The times you are feeling most stressed are the times you need self-care the most. And yet, it is when you are stressed that you feel you have the least amount of time for self-care!
Self-care is the first to go
Let’s admit it. Self-care is usually the first thing we stop doing when we get really busy. Why? Because we think it’s selfish and unnecessary. We do not see self-care as essential – like eating.
Also, somehow we have adopted a silly argument that taking 10 or 15 minutes for ourselves will completely wreck our productivity. Not true! How often have you put something on your list like exercise, meditation, calling a friend on our list and skipped over it because, “It takes too much damn time!”
Self-care is more simple than you think
If you are feeling the weight of that to-do list where stress is hitting you pretty hard then it is time to realize you are needing more self-care. But at those moments, when you allow yourself to think you really want a hot bath, a visit with a good friend, some exercise, or even just some time with a good book, you feel defeated because you think there really isn’t any time for you.
The truth is that there is enough time for you. There are ways to feel peace just by slowing down and pulling over to the slow lane. And guess what, you will still get plenty done.
Caring for yourself first isn’t just an optional good-for-you practice. Self-care actually helps you be more productive. It helps you focus and refuel. And it reduces your stress so you don’t hit a wall.
And now for the exciting news. Self-care does not require you skip out of work for a day for the spa as lovely as that sounds. Self-care doesn’t even mean you need to take a full hour out of your day. You can practice self-care in as little as 10 or 15 minutes.
Want to get started right now? Here are six super easy practices that you can incorporate right starting now.
1. Take three deep breaths
This is the simplest of self-care techniques available to you at any time. And I guarantee you it works! Shallow breathing triggers the sympathetic nervous system which is connecting to our fight-or-flight response. If you take deep, slow breaths, you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system which is in charge of rest-and-digest functions.
When can you practice deep breathing? Anytime. You can do it in meetings when you are just sitting and listening. When you are commuting on the train or in the car. When you are waiting in line at the grocery store. When you are waiting for your kids.
2. Become a yogi (for 10-15 minutes)
You don’t have to practice yoga for 90-minutes to get the benefits! I promise you because I am a yogi-on-the-go myself. I have done a yogi practice in 15 minutes where I got my blood moving, did some awesome stretching, and walked away feeling great.
In just a few minutes, you can do a few basic poses that help you relax and unwind. And you can do these poses in your office or at home. Once you spend this time stretching your body, you will feel the stress release in your body. You can find some easy practices online.
Entrepreneur Inc. put together a great set of office yoga exercises that you can do right at your desk.
If you are at home, you can pick a few of the poses in this easy-to-read guide with 13 poses for stress relief.
3. Unleash your mind through meditation or visualization
Giving your mind a rest is probably one of the most important things you can do to recharge. Our minds are running like hamsters on a wheel all day. That will wear you down more than think!
Give your mind a rest through meditation or visualization
You have probably heard about all of the enormous benefits of meditation. All of them are true. It reduces stress, it improves concentration, and you will feel happier. What you might not know if that you can meditate for as little as three minutes to get the benefits. I personally can attest to that!
If you have never meditated, go to this easy three minute meditation (which I easily found by googling “three minute meditation”) and see what you think. One thing I noticed, is that a daily practice of at least 5 minutes per day gave me benefits throughout my entire day.
If you are just not a meditator, there are still ways to give your mind a rest. You can tap into your imagination.
How can you do it? Take a moment to shift your mind for just a moment from ruminating on the problems of the day. Take yourself to a place where you know you can create positive and calm feelings. Practice deep breathing while you do it and maybe close your eyes.
Where could you go? Take yourself on vacation to a place you have been (or want to go to) and immerse yourself in that lovely place. Or take a moment to go back to a favorite memory where you remember loving and embracing live. While you are visualizing, fully imagine being in that place or that memory. Experience it as if you were there yourself.
You will notice your stress and anxiety melting because you are allowing your mind for just a moment to take a break.
4. Just move
Step away from your computer and your phone and take a walk. Even better, take a brisk walk. There are tons of great benefits associated with walking. You will improve your mood, spark creativity, lose weight, tone your legs, and lower your risk of chronic disease.
It is great to take a walk when you are at a point in your day when you feel you are spinning your wheels.
Getting your body moving will help you relieve a little stress.
5. Drink lots of water
Did you know that drinking water helps you feel better?
So many of us forget to drink water. Maintaining a healthy fluid intake matters but with so many other drinks put in front of us – coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks, and alcohol – it is easy to forget the enormous benefits of a simple glass of water.
When you are dehydrated, your stress hormone levels increase. In other words, staying hydrated reduces stress. In addition to reducing your stress, drinking more water eliminates toxins from your body, kick starts your metabolism, lubricates your joint, boosts your immunity, and burns fat. It’s literally a miracle drink.
There is lot out there on internet about how much water one should drink. Many articles suggest drinking 8 glasses of water per day. Here is one article I found to be very useful.
Drinking eight glasses of water might sound like a lot especially if you barely drink water now. Start with just increasing your water intake. I can assure you that when you start to drink more water, you will feel better, less stressed, and more focused throughout your day.
6. Practice Gratitude
Finally, I have found that taking a few minutes to reflect on what I am grateful for is an amazing self-care practice. I sit down with a journal and write out five things that I appreciate. It might be how someone held the door open for me, or when a colleague decided to ask how I was feeling. Or it can be something bigger when I am aware of how grateful I am for my family or my health.
What you write doesn’t matter. What matters is the feeling you get from taking yourself from a place of scarcity to a place of abundance. When you shift your mind from what you don’t have to what you have, it can feel like a release. This can matter especially when things aren’t going well in your life.
I can assure you that creating time for this practice will have you walk away feeling better.
And it will feel like you are caring for yourself.
Get started now!
The practices I’ve listed above won’t take a lot of time. But the key is to give yourself permission to integrate those practices into your day.
Remember, self-care isn’t frivolous. It’s not luxury. It is essential. And it will help you through a busy or difficult time.
Pick a few of these practices and sprinkle a few into your day.