Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Consultant, Speaker and Writer

What Do You Need Right Now?

What Do You Need

Pause for a moment.

Take a deep breath.

Relax your shoulders.

Loosen your jaw.

I have a simple question for you today. It’s an easy question to ask. But I want you to spend a little time considering something much harder, too. The answer.

What is the question? It’s simple:

What do you need right now?

Forget about the long to-do list, the washing up, the incessant demands from others about their wants, their needs, their requests.

What is it that would most soothe your soul?

What is it that would bring you calm? Bring you peace? Bring you tranquility as the seas of small day-to-day stresses rage around you?

I tend to be a person who’s relatively easy-going about most things. I’m pretty agreeable unless there’s something I really don’t want to do.

Pizza or Indian? I don’t mind.

This film or that film? Whichever.

Stay in or go out? Either’s fine.

Sometimes that means I bend to others’ needs before my own, which most of the time isn’t an issue. I really don’t mind.

But there are times when I forget to do that check, to look a little deeper inside myself, to ensure it really is fine. I respond too quickly, almost automatically.

When I Forgot To Ask

The other week, I had an evening where I had two invitations from people I enjoy spending time with. And it was only the clash that made me get off autopilot and look inside, where I realised that that day, I didn’t really want to do anything social.

I was tired, I’d had some treatment for a shoulder injury which had worn me down, I was emotional because of an argument with a family member, and all I wanted to do was snuggle on my bed and watch Criminal Minds.

I was kinda grumpy.

But the real desire that I had, to do something which made no demands on me at all, wasn’t something that had come to mind straight away, because most of the time I get cross with myself for doing that, and I’m happier being productive and busy. I like to use my time judiciously, and make the most of what I have, which usually means ‘doing’ of some kind, whether that’s on my own or with others. There’s very little downtime in my life in the main.

But just because I’m one way most of the time, doesn’t mean I am that way all of the time.

I needed some time to myself, where I wasn’t ‘doing’. Some off-time.

I turned down the invitations and put on my PJs.

And something that had been tight inside me loosened.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

My challenge to you today is to look a little deeper inside.

Don’t move through the world on autopilot.

While you might feel you don’t have the time for such an indulgence, if you don’t look after yourself, nourish yourself, you’ll never be able to be the best version of yourself.

Sometimes in order to have enough inside you to give to other people, you need to put your own life-jacket on first.

Pause, and take a breath.

What do you, all of you – your emotions, physical body, thinking brain – want, or even need you to do?

Do you need to be alone? With others? Do you need a hug? Need touch?

Do you need rest? Healthy food? Exercise? To dance?

Do you need to journal, meditate or just be in silence?

Do you need to read, watch mindless television, or listen to music?

Or do you just need to sit and do nothing for a while, with no demands, no requests, no calls on your time?

So go on, ask yourself now.

What do you need?

22 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Lea Bullen June 20, 2016, 3:15 am

    Hi Ellen,

    I tend to be like you, easy going. I always seem to have a million and one things to do, yet find myself focusing on the things that are not a priority. I will surely be asking myself this to determine what to do next. After all, we do want to make the right decision.

    Very thought provoking.

    Lea Bullen recently posted…How to Improve Your Life Without Doing Too MuchMy Profile

    • Ellen June 20, 2016, 3:33 am

      Thanks Lea, and I definitely end up focusing on things that aren’t quite right too. Good luck on feeling your way into the right thing for you next time.

  • Elle June 20, 2016, 2:41 pm

    A great big yes to this Ellen. I can totally relate. I found myself relaxing my shoulders, loosening my jaw and breathing deeply and it felt pretty good. So thanks to you I’m going to schedule some time for me today to simply be. No doing. No special thoughts to have. Just be. And this is on top of my daily meditation, which although is something I choose to do, and yes it feels great, but it’s still a sort of doing.
    Elle recently posted…5 Ways to Keep Your Cool When Everything’s Going WrongMy Profile

    • Ellen June 28, 2016, 8:21 am

      Thanks Elle, and you know it’s funny, every time I re-read this one it calms me a little too. Wishing you a lovely time just to ‘be’. x

  • Debbie L Hampton June 20, 2016, 3:33 pm


    Thank you for this post. The post itself feels like an exhale to me. Very good questions to slow down, look deeper, and consider today.
    Debbie L Hampton recently posted…Neuroplasticity: Your Life Shapes Your BrainMy Profile

    • Ellen June 22, 2016, 12:20 pm

      Thanks Debbie. I think most of us can do with that reminder :-)

  • Mark Tong June 22, 2016, 7:36 pm

    Excellent post Ellen. What I need is what I’ve got – it always is. Now, what I want, that’s a different matter..

    • Ellen June 28, 2016, 8:20 am

      Thanks Mark, and yeah, that’s probably true for most of us – that’s something to meditate on for sure…

  • Rachel June 23, 2016, 8:50 am

    I can’t express enough how much this resonated with me last night when I read it, and today when I read it again. I’ve been struggling recently between busy-ness and self criticism (for feeling lazy if I wasn’t busy), and reading your thoughts just as I’m finally waking up out of it all has been a real boost.
    Thank you!

    • Ellen June 28, 2016, 8:20 am

      Thank you so much Rachel for this heart-felt comment :-) I’m so glad it resonated and supported you to do what you needed in the moment. xx

  • Eric July 1, 2016, 1:50 am

    Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we’re playing this game of life as ourselves, and that we’re not playing it for others … great insight!
    Eric recently posted…Do Your Company’s IT Efforts Add Up?My Profile

    • Ellen July 5, 2016, 9:36 am

      Thanks Eric, appreciate you reading – and great summary!

  • Sukhi July 8, 2016, 4:52 pm

    What a lovely post that reminded me that i need to ask myself this question more often.

    • Ellen July 13, 2016, 12:15 am

      Thanks Sukhi, and you’re not alone in that, I definitely could ask it more often of myself – but it’s incredibly powerful once we do.

  • Angela Du Preez July 12, 2016, 12:16 pm

    What do I need right now? What I enjoyed was the emotion that slipped out of me, the moment I looked at your picture of the Sea. Nature is a true healer and of late I have deep longings to see the sea, breathe in the sea air and walk alongside the Seaside.
    Reading this particular article was such an easy read and you kept my attention which must mean that it touched a nerve. Every day is a journey and every day is a new start. Reading the article was as good as a positive Affirmation of sorts, to get me back on track. It is good to ask questions, to clarify in your mind what it is that you need each day you fumble. Thank you for being a wonderful eye opener. Take care.

    • Ellen July 13, 2016, 12:12 am

      Thank you so much Angela, it’s wonderful when my writing has a profound affect on people. Good luck with your focus – and spending more time in nature sounds lovely.

  • Zoey September 25, 2016, 7:56 pm

    Great article! I have found that lately my answer the this question has been “I need to sleep” but I have been trying to push than need away. I always feel like I should be doing more but sometimes its OK to take a step back and just do what you really need. Sleep, relax, a hug, etc.
    Thank you so much for this. I needed it today <3
    Zoey recently posted…Save Money, Payoff Debt, and Lose WeightMy Profile

  • Muthoni W December 12, 2016, 9:09 am

    The hardest thing for me to do is to sit down and reflect. I do the five minute sit down every night to think about my day and how I could make it better, but it is also within the same time that I come up with what I would like to do or what I should do the next day.

    I notice I spend more time planning for the next thing, leg, hoop than time reflecting on how far I have come.
    Muthoni W recently posted…How to create an effective Twitter content strategyMy Profile

    • Ellen December 13, 2016, 2:00 am

      That sounds really useful Muthoni. I find that when I manage to make that time to reflect, things go much better, but it’s so easy for time to just slip past and be ‘too busy’ even for 5 minutes. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ellen December 12, 2016, 6:37 pm

    I just came across your blog Ellen, and the title of this post drew me in. I’ve been thinking a lot about this myself recently and really like your focus on pausing to ask this simple question. You’re right, it is something we can so easily forget as we run around on auto-pilot. At the moment I’m really trying to listen to my gut more in terms of what I want to do – especially when it comes to how I want to spend down time. I’ve found I’ve been spending so much of my time pleasing others that I’ve forgotten how to listen to what I want.

    Thanks for such a lovely post :)
    Ellen recently posted…Emergency self care: make a list of things that make you feel goodMy Profile

    • Ellen December 13, 2016, 2:03 am

      Thanks! I’m glad it resonated. I think tuning in to ourselves is so powerful. You can always put a post-it or some kind of reminder to tune in to support you to remember – I quite often forget!

  • Albert Nesmith January 21, 2017, 11:16 am

    I need to take a break from my work to have peace of mind.
    Albert Nesmith recently posted… – Shelley’s Instant Attraction Generator PackageMy Profile

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