January 9, 2020
It may not get the coverage it deserves, but America is in the midst of a stress epidemic. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Everyday Health, approximately one-third of people visited a doctor about something stress-related, with 57 percent admitting they're paralyzed by stress.
Credits : Person enjoying peaceful meditation alone in the morning twilight.Getty
While the causes of stress differ from person to person, the effects are the same when stress builds up. These can include insomnia, restlessness, fatigue, upset stomach, muscle tension, irritability, social withdrawal, substance abuse, and a lack of motivation. There can be long-term effects, too, from obesity to cardiovascular disease to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Fortunately, there's a proven way to ward off stress in your life: self-care. The term has been around for decades, but it's seen a resurgence in our tech-driven, always-on society. That's because self-care is necessary for our physical, mental, and emotional health. It lets us know when we're running on empty so we can replenish our resources.
It shouldn't be surprising that self-care can help us become more productive as well.
Self-care gives you a break from stress and anxiety.
Self-care won't eliminate all of the stress and anxiety in your life. It will, however, give you a much-needed break from common workplace and life stressors. Moreover, self-care gives you a reprieve from technology, affording you the opportunity to recharge and even improve the quality of your life.
Even more importantly, self-care activities can help you cope with stress. As Barbara Markway, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today, you should focus on activities that encourage you to zone in on your senses, such as breathing exercises, aromatherapy, or massages. You could also do things that make you happy, like crafting, going to the movies, or taking a walk.
Additional self-care tasks could be ones that assist you in mastering a skill, connecting with others, and accepting your emotions. You could engage in spiritual activities, like praying and meditating, and there's perhaps no greater stress buster than physical activity.
Self-care improves your cognitive functions.
"People that look after themselves [and practice self-care] do have better cognitive ability. They do have better focus and they do have better concentration," Dr. Russell Thackeray, a licensed clinical psychologist who consults on the topic of productivity, told Trello. "They tend to actually produce more."
Mindfulness, as an example, can reduce mind-wandering and improve focus and concentration. Regular exercise, as noted in the Harvard Health Blog, helps memory and thinking by reducing "insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors." If you're sleep-deprived, your decision-making abilities, focus, memory, and motivation will all take a hit.
Also, spending just five minutes on your smartphone can significantly impair your memory. It can also affect the quality of your sleep if you're on your phone right before bed; the blue light emitted from the screen can delay the release of melatonin.
Self-care provides some alone time.
Having a strong support system is a must. Social support is an effective way to cope with stress, improve motivation, and encourage you to make healthier choices. It's also been found that loneliness can increase the risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, and altered brain function.
We also need some solitude occasionally. Science shows that alone time can spark creativity, build mental strength, and increase empathy and productivity. It allows you to reflect, process ideas and thoughts, solve problems, and get better acquainted with yourself. It's hard to know what you want or need when you're always listening to what others need and want.
And when you're alone, it's much easier to get into a meditative state and practice gratitude. Both are great ways to reduce stress and fuel your motivation moving forward.
Self-care allows you to give more to others.
There's no denying that helping others makes you feel amazing. Whether it's volunteering or mentoring an employee, when you help others, feel-good chemicals are triggered in your brain. Helping others gives you perspective and strengthens the important relationships in your life.
Of course, you can't pour from an empty cup. Engaging in self-care will give you the energy and capacity to give more to others.
Incorporating Self-Care into a Hectic Schedule
Despite the benefits of self-care, it's not a priority for most people. Many believe they just don't have the time. Thankfully, there are some ways to incorporate self-care into your schedule, no matter how busy you are.
To start, create a schedule that includes a morning routine, blocks for working on your most important tasks during your peak productivity hours, and frequent breaks throughout the day. During these breaks, back away from the things causing you stress-meditate, journal, go for a short walk, catch up with a friend, or find inspiration via a book, podcast, or TED Talk. The Pomodoro technique is a great method for inserting breaks into your schedule: You work for a specific amount of time, usually around 25 minutes, then take a short break. You'll come back feeling refreshed and recharged.
Also, make sure to set boundaries. For example, if you don't want to be interrupted at work, turn off your phone and don't accept last-minute meeting requests. If you've already made plans, whether it's camping with your family or taking a class, say "no" to any requests that interfere with those plans.
Don't overwhelm yourself. Self-care doesn't have to be time-consuming or expensive. In fact, it's most effective when you focus on short, frequent self-care activities as opposed to infrequent and elaborate efforts, like an annual spa weekend. Self-care shouldn't add stress.
Self-care may sound like a selfish luxury, but it's anything but. Self-care gives you the energy to pursue the things that really matter-and that's a great use of your time.
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