Make time for yourself. It is the only way to ensure your tank is full when you need energy. It may sound like a cliché to say so, but you can’t take care of anyone properly unless you take care of yourself first. Ideally, our days would be full of rituals designed to foster a calm nervous system, and sharpness of mind. Reality says otherwise, and our busy lives leave little room for balance. It is only by making time for yourself, however, that you will reduce your stress and become more productive. People who make time for gentle exercise, meditation, therapeutic rituals, hobbies and short naps have been shown to be more productive and happier with their lives.
Great Ideas to Try
Movement not only helps your nervous system recalibrate itself, but it also allows your neurons to make the connections needed to process recently acquired information. Exercise is especially helpful in stress management. It reduces stress hormones, while promoting the production of feel good natural endorphins. Some medical practitioners recommend gentle exercise over more intense forms of physical activity. Indeed, it is believed that running or spinning can increase your body’s production of cortisol (stress hormone), thereby counteracting your efforts to manage your stress. Instead, try going for a short walk, doing some stretches, yoga or Pilates (always check with your physician prior to starting a new physical activity). For years, I have kept a collection of exercise DVDs. Some of them divide up their segments into 10 minute increments–perfect for busy parents.
Flowing water is also very beneficial. Ever wonder why you get so many ideas in the shower? Warm water is very therapeutic. It allows the body to relax, and the brain to proceed with more wiring and processing. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath also works wonders. It not only relaxes your mind, but the magnesium in the epsom salt is also a natural muscle relaxant. Another fun fact, is that the more stressed we are the more likely we are to be deficient in magnesium. So this simple soaking ritual can lift up our body and our soul.
Nature is another favorite brain booster. When my twins were babies, I would put them in their cribs for their naps, and go in our yard with my toddler to garden for an hour. I had an listening device, so I was always aware of their needs. I am by no means a gardener, but my son and I enjoyed the ritual nevertheless. I found connecting with the dirt, colors and the smells of nature rejuvenating. It was especially thrilling to watch the fruit of our labor grow over the years.
Hobbies are another great way to reconnect with yourself. The idea of flow has been much talked about in the news. It describes the feeling you get when you lose yourself in an activity. I get this feeling when I write and when I do art. Why not make time for yourself by signing up for a class at your local community center? If money is an issue, look into co-ops or meetups to find a group of individuals with the same interests as you. Most of these groups are free. You can easily locate quilters, gardeners, knitters, yoga in the park, social groups and much more.
Meditation is especially beneficial for regaining balance in our lives. It doesn’t take much either; only 10 minutes of dedicated practice per day does the trick. People who meditate feel less stressed and more emotionally stable than people who don’t. Mindfulness is my practice of choice. It’s easy and very forgiving. I recommend the free UCLA podcasts for all beginners. You can fit it into your schedule first thing in the morning, at lunch time, or whenever convenient.
Napping is a great way to recharge. We live in a fast-paced world. Most of us barely get 7 hours of sleep per night, yet alone take the time for a mid-day nap. I used to say that I was not the type of person who can nap. Too many memories of forced naps as a child leaving me groggy and lethargic. Here’s the trick to napping: keep it to 10-20 minutes tops. Any longer and you’ll enter deep sleep which makes emerging back into reality a bit difficult, and certainly unpleasant. Cat naps (10-20 min) are thought to be very beneficial to brain cell rejuvenation and energy. If you work, put your head on your desk at lunch time or go sit in your car, and close your eyes for some high quality renewal.
Lastly, your loved-ones can help you make time for yourself. Make your needs be known. No matter how great of a relationship we have with our mates or other family members, they are not mind-readers. If you need a break, tell them. If you need pampering, tell them. Communication is key to getting what you need in any relationship. Making time for yourself will make you a better more relaxed parent, partner, and friend–guaranteed.
Let’s talk. What are some ways you make time for yourself?
If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out 10 Ways to Decrease Stress for more helpful tips.