We all need a little good stress in our lives to keep us challenged, alert and motivated, but when does our stress level shift from just enough to too much? Academic studies have shown that while short-term stress can beneficial, prolonged, unchecked stress can lead to harmful physical and mental consequences. Being in a high state of arousal and getting stuck in fight-or-flight mode can lead to exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed, as we don't get a chance to fully rest and recharge.
It can be easy to get out of balance when we're busy running a business, driving our career, and taking care of family and friends. Sometimes we take on too much responsibility, let our priorities get out of order or don't get out enough to participate in new or different activities. A study conducted by Mercer, a well-known consulting firm, found that roughly one-third of leaders and managers felt overwhelmed by their stress level at work. Parents, spouses, and caregivers are also susceptible to a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion when they don't also care for themselves.
If you're trying to be everything to everyone, or if you feel like you have little to no control over your work, it’s important to pause and consider how you can make easy adjustments to get back to a place of vitality and a state of equanimity. Taking care of yourself first is essential. It is the stepping stone to optimal health and to delivering your best work. When your life is in balance, it is easier to breathe and perform at your optimum levels. Sometimes we have to slow down to speed up.
So, where do you start? Self-care doesn't have to be complicated, extravagant, or expensive. The truth is, self-care is quite simple. Awareness and consistency are the keys.
Here are some free and simple ways to help you restrike your balance:
- Make sure to get enough rest. The general sleep recommendation for adults aged 26-64 is 7-9 hours each night.
- Prolonged sitting is the new smoking. Take a 10-minute walk around your building or your neighborhood to get your circulation moving. This will help you stay focused and energized throughout the day in a more healthful way than reliance on artificial stimulants like caffeine.
- Pause regularly for five minutes to meditate or practice mindfulness. Focus on deep breathing. Think about what has gone well in your day so far.
- Frame your day in a way that's realistic. Set your intentions when you wake up and review them when you go to sleep. Do not confuse overwhelming your day with being productive. Be realistic about what you can accomplish.
- Spend time clearing your thoughts by writing in a journal. Write out your goals and values and review them regularly.
- Listen to your favorite music, sing out loud, and dance around!
- Take a break from social media. Academic studies have shown that perpetually comparing ourselves to others can lead to conflicting and depressive feelings.
- Spend time with your family (pets included).
- Get outside and spend some time in nature. Scientists and doctors have found that physically reconnecting with the earth can help you sleep better and reduce pain, along with numerous other benefits.
- Reach out to a friend you haven't spoken to in a while. Make plans to get together and reconnect in person.
- Write a review online about a remarkable experience you had or send a hand-written thank you letter to someone. Giving to others is giving to ourselves. Our kindness might create a feedback loop that promotes lasting happiness and altruism.
- Be proactive about your health. Set any postponed doctor’s appointments and get the task off your mind.
- Hydrate! Most people don't drink enough water, so drink to your health, and fuel your brain and body.
- Reduce clutter in your space to boost mental clarity.
- Take a personal inventory. It will help you discover how well you know yourself so that you can adjust accordingly. If you see that you excel in a structured environment, for instance, be sure to use your calendar in a way that organizes your time and your workload. Work smarter, not harder.
Being kind to yourself will ultimately enhance your overall well-being. When you prioritize your health and manage your time efficiently, you can give more naturally to the areas most important to you. You'll find that consistently applying a few of these small practices will reap great rewards. Chronic exhaustion and imbalance will take you more time to recover from than implementing a few simple strategies.
How many of these self-care strategies can you incorporate into your week ahead?