By: Jen McWaters, Psy.D. | October 16, 2020
I and others I know seem to long for rest more than anything else these days. Between the news on natural disasters, the political climate, and COVID-19, I find that many of us experience too much stimulation from too much information input resulting in too little space for rest. For some, working from home provides a respite from long commutes and stressful office atmospheres while providing more time for self-care. For others, however, working from home means an increase in family demands, multitasking, and over-work from never “leaving the office.”
Wherever you find yourself in this continuum, take a moment to assess how well you find time for self-care and controlling your stress levels. Some basic suggestions follow about how to achieve greater balance and find R.E.S.T. in your daily routine:
Take some deep abdominal breaths whenever you feel anxious and as a daily ritual while lying in bed before sleep. Deep breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system, slows down our heart rate and increases a sense of calmness. A nice practice tip is to place one hand lightly on your belly wherein your deep breath results in pushing out your stomach while your upper chest and shoulders stay relaxed.
Exercise, including gentle movement and stretching, reduces levels of our stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins. Also, exercise stimulates blood-flow and wakefulness and can help to increase energy during the day for activities, which enable us to fall asleep more easily at night. This takes us to the importance of…
Get sufficient amounts of quality sleep, which not only helps to improve mental health but also keeps your immune system strong in these times of unusual stress. If you struggle getting a full night’s rest, consider some sleep hygiene changes you can make to improve the quality of your sleep including meditation or calming music, eliminating electronics use in and before bed, keeping your room dark and quiet, and putting an end to caffeine or alcohol use, particularly on weeknights.
Take a Break
Give your mind a break from rumination and worry. During the workday don’t forget to get up, walk around, and take breaks from screen time. Try a meditation app (client favorites include Calm, Balance, and Headspace). Take an extended break from social media or TV. Take a mini staycation or vacation to get out of your space, especially if you have worked from home for an extended time.
Do what you can and acknowledge how hard it is to change habits and find time for self-care. Remember that even small changes can have a big impact over time to make you feel more resilient. So, do not get discouraged! Implement one or two small changes this week that make sense for you. When you do that, consider adding a couple more changes next week. Every little bit helps and remember to get R.E.S.T.