LATTE chats with Angela Lockwood, occupational therapist and author of ‘Switch Off: How to find calm in a noisy world’, about her new book, how to balance wellbeing and success, and the future of the wellness industry.
- Tell us a little about your background and what led you to write ‘Switch Off: How to find calm in a noisy world’.
I am an occupational therapist working with children and adults to overcome challenges they are facing through helping them see the enormity of their challenge more simply. My health education company hosts retreats, corporate education programmes and keynotes all designed to help organisations, schools and individuals prioritise their health and wellbeing. As a mother, wife and businesswoman, I understand the challenges that come with leading a full life and taking the time to focus on your health.
I decided it was time to write ‘Switch Off’ as a direct response to seeing too many people working too hard and looking for ways to disconnect but not knowing how. Through my executive mentoring and school-based programmes I was seeing a pattern emerging: everybody, no matter what they do for a living, where they are from or how old or young they are, is longing to have time and space to disconnect. I knew I had something unique to offer these people.
- Why did you write the book and who should read it?
Everyone should read it! In a world where connectivity is a 24/7 expectation and the lines between work and home life are blurred it is becoming harder than ever to switch off and it is taking its toll on our health and wellbeing.
‘Switch Off’ is a book to show people how we can slow down and still keep up with the pace of life. It is a modern-day conundrum: how can we do more through doing less? ‘Switch Off’ is a practical book with supporting evidence to show why it is imperative we integrate the skills of switching off into our lives if we are to have the stamina to take us into the future.
- What does your book offer in the world of wellness that hasn’t been offered before?
There are many educational and inspiring books and resources available to us to help us become more healthy, happier, fitter, better with relationships and more productive at work. Therein lies a problem. We are overwhelmed with information about how we can do more in our lives, however, we know people are not wanting to add more to an already full plate. ‘Switch Off’ shows people how to be in control of their lives through integrating skills of switching off into their everyday not through doing more, but through doing less.
- We live in a world with where high stress work and life pressures are most people’s ‘normal’. How can we balance success and taking care of ourselves?
Unfortunately, there is an unspoken expectation (at times it is loud and clear) that to be successful we need to ignore all the other factors in our lives to find this success. This attitude is not working well for us and we have started to demand a change.
A poll conducted in 2016 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that burnout was one of the top reasons that people quit their job in search of a more balanced and less overwhelming position.
The very definition of success is continually evolving as we are realising the pursuit of only work success is creating gaps in other areas of our lives, other areas that are important to us. In order to balance ‘success’ and taking care of yourself we need to have a clear picture of what success looks like to us and what our optimal health picture is too. In the book I show how to create ‘your picture’ when creating your habitat for health.
- What do you say to people who ‘don’t have time’ to focus on switching off?
They are the very people that need to listen! I can’t blame them for thinking this though, as when we are feeling over-connected, overwhelmed and overstimulated, adding one more thing to our plate can feel like it will tip us over the edge. The thought of switching off can feel like a luxury and impossible being associated with taking extended periods of time off work. But when we integrate the skills of switching off into our lives we become more productive, more focused and have more energy to support us we need to be ‘switched on’.
- How can individuals overcome their preconceptions about taking ‘me time’?
Me time is a must! We usually take time out only when we really need to switch off, and when this happens we are often overtired, sick and in need of recuperation. ‘Me time’ is complicated by negative associations with escapism, guilt and regret as well as overwhelm, stress and fatigue. All these negative connotations mean we tend to steer clear of it. Sadly, any request for ‘me time’ tends to be viewed as evidence that we are not coping, and we don’t like to be seen as not coping.
Through the focus groups conducted when researching for the book it was interesting to hear how people would use their ‘me time’ if they were given a whole day to do it. The results were mixed, some would spend it completely on their own, while others wanted to spend it with their partner or friend. The consensus no matter if it was spending the time on their own or with another person, it was having the ability to choose how they used their time that mattered. One hundred per cent of the participants indicated ‘me time’ is important to take for the physical and psychological benefits and they encourage their partner to take it, however, guilt was the main reason they didn’t do it more often. Overcome the guilt associated with taking ‘me time’ by focusing on the benefits you and the people in your life will gain.
- How do you see the field of wellness evolving in the future?
We have seen the wellness industry consistently growing from strength to strength for a long time now. In part it is a direct response to our rising rates of illness and poor health forcing us to take notice of our health habits, but we are also grasping that wellness is not just about being free of disease; it is having the energy and the resilience to face and embrace all that life has to offer. So with this in mind we will continue to see the rise of wellness retreats, wellness holidays, workplace-based health initiatives and even policy development that acknowledges the importance of individual and community health acknowledging that when we are well we all benefit.
- What does a day in the life of Angela Lockwood look like?
It is pretty simple really and I try to keep it that way. The day has to start slowly otherwise I feel like I am running through the day trying to play catch up. Upon waking I do a 30-minute stretch routine while spending about five minutes of just sitting quietly, thinking about the day ahead. Once upon a time this was never the case, but I have learnt overtime this is the best way for me to start my day on the right foot. I usually have one of my children poke their head around the corner or I have them sitting alongside me when my eyes open. Then the morning kicks into gear getting my children ready for school, then the day is a mix of writing for publications, speaking at events, meetings with clients or working on the business. Somewhere in the day is a mandatory trip to the beach, a swim or bike ride and then the day finishes having a yummy dinner with my family reflecting on the day. I always finish my day writing in my ‘thankful book’. It is funny to me reading this ‘day in the life’ as it sounds quite cliché, but that is my life; I practise what I preach and always try to keep the flow of the day smooth and as stress free as possible for everyone otherwise it just doesn’t work.
- How do you feel when you have taken time to ‘switch off’? How do you feel when you don’t?
Switching off for me is a must as I am quite an energetic, focused and ‘busy head’ person who likes to live life to the full. In the past I didn’t embrace the skill of switching off, preferring to push through and get as much done in the shortest period of time, but this meant I experienced the fallout of living like this too. I have had to teach myself and learn how to slow down and still feel satisfied that I am living my life to the full. I know when I am moving into overwhelm as I become disorganised, my thinking is fragmented and I work on detailed tasks rather than maintaining focus on the big picture. These are my signs that I need to switch off, take a step back, re-energise and then re-focus. I understand my triggers and can jump in quickly and flick the switch when I need to.
- LATTE signature question: what’s the best coffee experience you’ve ever had? (Or, if you are not a coffee drinker, tell us about your best tea, smoothie or juice experience!)
My hairdresser had just moved to a new location and I was ready to have a couple of hours to myself. She asked me if I would like a tea or coffee and I chose an Earl Grey tea. Thinking I would get a standard tea bag in a cup, she presented me with a petite tray with a lovely antique teapot and matching tea cup. The aroma from the tea leaves wafted in before she entered the room and to top it off, a little shard of dark chocolate sat on the side of the saucer … it was a sensory delight and I felt so special.
To connect with Angela go to www.angelalockwood.com.au and follow her on Twitter @angelockwood and Instagram @angelalockwood_ and Linked In.