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How to be fully present

Great Greek philoso­pher Socrates once said: “The un­ex­am­ined life is not worth liv­ing.” Since my late teens, I have de­vel­oped habits of sac­ri­fic­ing sleep and good rou­tines in or­der to achieve my goals. And be­cause of this, I had achieved ev­ery­thing I wanted be­fore the age of 30. How­ever, the phys­i­cal and men­tal cost of func­tion­ing and achiev­ing at a high pace have been im­mense; my body and mind are not as ro­bust and fast heal­ing as they once were. It has be­come a ne­ces­sity that I find ways to slow down and look af­ter my­self, rather than do­ing this when I feel like it.


Speak­ing at an all-women event I re­cently at­tended, reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gist, life coach and trainer Dr Tshep­iso Ma­ten­tjie em­pha­sised that mak­ing time for your­self is vi­tal. “Ded­i­cate the first and last two hours of your day to your­self,” she ad­vises. If we are to live our best lives, that time for our­selves be­comes an im­por­tant tool in our arse­nal. This is be­cause it is in­tended to help you be more mind­ful, some­thing that we could all use, she adds. We live in a world that sells dis­or­dered liv­ing, which is ei­ther about too much or too lit­tle – not enough sleep; big por­tions of food, but not enough es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents; too much time spent work­ing, and not enough on fam­ily or by our­selves; ex­ces­sive drink­ing; etc. But, re­al­is­ing that you may be out of bal­ance re­quires you to spend some time think­ing about your life, and liv­ing thought­fully. Th­ese are lux­u­ries that many peo­ple can­not af­ford, es­pe­cially when there isn’t enough money, and bills have to be paid. But, they are es­pe­cially im­por­tant for women – we are not taught the im­por­tance of tak­ing time for our­selves, no mat­ter how small, be­cause ev­ery mo­ment is ded­i­cated to some­thing or some­one else. The time spent at the be­gin­ning and end of your day should al­low you to plan, ex­am­ine and refocus.


Dr Tshep­iso ad­vises that you use this time for prayer and med­i­ta­tion, plan­ning your day, for­mu­lat­ing your goals, study­ing, ex­er­cis­ing and re­flec­tion be­cause you have to re­plen­ish your­self. Sleep is equally im­por­tant. Most re­cently, re­sults by re­searchers at Duke Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal Cen­tre not only con­firm the ne­ces­sity of sleep, but that you must be con­sis­tent about it. Strict and reg­u­lar bed­times are not just for chil­dren. The study, ti­tled Val­i­da­tion of the Sleep Reg­u­lar­ity In­dex in Older Adults and As­so­ci­a­tions with Car­diometabolic

Risk, and pub­lished in Septem­ber 2018, also found that those with ir­reg­u­lar and poor sleep pat­terns were likely to ex­pe­ri­ence other is­sues. Th­ese in­cluded gain­ing weight, a heart at­tack or stroke and higher blood sugar and pres­sure. Co-au­thor, clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and pro­fes­sor Jes­sica Lunsford-Avery has been quoted as say­ing: “In our study, in­di­vid­u­als with more ir­reg­u­lar sleep and wake times tend to be less phys­i­cally ac­tive, more stressed and de­pressed — all of which could con­tribute to poorer heart and metabolic health.” So, tak­ing time for your­self is not just about feel­ing good emo­tion­ally and men­tally.

It is also about giv­ing your­self the best qual­ity of life pos­si­ble. May you be­gin your daily work to­wards a mind­ful life worth liv­ing.

With the pace and stress of ev­ery­day life, it can be hard

to make time for your­self. But, this is vi­tal for a good and ful­fill­ing life, writes

Gugulethu Mh­lungu.


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