How to Fit Self Care into a Busy Day
Most of us lead busy lives and it feels as if we don’t have any extra time to fit in those things that we know we need to do to relax and manage stress levels. Finding a few minutes a day is typically possible even for the busiest among us, and prioritizing stress relief is essential to living more balanced lives.
Stress affects our bodies in many ways. It can put our bodies and brains in “fight or flight” mode in which our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol to fight the misperceived threat to our safety. We lose access to our pre-frontal cortex (aka. logical processing center) and react solely on instinct and emotion. Increased respiration and elevated heartbeat can trigger panic symptoms in some. Long term exposure to stress can contribute to metabolic syndrome, difficulties managing blood sugar levels and gastrointestinal issues. Insomnia, muscle tension and depression are other common effects of stress.
But how can we work to manage the stress that comes with our daily lives? Identify what works for you to reduce stress, and how to fit it into your schedule on a regular basis.
What are some self care activities that you enjoy? Walking, taking a shower/bath, reading, painting your toenails — anything that is enjoyable and makes you feel better afterwards can be seen as self care.
Identifying available time for stress relief
When are you doing something that is not necessary for your responsibilities? Social media and television are both notorious for sucking up our time. What is this time on social media and television giving back to you? Connection? Distraction? While it may be a good way to stay connected with friends and family, it is easy to spend more time than necessary. There may be more constructive ways to distract yourself. Think about hobbies and other pleasurable activities (e.g. reading, playing a game with a family member, drawing/coloring/knitting). How can you connect with others in a more meaningful way, like calling or setting up face to face time together.
Focused relaxation and stress relief doesn’t take much time. Some of the most effective self care likely only takes a few minutes a day. Some effective relaxation exercises, like body muscle relaxation (see my blog post on Reducing Excessive Worrying for more information on this) and deep breathing can take just a few minutes at a time. For a deeper, more effective relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and meditation may take a bit longer (10-20 minutes) but the stress reduction benefit will be worth the effort.
As our daily lives become increasingly hectic, taking the time to integrate self care and relaxation techniques into our regular routines is an essential part of maintaining mental and physical health. It may seem daunting at first to fit yet another activity into your already busy schedule, but even adding a few minutes of relaxation time into your day will provide surprising benefits to help cope with the stresses of daily life.