Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Here's how a daily challenge can help you find the calm in strange times

When things around you are unsettled, look for an opportunity to be creative — every day. As Christine Hennebury writes, it brings focus and creates mental space, too.

Doing something creative for yourself every day can be a great boost

Don't think of a drawing exercise, for instance, as being forced to put pen to paper. Think of it as an opportunity to create some extra mental space. ( Maksud/Shutterstock)

With all the ambient stress at the moment, it is probably not the time to take on a big project. Most of us are scattered, distracted and just a bit off-kilter — and the scope and effort required for a project might just be beyond us. 

However, it might be the perfect time to take on a very small, repetitive practice that gives you a feeling of accomplishment, a little bit of focused time and a control over part of your (non)schedule.

Still feels like too much? Just hear me out.

A few years ago, I was invited to do a daily drawing challenge during an extremely busy month. It made no sense to try to jam one more thing into my already busy schedule but in an episode of complete foolishness, I agreed.

Frankly, I was expecting that I would be ditching the challenge mid-month.

Making room for your own goals, dreams, and self-care creates some mental space

However, having that small commitment to myself every day forced me to spend a little time just sitting with pen and paper. It was a space in my schedule that was just about me, and somehow, that made the rest of my to-do list feel a little less pressing.

It seems weird that adding things to the day could give me more room to breathe but it truly felt that way.

I can only assume that by creating those fixed plans, I not only gave my schedule some needed pivot points (I can do X after I draw), but I was choosing to spend some time each day that was not about rushing around, checking things off a list and trying to get things done.

I wasn't trying to get things done. I was getting delightfully lost in the doing.

Pick your passion

Now, maybe drawing isn't your thing. You might be trying to find time to exercise … or to do some writing, or maybe learn to play the ukulele … but you're so busy that you never get around to trying any of it.

No matter what practice you want to start, working at it a little bit every day is a great way to keep things that are important to you in your life. You don't have to try to become an expert. This isn't about trying "make the most" of this bizarre time. It is about creating a comforting, comfortable routine that feels good to you — there is no end goal aside from your enjoyment.

Taking a few minutes every day for some personal writing can be a wonderful experience. (The Yooth/Shutterstock)

You can set a low bar for your daily practice: something like 10 minutes, 50 words, one chord, or three squats.

You can set a time limit, too.

Let's say for the month of June, or for the next 30 days, you commit to returning to the activity every day. Some people prefer to pick a specific daily time for their practice, but that's not something that everyone can choose to do. If it works for you, go right ahead!

If you have a good idea of what practice you'd like to try but aren't quite convinced on the why, consider these benefits of a daily practice:

Creating mental space

Most of us have a long to-do list and it may feel like it will never be done. Having a daily personal practice on your list gives you a little time just for yourself which is good for your mental health.

Making room for your own goals, dreams, and self-care creates some mental space. It reminds you that you matter, that your happiness matters.

Providing a fixed point in your day

When you're busy, so much of your time just flies by as you try to get to the next thing. Having to carve out time for your daily practice gives you a fixed point in your day that lets you pause and catch your breath. It helps you notice that time is passing instead of just getting carried along with it.

Giving you something for YOU

When you have a lot on your plate, it can feel like you are always doing things for other people: your partner, your kids, your boss, your clients. A daily practice gives you space in your day to just be yourself and do something for you. Even a few minutes to yourself can make a huge difference to your well-being and peace of mind.

(Giphy)

Bringing daily focus time

We all spend so much time with our brains hopping from topic to topic. But if you have a small part of the day that you've carved out for one specific purpose, it can be a little easier to choose to focus on it.

After all, it's what you are "supposed to be doing" at that moment.

Seeing personal themes

In your daily practice, no matter what it is, you will start to recognize "themes" in your approach to your activities. In a drawing practice, you might realize that you prefer to draw straight lines. In a fitness-related activity, you may realize that you love or hate certain exercises.

This information can be useful and help you choose how to shape your practice.

That doesn't necessarily mean that you need to spend any time fighting your "themes." You will have lots of other opportunities for expanding your comfort zone.

Your small daily practice can just be about doing the things that you like, remembering the things that are important to you, and sticking with things that give you a little burst of joy.

However, if you realize that your themes are keeping you from enjoying your daily practice — you can choose how to help yourself get around them. For example, if you find that you avoid doing squats because you don't like the way  they feel, your daily practice could include either getting used to squats a few at a time or finding another exercise that serves the same purpose.

Did it feel like the first few months of the years just went on forever? A daily activity can help you take charge of your calendar.

Building a comfortable consistency

There is a rewarding feeling inherent in a daily practice. Aside from the benefits listed above, giving yourself the space to do something that's important to you every single day feels really good.

It reminds you that you are capable of focus, no matter how busy your life is at the moment.

Your consistency will help you to build momentum, and the more often you return to your daily practice, the easier it will be for you to maintain it.

That little bit of self-care becomes "one of the things I do all the time," a part of your routine, and that will feel really great.

While this list applies to any daily practice, choosing a practice that has personal meaning for you will have more specific benefits for your life.

Even if you can't literally do a practice every single day, having the intention to do so is beneficial. The benefits here are less about the literal sense of daily and more about a repeated, regular practice of finding that space in your life for yourself.

I hope you can carve out some time to try even a teeny daily practice, and please be kind to yourself while you get used to it!

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Christine Hennebury is a writer and creative coach in St. John's.

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