Our society values multi-tasking, working on the go, and being accessible at all hours of the day and night. This push towards constant availability has made it hard for our over-worked minds and bodies to take a break for much needed rest and relaxation. Working and being out of touch with the present moment is what can contribute to exhaustion, increased stress/anxiety, depression, lack of enjoyment, and even burnout. Reading this blog is perhaps your first step towards self-care, and implementing it into your busy, demanding life.
Hectic and non-stop schedules can impact us on an emotional and physical level. This can be explained by the strong mind-body connection. Our moods instruct the brain to send out signals to the body to act in a certain way, while at the same time, our bodies send messages to our brains about how we are feeling. For example, when anxious, our brains send a message to our muscles telling them to prepare for upcoming threat, resulting in muscle tension. At the same time, our body can send messages back to the brain letting us know our muscles are tense, and therefore, there is something to be worried or stressed about, resulting in anxious thoughts. Furthermore, when we try and push stress or any kind of emotion out of our mind, it commonly finds its way to seep out in a somatic way, like a headache, stomachache, or fatigue. Being more in touch with what your body needs can help to reduce emotional and physical manifestations of intense emotions.
Try this. Think about ANYTHING you want. ANYTHING. Except, I don’t want you to think about a white elephant. Think of anything else except that. Wait five seconds and then check in with yourself- what are you thinking about? Most likely that white elephant. The more we remind ourselves not to think about the things that stress us out, the more space it takes up in our brain, reminding ourselves not to think about it.
Focusing on the present moment is a helpful tool to bring you back down to earth after getting lost in the cloud of your thoughts. Even while writing this, I catch myself pausing to check my email, answer a text, or review my calendar. It is challenging for us to stay focused on the moment that we are in. A tool I frequently use with clients is called “The Five Senses.” All it requires you to do is to focus on your five senses. For example, I typically zone out the buzzing of my heater, or don’t feel my feet on the ground below me. Focusing in on our senses redirects our attention and focus to what is going on around us in that moment, as opposed to being lost in the “what ifs” and “what was.” Since our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, this is a great way to shift your attention to what can help reset your mind and body as a break from your worries and stress.
Another way to reset is to plug in time in your calendars to engage in self-care. Just as you schedule appointments and meetings, hold yourself accountable to take those 5 minutes (or even an hour!) to breathe deeply, walk around the block, or take a hot shower. You can even use technology to remember for you by setting reminders on your phone. It is recommended to take a 5-10 minute break after an hour of solid work. This short break allows oxygen and blood to circulate better throughout your body, and reset your body and mind for the next 60 minutes of work. If you sit for most of your day, it is encouraged to move your body to release any tension, as opposed to continuing to sit at your desk in front of a screen. You can also set your phone notifications off at a certain time of day, so that you are officially “unavailable,” allowing you to reconnect with loved ones or turn your brain off.
If we don’t allow ourselves time to reset, we eventually can reach burn out. Signs of burn out include depression, lack of enjoyment, and extreme fatigue. Think of a car that has run out of gas, yet is being forced to drive at full speed on the highway. It gets to a point where the car has to fully stop because it cannot push further, and instead needs to fill itself up with energy in order to keep going. Similarly, we sometimes don’t realize we need to stop until our minds and body don’t let us push further. It is important at this point to recognize limits, and think about how to proceed.
Our clinicians at Urban Balance can help you find ways to process your burn out, but also explore ways to make self-care a more prevalent part of your week. Meeting with one of our therapists is also in of itself a way to engage in self-care, as you choose to spend an hour a week focusing on you and how to be and feel the best that you can.