Public Service Announcement: A Stretch in Time

Lorin Clarke speaks to the importance of taking time during moments of stress – even if you’ve been avoiding it your whole life!

The other day I did something you would not normally catch me doing. I was quite stressed and very frustrated and most annoyed and having an entirely disappointing time that was manifesting itself as a latent rage I was in danger of unleashing on an innocent third party – like the annoying little stool that I so often trip over backwards, in the kitchen, because people keep dragging it there for reasons I could not tell you… And then I stopped. I stopped everything I was rushing to do. I decided, in this moment, that nobody would miss me for 10 minutes, that taking 10 minutes out of a day that was already going so badly would not matter. Nothing was on fire. Nobody was in danger. I could walk away for 10 minutes and come back into the stool-tripping disaster day and nothing would be lost.

What I did next – that thing I did that you wouldn’t usually catch me doing – is the kind of thing I have been advised to do MY ENTIRE LIFE by every health and wellness article I’ve ever accidentally started reading. And I never do it. Literally. Cannot once think of a time I have done it. This time? For some reason I decided I would. I decided to take 10 minutes for myself and concentrate on my breathing and – here’s the real shocker – do some yoga. I KNOW! I KNOW! BUT STOP! Before you think I am in a social category I most definitely do not deserve to be imagined into, I am not a yoga person. I have this app on my phone. It sometimes taunts me with mindful reminders, but that’s all it does. Its entire job is to draw my attention to the version of me that I am not.

But this time? This time I lined up a 10-minute yoga and meditation thing and I did what the obnoxious little app told me.

But here’s the really ridiculous news: it worked.

Public Service Announcement: take 10 minutes. Ten minutes is nothing. Take it.

Take 10 minutes to read a book. I did this the other day. One minute I was irritably trying to tackle my giant and never-ending to-do list and 10 minutes (OH OKAY HALF AN HOUR BECAUSE I CHEATED) later and I’m roaring with laughter at a funny Irish memoir about a boy with 11 siblings driving a minibus to choir practice. How wonderful, to be transported across time and space inside a tiny slice of a day that was otherwise threatening to overwhelm me.

Take 10 minutes to sing or dance. Yes, I am aware that with my book-reading, singing and dancing suggestions I am sounding very much like the creative arts nerd I am, but even the worst dancer (that’s me) can’t help themselves when their favourite song comes on. Put on your favourite song.

Take 10 minutes to move. See, it’s not all theatre over here. Go for a run. Do some star jumps. What’s your favourite way to move through the universe? Pick that.

Take 10 minutes to stop being defensive. True, I might have felt transformed by 10 minutes lying on the couch instead of tripping over chairs in the kitchen. But instead of refusing to do something new or different like, heaven forbid, becoming a yoga person, I tried something new that other people had told me would help and it did help. Who knew? Well, lots of people. I just thought I knew better. You think you know better too. You do. I promise. Maybe not about yoga but about how to cook a roast or pack a dishwasher or something. Try this. Let go! For 10 minutes! You never know what might happen.

Talk to someone. My friend is a new parent. Her barista is often the only adult she sees for the entire day. She wonders if he knows this. He is very nice to her and they have started swapping knitting patterns. No, this is not a rom-com. You never know, though – you could be someone’s only person in their whole day. Take those 10 minutes and do with them what you can.

I was a much better person after those 10 minutes of yoga and meditation. I know all of you actual yoga people are screaming, “That is not real yoga!” at me from your candle-scented wellness spaces but maybe you could channel that anger, hmm? May I suggest you take 10 minutes?

Public Service Announcement: 10-minute segments of time aren’t long. Take some for yourself.

By Lorin Clarke, a Melbourne-based writer. The second season of her radio series, The Fitzroy Diaries, is on ABC Radio National and the ABC Listen app now.

This piece was first published in Edition #643.