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Nikki Newman: Topping Up The Pot

How Do You Rest And Recharge?

Sometimes it feels like my brain is a void.

In fact, looking out of the window right now at a hazy sky with the sound of birds tweeting in the trees, that’s how my brain feels:  active & awake, it’s daylight, but there’s not a lot going on.  Quite pleasant you might think, tranquil even, but it’s actually pretty alarming. It’s like all the demands of my days have caused some sort of brain siesta – the roads are empty and everyone’s gone for a nap.

Between the school runs; grocery shopping (it isn’t once a week is it? It’s more like four times a week I find); household chores; husband, son, wider-family and friends; dog care; motivational speaking/shouting at homework time; my own various areas of work and study; meal planning and preparation; school newsletter data processing; school play costume/set design, etc I feel like the various parts of my brain employed in these things have just had enough!

When that hazy sky and the tweety birds move in, I struggle to remember how old I am, let alone create some painterly ‘masterpiece’, no matter how small (a ‘minorpiece’?)

I remember my name though so that’s a good sign.  It’s Sheila, I think.

I’ve had rather a lot of the hazy-sky-brain recently and I’ve been forced to acknowledge a dusty old pot on the shelf that I’ve been neglecting.  Not a real pot (we’re talking figuratively here) but if it were real it would be white porcelain with blue Chinese brushwork and small enough to cup in both my hands. It’s my Me Pot, my Soul Pot, whatever suits.  Visualising it helps because then I can get a feel for what I need to do to top it up, what good stuff I need to put back into it, to get the brain and body cogs oiled up again – however long it takes.

Here’s a doodle I did of it.

There are of course heaps of different things that can top us up, revive us, boost us, inspire us, calm us, sooth us, relax us (that one is the most difficult to achieve and has the most regenerative powers).  Some things take a bit of planning, a bit of thought, or even a lot of cash…but what I’m most interested in right now are the things that are easily accessible and can be done spontaneously.

A list of some of my easy top-ups might read like this: make soup, engage with my son, hug the dog, tend to plants, be frivolous, visit somewhere new, visit somewhere I miss going, listen to music from the past with my husband, meet a friend for coffee; buy some fabric; sort out a drawer; clear a corner; search out a bargain; read a poem; walk; watch Jane Austen/ Twilight; apply moisturiser; drink a glass of chilled white wine in the garden late afternoon –  before dinner, after homework duty and before husband gets home;  file and paint nails (mine are short but show an honest day at the easel); buy a new lipstick; take thirty minutes to totally shutdown (no phone, no TV!)

For me, there’s something so good about taking whatever vegetables I have in the fridge, chopping, cooking, seasoning, stirring in stock, maybe some beans or grains, simmering, then finally curling up on the sofa round a big mug or deep bowl and slurping away.  You can add what you want, or keep it simple, maybe spice it up, and the top-up factor here is manifold, not just because of the vitamins.  Soup is soul supplement.  That’s how it seems to me anyway.  The same can be said for home baked cake or bread, or even curry, it all depends on the moment.

Engaging with my son can mean simply lying on his bed and chatting while he plays with his cars, or having a game of cards or like we did the other day while waiting for a much delayed doctor’s appointment, making up silly words. We were eating ‘Smints’ and Oliver said, ‘These are so minty they’re Smintastic!’ and we sat like two school kids waiting to see the principal, giggling in hushed tones making up a whole bunch of Sminty Superlatives. Oh so cheesy.  Oh so affirming for us both.  Ten minutes can bring bonding, reconnection, and the kind of pick-me-up that will never EVER be able to be bottled.

I won’t go into the other items on my non-exhaustive list other than to say something about Total Shutdown.  This is something I’ve started recently.  Once upon a time I was into meditation and would do it twice a day at least.  But as someone who spends a lot of time on her own and a lot of time doing pretty insular things like painting and writing, I just don’t think it was what I needed. It got me down in the end!  As a consequence, things like the idea of sitting in a park on a bench on my own – a conventionally good way of getting some top-up time – often isn’t really what I need as it too can feel isolating rather than peaceful. So I prefer to get little trips out and about, with $10 in my purse to see what delights I might be able to find.

But the one thing I do try to do, a little like meditation but without the depth, is take rests when I need to and do my Total Shutdown (sounds like a game show, I know).  This involves putting TV and laptop off, phone on silent (set the alarm in case you doze off!), going to a quiet space and ideally just lying down (bedroom is best).  It takes practice because the tendency is to reach for something to do but just allowing that total rest is so powerful.  I’m sure you can adapt it to suit location. It’s like being in my hazy-tweety-bird brain but out of choice, and rather than hazy, my brain feels warm and sunny at the end of it. Try it. Even 20 minutes will help.

I saw on one of those reality makeover shows the experts suggested getting a jar or pot and placing in it little slips of card, each with one thing written on it that you really neglect doing for yourself.  Then, once a week, take one out and do it.  I like that idea.  Again, it makes the thoughts real and solid and therefore less easy to ignore and keep on neglecting.

We’ve all got our own ways, so what are yours?  Is it something you’ve considered before or that you tend to neglect?  What would your Me Pot look like?  Try to get a feel for it, try to picture it, it might just help the next time you’re running low.

Please, share away.


Nikki Newman, 36, from England, currently lives in Qatar, where she moved this year due to her husband’s work. A former teacher and proud mother of 7-year-old Oliver, she’s currently focusing on settling her family into their new lives, while also pursuing her passion for painting. To see Nikki’s work please go to:




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