In March we launched a call for action on our social media called One Thing Today. We guided you day by day, with one thing you can do each day, to increase your emotional wellbeing. We organized this by three phases: Beginnings, midpoints, and endings which you can apply to days, weeks, months, years, or even across any time lines such as work projects.
The midpoint of the day or being in the middle of a task is seldom as exciting as beginning something new or reaching a goal. We remember the beginnings and endings of the day the best. Often we start a new challenge with enthusiasm, lose our focus in the middle and finish with a sprint. We perform well in the beginning and end of an exercise but perform poorly in the middle.
It is typical for us to experience a dip in the midpoints. We even experience a dip in happiness in midlife －not the clichéd crisis－but a trough, nonetheless.
The middle matters even though we often live as if the middle is unimportant. We dip and struggle to find purpose and motivation in those times. However, midpoint can also be a wakeup call that time is running out. When you are halfway through the time allocated to a project and you have not achieved much, you may notice your productivity increase significantly.
At Aurelia Psychology we want to guide you through not just the beginnings and endings but through midpoints as well. These are our suggestions on what your One Thing Today for middles can be.
1. Reflect and assess your midday.
Evaluate your midday. Is today’s midpoint a dip or a wakeup call for you? Can you find the energy and purpose and put new vigour into your work today?
Midpoints of the day, a task or an activity give us an opportunity to reflect and assess our progress so far. However, we have to become aware of midpoints. If we scurry along not reflecting on the timeline, we miss the opportunity to use midpoints to our advantage.
We can use our natural break in the work day, the lunch break, not only nourish our bodies but to also review the day so far. Use the midpoint as an opportunity to energize yourself rather than feel that you are only halfway through the day.
Do you realize you are slightly behind? Interestingly enough, that is a good thing. When we are a little bit behind, it encourages us to work harder and catch up. A little bit of pressure can make us more productive and focussed.
Are you, nonetheless, still struggling to find the vigor to continue? Set smaller goals and focus on achieving them rather than working towards the final goal at the very end.
2. Give yourself a midpoint break.
Whether it is the middle of your day, week, month or year, make sure you have set breaks that are rejuvenating and fun for yourself. Breaks are meant to be exactly how they sound. They should not just make you slow down but they are meant to be a proper stop, the time to nourish yourself in whatever way that feels nourishing to you.
If you need to take half a day off and do nothing, do that. If you want to attend that exercise class you have been meaning to join during your lunch break then do that. Go for a nice lunch, watch or read something funny, or connect with a friend. Whatever you do, stay off social media and don’t browse through pictures of other people.
3. Catch it before it becomes overwhelming.
There are moments in our lives when it feels like everything is falling apart. You have too much to do and not enough time. One thing after another goes wrong. One task after another is put on your plate. You feel overwhelmed and paralyzed. The moment when you should be leaping into action, you are unable to act at all.
Your paralysis is a way for your body to tell you that you are too overwhelmed to continue. You are forced to pause. How you spend this pause will make a big difference. You can either get stuck in your anxious state, think about everything you are not doing and the disasters that lie ahead.
Or, you use this moment to regroup. Let go of the physical stress in your body. relax for a good 20 minutes. Your mind will relax as a result.
Then, with new clarity and calm, reassess the situation. What is the priority? Is there anything that is under your control? What is one thing you can do right at this moment? Think about the small actions you can do rather than big ones. Focus on what you can do rather than why you have to do it in the first place.
However, if you are able to recognize the moments when stress is building up, when your mental bandwidth is getting shorter and shorter, you can prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed. The quicker you catch your stress levels increasing, the easier it is for you to ground yourself.
4. Aim for 1 percent change.
Has the trough of your midpoint made you realize you need to make positive changes in your life to get the energy going? Do you start with good intentions of changing your lifestyle but either never quite get off the ground or crash and burn? You may be thinking too big.
Instead of changing all in one go and aiming high, how about you aim for 1 percent? 1 percent is very little. It is easily achievable. If you want a 10 percent increase in your well-being －though we cannot, of course quantify wellbeing quite like this － think of ten things you want to do 1 percent better. You can, for example drink 1 percent more water, eat 1 percent more vegetables, get 1 percent more sleep, tidy 1 percent of your cupboard and so on.
Small consistent improvements lead to bigger gains. Start small and improve gradually and consistently.
5. Be accountable and also ask for support.
Some people are self-motivated and self-directed, the rest of us need a bit of help along the way. If you realize that you are struggling to remain focussed and committed to your goals, get some outside support. Let others know what you are working towards and when you are going to achieve your goal. Ask your support group to check in on your progress on a regular basis.
Another way of making use of support from others is to make sure that the people you surround yourself with are helping you achieve your goals. If you decide to quit chocolate, you should not only make sure there are no tempting chocolate bars in your kitchen cupboards, but also make sure the people you spend time with will discourage you from eating chocolate rather than try to tempt you with some Belgian delicacies.
Now let’s use this analogy for more serious life problems too. Let’s say you have started to realize (either on your own or from feedback) that you drink a bit too much during the week or that you binge drink on weekends to the point of feeling low or tired or short-tempered the next day. And let’s say you want to live more healthily and drink much much much less or not at all. Then you must surround yourself with people who support you in this journey rather than tempt you to go for a drink after work, or attend boozy brunches on the weekend.
It is ok to need support. Make sure you seek support from the right people.
6. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Hey, you made it halfway through the day. Whether you had small tasks completed or managed to get through a really challenging meeting, this is a time to give yourself a little pat on the back, some encouragement.
Say to yourself “You’re ok, you’re doing fine, you’re good as you are.” Many people worry that if they speak kindly to themselves they will start to lose their performance “pressure” or become self-centred. On the contrary, talking to yourself with encouragement and optimism, helps reduce stress, and may give you a boost to do even better.
Be your own loving parent in a way. Scolding, criticizing, ridiculing, or self-deprecating are not healthy or efficient strategies for motivation. Instead, an attitude toward yourself that is kind, supportive, encouraging, and compassionate can work wonders. This applies to motivating others as well.
7. How do you walk in the rain?
Imagine you are on a walk and it starts pouring with rain. You do not have an umbrella and you have a long way to go. You are soaking wet, cold, fed up and miserable. What physical posture do you adopt as you are walking? Do you hunch your shoulders, bite your teeth together and clench your fists? Or do your shoulders remain relaxed and your head held high?
When we encounter an unpleasant and unavoidable situation, such as a rainstorm, we have two options. We can fight against it or we can accept the situation as it is. Regardless of the posture we choose, we get equally wet and cold. The primary source of suffering doesn’t change.
However, when we fight against reality, we are using up energy by resisting what is. When we accept the situation we remain more open to what is going on in the present. We may even notice that the situation is not as bad as we anticipated.
Next time you walk into a difficult meeting or have an unpleasant task to perform, ask yourself, how do I walk in the rain?
8. Practice vagus nerve breathing.
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It sends messages about our breath to our brain and our heart. These messages trigger either a stress response or a relaxation response.
When we are stressed we breathe fast, our heart rate increases and we become alert. When our breath slows down so does our heart rate and we relax. If you have ever listened to the breathing pattern of someone who is stressed or distressed, you will have noticed that they take a long breath in and breathe out quickly.
The relaxation response is triggered by our outbreath. You can calm yourself down by making sure your outbreath is slower than your inbreath.
Try these two techniques and see how your mind and body respond.
- Count to five as you breathe in and count to 10 as you breathe out. As you feel yourself relaxing, you can move to breathing in for 5 seconds and breathing out for 5 seconds.
- Hum. Humming forces your outbreath to slow down.
9. Give yourself an afternoon boost.
You may start feeling sluggish between 2 and 4 pm as your cortisol levels dip. This is a good time to give yourself a boost. You can have a cup of coffee to boost your alertness. But don’t drink coffee if you have a tendency toward high anxiety.
You can boost your concentration without caffeine by, for example going for a short walk outside, climbing up and down a few flights of stairs, looking at art, singing, playing a musical instrument (office policy permitting) or having a small snack.
Find what works for you to boost your concentration and alertness in a healthy way. Get up from your desk, have a snack, go up and down stairs, figure out what works for you.
Want to go back to the beginning and have a good one? Read our suggestions here.
You can find our suggestions for good beginnings and important midpoints on our Youtube channel as well.
This article features the advice of a licensed expert, but it is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment from a trained professional. In an emergency, please seek help from your local medical or law enforcement services.