As we wait in lockdown with continued uncertainty about when things will return to normal, the importance of finding some meaning and purpose in our lives is greater than ever. Having purpose in life, whether large or small, informs our existence in so many ways and can have a huge impact on both our physical and mental health as well as our overall well-being.
People who had returned to the office now find themselves back working from home and many have been furloughed again or even lost their jobs. With everything going on it’s so important that we are kind to ourselves and understand the pressure and stress we are under. Making sure that you take regular breaks and don’t feel guilty about this is critical.Encouraging and supporting this practice within the work environment is good news for everyone, as everyone works better if they are less stressed.Remaining positive in your attitude to work is also critical to your well-being and those around us.
However, it’s so important that you don’t focus ALL your energy on your career right now. If all your energy is focussed on work, you will find you have nothing left for those you care about, like family and friends. These relationships will suffer and that will have a negative effect on your mental health. During my athletics career everything revolved around me and it could have been really easy for me let those other areas in my life slip. But I always made sure that I found time to return home to spend quality time with family and friends. During these breaks there was no time for talk of my goals or focus on my career, I had to muck in with everyone else. I also had time to take the dogs for walks on the farm alone with my own thoughts, and my friends back home had their own lives, very different to my sporting world, so conversations were different. Looking back now I see I was naturally achieving a balance between my work and personal life, which on reflection I know was hugely beneficially to both my career and personal wellbeing.
So what is the answer? How do you find your own meaning and purpose in life during lockdown? Firstly, the old adage ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ is so true. ‘Me time’ makes you happy and we know that happy people are more productive. Your values, meaning and purpose are yours alone. What makes you happy? Identity these things and spend your energy on them. It’s not selfish to spend time by yourself or with your friends or doing things you love. The pleasure I get from my daily dog walks doesn’t just put a wag in my dogs’ tails, but also puts a spring in my step and allows me to reflect on my day and approach my daily tasks with a renewed sense of clarity and positivity. And with so many activities having been cancelled due to lockdown, a daily walk is more important than ever.Getting out and about in nature, even when this is just a walk in the local park, can really make a huge difference to your mood. However, it’s so important not to feel guilty about scheduling in ‘me time’. Doing it might seem counterintuitive, but it will actually give you extra energy and make you more productive in the long term.
My charitable work also provides me with great perspective and joy, and adds huge meaning to my life. If you can find a way to give back, you will inevitably find it will add meaning to your life too.
Studies show that purposeful living has many health benefits, including lowering the likelihood of chronic illness and depression, and increased adoption of positive health habits like superior nutrition and improved sleep. During a pandemic, doing small things to improve our overall health shouldn’t be underestimated.
Many of us have now been working from home for nearly a year now and despite the many challenges there are positives to be found too. For many this means more time with our loved ones and a flexibility to our schedule that allows more time for exercise or refocused ‘me time’. After the year we have all had I think we are all reflecting on our lives and looking at the bigger picture. Looking to our future, if adding meaning and purpose to our lives can actually allow us to live longer it’s definitely worth considering. My advice for everyone right now would be: find what you really love, be kind to yourself and others, don’t feel guilty about taking time out and find the positives in every situation, there always are some.
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