The Importance of “Me Time”: Three Proven Ways to Relieve Stress and Improve Overall Health During the Workweek
It’s no secret that our careers, while a valuable aspect of a healthy and balanced life, can cause tremendous amounts of stress. From managing tight deadlines to courting clients, we constantly encounter a whirlwind of stressful triggers throughout the week. Add on that we must also attend to the needs of our family and friends in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic and it’s no wonder that we are exhausted both mentally and physically by week’s end. While I cannot promise that you will have less virtual meetings or assignments going forward or your kids are not going to need you the minute you walk in the door, I can say that carving out a few minutes each workday for “me time” can have a tremendous impact on your overall stress levels and physical health.
In the long run, taking these measures will not only help you feel better but can actually improve your overall performance and productivity.
With these goals in mind, here are three proven ways to take some valuable “me time” and relieve stress during the workweek:
1. Just Breathe…
So simple, yet we tend to lose awareness of our breath when we zero in on the multitude of tasks during work. In reality, taking just 1 to 2 minutes every hour to focus on your breathing can lower your stress by triggering a response from your parasympathetic nervous system, which causes a decrease in heart rate to resting levels and promotes proper digestion. While there are many fancy breathing techniques out there, a good way to start practicing this healthy habit is to close your eyes and breathe in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth for about 5 seconds each. Also, be sure to hold your breath for about 5 seconds between each inhale and exhale to produce a restful and rhythmic breathing pattern. While breathing, try to focus on how your breath is moving throughout your body. You’ll be amazed on how these simple tips can help ground and rejuvenate you during stressful times. If you are interested in learning more about focused breathing techniques, click here to join our mailing list and receive a copy of our free audio guide.
2. Shake It Off…
Physical tension in the body can easily accumulate throughout the day, especially in trigger points and muscles via poor postural habits (i.e. slumping and not sitting upright). This can lead to aches, pains, and stiffness over time, creating imbalance in the musculoskeletal system. To alleviate these tensions, take a break every 30 minutes or so to move out of your workstation and change positions. For my patients, I recommend setting a timer as a friendly reminder.
Stand up, walk around, bend over, touch your toes, reach for the sky, and rotate your arms around your body like a windmill.
In addition, use your workspace to your advantage by creating opportunities to move around and stretch. For example, consider investing in a stand-up desk to avoid prolonged sitting or walk around and stretch while taking a phone call. Really, any movement and stretch will be beneficial for relieving the negative effects of prolonged static posture! The point is to move…and breathe! 😊
3. Unplug to Connect…
Humans are inherently social and do not live well in isolation. Unfortunately, between the pressures of being trapped at our desks and the added removal of social interactions at many offices due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are more alone than ever during the workweek. With this in mind, make a conscious effort to connect with others for a few moments each day. Reach out to a friend, colleague, or family member for a quick chat or a socially distanced coffee or lunch date. Taking your mind off your work momentarily can ease mental stress and put things in perspective, which helps ease tension in your body. Also sharing a good laugh with someone is proven to release tension and produce critical endorphins in your brain and body that help with relaxation. Just remember that when making time to connect, it is equally important to UNPLUG! Do not substitute connectivity time with social media, as studies have shown extended phone usage and social media engagement can actually increase stress. Instead, put your work and phone away and strive to be fully present in the moment.
The stresses of the workweek are an unfortunate reality that we must live with to reach many of our career and life goals. However, your career does not need to come at the expense of your physical and mental well being. By following these three simple steps each day, you can have that valuable “me time” that will reduce stress, prevent burnout, and help you attain that valuable work-life balance we all need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Thanks for taking a few minutes of ME time-see you back here next week for our Wellness Wednesday series!