she is obligated professionally and ethically to ensure she is unimpaired for each counseling session. Unimpaired means nothing is distracting her focus, and she can give one hundred percent of her attention to each child.  She has to schedule time during each day to restore her own sense of well-being before going onto her next appointment.  Sometimes, especially during a hectic week like this one, the idea of being professionally required to schedule recharging time seems remarkable, even blissful!  The trick is knowing what will make that time most effective.

One thing that impresses me about my friend’s self-care skills is how she learned exactly what would refresh her ability to concentrate fully, enjoy what she is doing, and what is effective in the amount of time available between appointments.  For her, a retreat from the stable to her car for a little music and a light snack works well.  She tells me it is impossible to engage with the other people there and also be present and on time for the children who need her.  She also never schedules appointments on Mondays, making every weekend a three-day mini break.  To me that is a stroke of genius.  It motivated me to think about how I engage in self-care, if I am really refreshed and recharged when I come back to my desk, and if I understand what works best for my needs.

My friend’s ‘music and snacking in the car’ strategy follows the outline for introverts. Introverts like to recharge with alone time and solitary activities while extroverts find refreshment in group activities.  Today there is a lot of talk in popular business literature about the introvert and extrovert models. I wonder, does it depend on what kind of activity we have invested our energy in? Studying in a distance-learning program is a fairly solitary endeavor.  Much of my work requires solitary concentration too…  About 20 percent of the time spent in committee work, so it is mostly solitary concentration. Right now, it involves a lot of writing, sketching, code writing, analyzing, and planning.  Maybe that is why my usual recharging efforts are not quite appealing right now.

Right now, what works best for me to recharge are more group-oriented activities. That has not always been the case. When my work is in a highly social phase I head for alone time in the car, as my friend does.  These days I do not want to read my treasured Economist magazine or New York Times to recharge, do any drawing, or watch a movie at home. Normally, they are a few of the rituals that keep my concentration sharp and energy levels high.  Today I do my ‘leisure’ reading at the library or coffee shop, watch movies at Pittsburgh Filmmakers screenings, go to plays, and attend community events despite my work schedule and study goals.  I have needed to think carefully, and be very specific about finding things here that truly help me ‘recharge’, relax, and rest to perform at my best.

Thinking deliberately about self-care has been very instructive for me. I learned that my assumptions about how I work and how I refresh are sometimes default behaviors, which might not be the most effective choice.  We still process and absorb material while we are relaxing and recharging.  Let me know what works for you!

Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. She lives in Pittsburgh in the United States.

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