Simple Ideas for the Busy and Overworked
By Kat Warner
In our busy culture, we can value accomplishments, rushing, a full work load, and pushing hard OVER rest, reflection, slowing down and just sitting still. For some of us, just the thought of the latter makes us anxious. Productivity is the name of the game. And how could the world possibly go on if I just stop for a few minutes? (It literally can feel like it will all collapse if you rest-I'm speaking from experience.) But even if you run a large corporation, or have tons of tiny people depending on you, you NEED a break. To be our best selves, we have to take care of US too.
I used to associate the words "self-care" with spa days, vacations, expensive meals, and sleeping in late. I also felt like it was more of a "girl-thing", too. As a busy mom, it all just felt un-applicable and out of reach for me. Realistically, when and how was I ever supposed to carve our time for those things in my crazy life? I have too many responsibilities, and surely taking time for myself like that means everyone else will suffer.
Well, burnout taught me otherwise. For some of us, like myself, measuring your productivity can slyly become a way to measure self-worth when we aren't careful. I have fallen into this trap again and again.
Even with all the stress, chaos and loss that the pandemic brought us, I do believe there was at least ONE serious positive highlight in it all: Shining the spotlight on the importance of self-care.
Everyone felt the effects of Covid-19 in some way, shape or form. For many of us, we became hyper-aware of our health and immune systems. For others, we felt as if we were cracking under all the pressures to adapt and perform in a totally new setting with work, school and family life. It was A LOT! Finding time out to take care of ourselves in a lockdown, trying to navigate new systems while worried about getting sick can do that to you.
The mental health community is working hard to normal reaching out for help without any stigmas. And it can look a lot different than those cliché options I listed above (albeit I will gladly do any of those, given the opportunity). It's also not just a girly thing. It's meant for all people, young and old, female and male, single, married, etc. Because at the end of the day, self-care isn't selfish, and it's not just about pampering yourself. It's about taking care of yourself now, keeping your life in balance, and making peace with our humanity and needs without feeling bad, guilty or shameful.
In the holiday hustle and bustle, take some times to slow down and reconnect with yourself. We are being bombarded with noise-advertisements telling us what we should buy, watch, or spend our time doing. Our schedules tend to get crammed tight with more work and events as the holidays approach. And of course, there are the daily responsibilities we all have that never take a break.
Here are some practical and quick ways you can begin to implement regular self-care into your life right now:
Take 5 minutes to write out everything in your mind, stressors, thoughts, worries, feelings about whatever is going on, things you need to do. Take a deep breath in and slowly out. Review your page. Observe. Maybe you can adjust some thoughts or situations to lessen the load. Maybe just writing it all out is enough to feel better.
Get outside for at least 5 minutes to sit in the sun, breathe some fresh air, take a short walk, or have your lunch break. If you have more time, considering gardening or taking a visit to a park, the beach, or a trail. Reconnect with nature to feel more grounded and calm.
Unplug From Electronics
Hush your devices and screens and find a quiet place to close your eyes for 5 minutes. Let your thoughts flow and roam without trying to control them. If you feel antsy or anxious, explore where it is coming from. Give yourself permission to take a time out.
Music has a powerful effect on the brain and therefore, our moods. It can calm us when we feel frazzled, make us feel sentimental, pump us up for a good workout, and even help us concentrate better. We can choose a song to match our mood, or we can choose a song to change our mood. If you need a pick-me-up, try blasting your favorite beat. If you feel anxious, listen to something mellow. Or if you are just lacking motivation, put on something that revs you up. Music without lyrics is great to let your mind wander and unwind.
Practice Guided Deep Breathing or Meditation
Deep breathing is proven to reduce stress, improve feelings of calm and positivity, align body posture, decrease blood pressure and even improve digestion, to name a few. Meditation goes hand in hand and has similar benefits. Try a guided app to get your feet wet with this powerful practice. Even just 5 minutes makes a huge difference in the way you feel and handle your day.
Take a Hot Shower or Bath
Heat therapy is an easy way to wash away tension from the day and feel your body and mind connection. Use it to unwind after a long day of work, or even to start your day with a fresh perspective and a symbolic clean slate, setting your intentions in the morning for the kind of person you want to be as the day moves forward.
Essential oils are powerful plant chemicals that can literally uplift your mood, detox the air your breathe, awaken your senses, cleanse and comfort. The uses are seemingly endless, and there is something for every mood and setting. Try diffusing citrus or lemongrass to perk your mood, peppermint for concentration or to take the edge of that headache, lavender or clove for a calming, comforting affect, or patchouli to feel grounded when anxious.
Sometimes we just have too much on our plates. Take a hard look at your schedule and see if there is anything you can just cut out. Part of self-care is establishing healthy boundaries in our lives, understanding that we are worth and deserve a break to function well. What can you say no to this week that will allow for more space to just be present with your family, or read a book or just do nothing?
When our quality or quantity of sleep suffers, our bodies and minds do, too. Brain fog and fatigue are real affects that can heighten stress and make all the daily tasks seem much harder. Recovery from the day happens when we rest. If you struggle to sleep fall asleep, sleep though the night, or just get enough hours, seek resources and help to get the sleep you need.
Give yourself the gift of slowing down-even for just 5 minutes a day-to inhale, exhale, and just be. We all deserve it, and the rest can really wait. If what you read today gives you red flags that your health needs some work, contact me directly to learn about how wellness coaching can completely change the game for your life going forward. Our health is our #1 asset. Investing in your health is the best return on investment you will ever get!