By Clare Gurton (

During a coffee-break at a recent medical conference, I went outside and almost immediately became aware of the familiar sounds of swifts high above.

As I looked up, a whole group of them flew past in an amazing display of aerial acrobatics. The experience served as a timely reminder that there is life beyond medical conferences.

Yet glancing back at the other delegates around me I realised that I was the only person to have looked up and witnessed the swifts’ fly-past. I’m sure that many of my colleagues were having important and stimulating conversations and I’m fully aware of the importance of networking at such meetings. But I also believe that it is too easy to become too intense, and immersed in work.

Conscious pausing from the immediate work environment can bring enormous benefits; it can let thoughts settle and refresh a tired spirit. It is really worthwhile to build breathing space into your schedule.

If necessary, wake up earlier so you can lie in bed longer and collect your thoughts and luxuriate in (possibly) the only peaceful time of the day ahead. In addition, try to pause for a moment (it need only be minutes) each day and awaken your sensory awareness.

  • Look at the sky, the trees or buildings around you.
  • Listen to the sounds above the clamour of the office or the traffic and see if you can hear birdsong.
  • Smell the air – there are often small yet exquisite smells that can stir memories, colour emotions and transform moods.
  • Taste your food and enjoy the pleasure of eating.