Few of you who follow me on social media will know that I am just back from a month off work.

A part for the first week of march where I was chilling in the beautiful Cape Verde sun no one realised that I was actually off. I was keeping my blog updated, meeting other fitness and wellness professionals and hosting my monthly events. But yes, that was my time off.

If you consider though that in normal circumstances I would do all of those things PLUS personal training, writing programs, nutrition plans, managing the admin, teaching classes, and going to workshops etc… then I had definitely more time to dedicate to myself.

Also, for a workaholic like me, it is really hard to stop everything at ones, and even in Cape Verde I was struggling to just switch off and stop micromanaging my day.

The whole idea of the month off came about because earlier this year I hit my rocked bottom. I was exhausted physically and mentally. Every little thing was getting to me. And the thing that was annoying me the most was that I didn’t have any time left to dedicate to myself, my training, my healthy eating. I was avoiding mirrors as I didn’t want to see my reflection. I felt like a crazy spinning top which completely lost her purpose.

I was overwhelmed and kept committing to more work.

I wasn’t happy and I started developing anxiety and time to time panic attacks.

This is definitely not the image of a health professional and someone who preaches wellness.

So I decided to take a month “off”.

Despite what everyone was saying “oh that’s a long time”, the month flew by very quickly.

But there are few very important lessons I learned during that time and allowed me to return to work, to manage my 2 business and enjoy my personal life much more than before.

5 Life Lessons I learned

1.Learn to rest, not to quit

Studies show how working less can increase your productivity. Look at your calendar (yearly calendar) and book in your time off. If you do so well in advance, you will be able to manage your working time more efficiently. Regular vacations and time off not only improve your health and mood, they help you be more resilient and creative at work. Breaks are non-negotiable. Chronic overwork can increase your risk of poor heath, depression, and potentially lead to heart disease.  Your body requires rest to function better and after a break, you’ll be much more productive and creative.

2. Be true to you

Never accept to do something that doesn’t feel right or is not aligned with your life goals. You’ll just end up wasting time and getting frustrated because of it. Ask yourself “will this help me to achieve my weekly, monthly, ye target and be where I want to be by the end of the year or in 2/5/whenever years time? Answer that question and learn to say no when you need to; people will respect you more for it and you won’t loose focus.

3. Seek help when you need it

I hear you, delegating is so hard and there’s no one that knows it more than me. But when you are trying to juggle your life between lots of things you need to accept you can’t do everything yourself. You’ll get lots more done and you’ll be able to focus on what really matters to achieve extraordinary results.

4. Sleep 

Sleeping is so important for many different aspects of your health. Procrastinating sleep leads to low energy levels, mood swings, depression, anxiety and weight gain. Not cool. Try to digital detox and instead of staring at the computer or phone screen until late at night, take the time to speak to your partner, or to read a book, to take a bath, to do a face mask, to walk the dog,… Do something that allows your body to understand that it’s time to switch off. And then get to bed and enjoy 7/8 hours of sleep.

5. Breathe

Breathing is so important, thank you very much. The breaking news is that most people have lost the ability to fully exhale. And it has become so common that people don’t realise it and more and more individuals suffer from hyperinflation; a condition where you find yourself tilted slightly forward with your chest up, ribs flaring and butt out, causing you major lower back pain. The first person to open my eyes on this was my trainer and mentor, Luke Worthington. In the first session with him, he made me blow a balloon before warming up. Very puzzled I asked him why. Blowing into ‘a balloon gives some slight resistance and promotes a long and full exhalation,’ he said ‘Exhaling encourages a slight flexing of the thoracic spine, which is where the sympathetic ganglia (the part of the brain that controls the ‘fight or flight’ response) is located. If we want to shut things down, we need to reduce the mechanical pressure on these nerve cells.’ Aside from calming the nervous system, ‘balloon breathing’ helps engage your core too. So don’t wait until the next party to experience the benefits of blowing into a balloon. Or if you are more traditional,  just find the time to breathe whether in a yoga class or following guided breathing technique. Make sure you do so at least once a day.

Do you schedule regular breaks to make sure you don’t burn out? Comment below.