“If you think that I have time for that woo woo stuff, you clearly have no idea what my life is like and how much I have on my plate”.

That used to be my response when my mum would tell me that I needed to take time for myself.

Because for me, taking time for myself meant something woo woo (like a massage, or yoga, or chanting in a darkened room – do I look like a Californian hippie??  I am an INTELLECTUAL!!).

And it would mean a whole bunch of faff and fuss and a whole bunch of time.

Time I didn’t have.

Because I had so many other things to do – so many balls in the air at the same time. And if I let one of them drop, the whole thing would come crashing down at once.

I certainly didn’t have time for me.

So I kept on juggling and working weekends and not taking time for myself.

Until I burned out. Not once but twice.

Since my wake up wallop in the face in 2014 when I decided I had to change my life or suffer a heart attack or stroke before I hit 45, one of the things I had to learn was to take time for myself – and that even five minutes could make a difference.

Most importantly it wasn’t necessary that it be woo woo (though sometimes woo woo is ok)!

So, with that in mind, here is a list of ten super easy simple five minute things that I learned to do that give me some space to breathe – to check-in, get present with what is going on, and get out of the bonkers speed of life from time to time, even in these days of lockdown.

Maybe some will appeal to you.

Change your bed and put on some clean and crisp sheets. Are there many things nicer than climbing into a freshly made bed, and stretching out your toes and your limbs and savouring how it all feels? Enough said really.

A gratitude practice. Ok – it only took me to item 2 to fall at the fence with something woo woo – but please bear with me, the research is there: pausing for a moment to be grateful for what you have can help you put things back in perspective and remember that things are not all doom and gloom. If you live with your family or friends spend time at the dinner table sharing something that you are grateful for. If you live alone, spend some time journaling about three things that you are grateful for, and how you contributed to that thing happening. That extra element allows you to check-in and recognise how we make our own luck

Create a wonder-wall. Find some pictures or images that mean something to you, put them in a nice frame, and display them on a dedicated wall at home. Don’t think you need to do a bunch of this at once – we are looking for just 5 minutes, after all. So you can build this up over a few days.

This can be a great activity to do with the family, encouraging them to add things to the wall and to talk about the things that are up there. And if you are doing it by yourself, it might inspire you to give a call to someone who was there with you when the photo was taken, for example (see below).

Not only can you see these beautiful things every day, but it will encourage conversations about them, allowing you to savour the experience of those things over and over again as you tell someone about it.

Be kind. When you get stuck in a negative rut you may close yourself off to others around you. Kindness and doing things with no expectation of anything in return can lift you up and your spirits. What about bringing some groceries to your elderly neighbour who is self-isolating due to covid? – or after lockdown buying coffee for the homeless guy on the street corner?

Check-in with the professionals. You know that doctor or dentist appointment that you have been meaning to make? Make it! Ring them up – make the appointment. Even if in lockdown you can’t see the doctor in person, most are doing online consultations, so take advantage and book that session. Or when lockdown is over, the hairdresser, or the manicurist … just get it done (goodness knows your roots will thank you for it).

Take time to celebrate something. As you look over the last 6 to 9 months – list out the things you have achieved. It doesn’t matter how “big” or “small” they are. It’s all personal to you. For example, it could be that after a week of wearing the same clothes, you finally did a pile of washing and today you are wearing clean clothes. Or it could be a new deal closed, or a speech, or something else. How many of these things did you relish and take the time to celebrate? As high achievers and performers it is easy for us to forget what a kick-ass we really are. So easy to take the view of “well, I said I would do it. I did it. What’s the big deal” (my response when people congratulated me on the book).   And we forget to celebrate. And it can also be easy to say “but it would be arrogant and prideful to celebrate”. That stops here. Find one thing you want to celebrate and do so. Could be a bar of chocolate. Could be a dinner with friends. Could be to post on Facebook to tell the world. Whatever it is, do it and relish the moment.

Reach out and get in touch with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. When the going gets tough, it can often happen that we hunker down and get on with things. But in doing so, we lose touch with those close to us. I certainly know when I was ill and super glued to the sofa, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. But the irony is – these are the moments we most need to speak to people and nurture those human relationships. So, send that quick “I was thinking about you” text message and reach out – better still, pick up the phone and say hi.

Clean up the bedside table. When there is a lot of stuff going on, it can be easy to let things get cluttered and overrun. The bedside table, the hallway table, the coffee table beside the sofa. Whatever it is, pick one, put a timer on for 5 minutes, and just get it tidied. Removing the clutter can be a great way of cutting down on the stress and overwhelm.

Vomit your to-do list on to some paper and clear your head. We all know what it’s like – all those things going round and round in your head – things you need to do, things you want to do. Ok, set yourself a timer for 10 minutes (ok, its longer than 5 minutes, but bear with me) and just write down everything that you have going on in your head and all the things you have to do. When you have done that, go through and cross off the things that have been “to dos” for more than six months (! We all have those!) – if you haven’t done those things in the last six months, it’s probably unlikely you will do them now. Get them off that list. Then circle the “five minute jobs” on there – and take them to a new list. Then each day, take just one of those five minute things, and just get the thing done.  This is about taking back control, and finishing even the small stuff. This is a great exercise if you have ever written things that you have already done onto your to do list, just so that you can score them off as done 😊

Finally go for a five-minute walk outside. Ok, so this is a no brainer. But get the hell out of the apartment or apartment and walk around the block – or even just take the bins back in from the end of the street. Get some air. If you have the kids at home – ok, take them with you. But better still leave them at home with the other half and just get five minutes of me-time.

Well, there you go for a list of simple and easy things you can do to take 5 minutes to breathe and have a break.

Which ones are you willing to try? What other ones do you find to be useful? I would love to hear from you.

I will be starting a 30-day challenge next weekend (24 May 2020) – over on my Facebook business page – thirty days of prompts and check-ins to get you taking some time for yourself. I hope you will come join me on that journey.