There never seems to be enough time. Before we know it, the demands of life seem to occupy every minute of the day, leaving barely any time for ourselves.
Study after study confirms that self-care is critical to overall health. Yet, most of us fail to take even a little bit of time to focus on ourselves. When your car is running low on gas, you fill the tank. You replenish its energy. For some reason, when our energy is running low, we neglect to refill our tanks.
I know it’s not easy, but it’s essential.
The connection between mind, body and spirit has been well documented. Everyone from physicians to fitness experts to mental health professionals can provide direct evidence of the benefits of self-care.
Why then is it so difficult for us to act on the recommendations?
Because we often feel selfish taking time for ourselves.
Self care is not selfish for a number of reasons. While it may seem frivolous to spend 15 to 30 minutes a day for reflection or meditation, taking the time to recharge and rebuild is not only beneficial for us, but everyone that we interact with that day.
Think about it. Who would the coffee barista rather interact with in the morning? The version of you that’s stressed and simultaneously checking your email while paying? Or the version of you that’s grounded, patient, and understanding? I’m sure your coworkers, family, and friends and even you would much prefer interacting with the second version.
Self-care is a practice just like anything else. Yes, it requires some work and some planning. I know, just what you need: one more thing on your to-do list. But taking a few minutes each day to regroup and re-balance can do wonders.
Step Away and Step Outside
It sounds simple, but sometimes the pull of the computer is strong. You may not feel that you can leave your desk, especially if you work with people in different time zones. It’s common to feel that you need to be available to everyone all the time.
Working inside (whether you’re working from your office or home) can leave you feeling disconnected. In an age where we have shifted to remote work, it’s important to be mindful of screen time. Research shows too much can lead to feelings of isolation, depression, and physical symptoms including headache and eyestrain.
The remedy? Step away from the screen and step outside. Go into your backyard or patio barefoot and stand on the Earth. This form of grounding, including the Vitamin D, does wonders for your energy and mood.
Other things you can do outside? Take a 15-minute walk around the block. Play with your dog. Pick up your favorite book and read a couple pages.
Even little things will help you feel more grounded.
Meditation, Mind-Body and Digging in the Dirt
Stress, feelings of isolation and other emotional discomfort should not be ignored. Taking just a few minutes each day for meditation can be immensely helpful. You don’t have to create your own dojo or find a guru. You just need to retreat to a quiet place for a few minutes at a time. Then, focus on your breathing. Don’t expect your mind to go blank. When your mind begins focusing on your thoughts, kindly direct it back to the breath. Mindfulness and non-attachment to your thoughts is the goal.
Another sure-fire way to help reduce stress levels is to get moving. Physical activity increases endorphins in the brain and releases stress in the body. Sitting for hours on end, whether working or studying, will cause tightness and even pain in your back, neck and shoulders. Exercise can help ease the aches associated with such postural pains.
If the gym isn’t an option, it’s important to find a way to work out at home. If you’re looking for high-intensity training, look online and on social media for free workout videos. Not looking to break that kind of sweat? Go outside for a walk.
Your body is meant to move. Anything is better than nothing.
Getting your hands dirty can be incredibly restorative. Sticking your hands in some soil has the same grounding effect as going outside barefoot! Whether you are looking to start your own flower garden or maybe plant your own vegetables, caring for something living does wonders for your well-being, from building self-esteem, to strengthening your heart.
Growing your own food is also good for your health because you aren’t getting anything genetically modified or treated with pesticides.
A Note About Safer-at-Home
These days, it is tough to know if it’s a Monday or a Sunday, let alone the number of days we’ve been confined to our homes.
Since March, most of us have been working from home. Many have also been schooling our kids from home. Some are doing both at the same time. We’ve been trying our best to strike the balance between “working at home” and “living at home.” We’ve been trying to occupy ourselves — and our families — for months.
The demands don’t stop and while we’re at it, trying to stay mindful of our health and keeping us and loved ones safe.
It’s a lot.
So, how can you take care of your physical and mental health when the world seems upside down?
Pause, Breathe, and Take Care
It is easy to get lost in the shuffle of life. It’s important to pause. It’s important to breathe.
New rituals and activities to help us relax and recharge during this challenging time. Try putting together a puzzle, building a masterpiece with Legos, taking some sidewalk chalk outside, or baking up some goodies.
Whatever you do, remember that you need to put your health and well-being first so you can function your best at work and in life. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of those you love.
Remember, 15 minutes is 1% of your day. You are worth at least that.