We are finally normalizing mental health as an essential aspect of our daily lives. It’s easy to get caught up in our routines from work, school, gym, family, and the multitude of obligations we pile into our day. With all of our responsibilities, we forget to give ourselves permission to chill out and feel guilty if we do. Luckily, taking a moment for yourself does not have to take a lot of time or money.
Before the brink of the 2020 pandemic, I was a personal trainer and yoga instructor with a very packed schedule in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most weeks, I worked 50 or so hours fleeting from one appointment to the next, barely able to catch my breath. Taking time for myself felt like an unnecessary luxury. In March 2020, everything stopped for all of us. At first, I panicked at the extreme drop of hours in my schedule. Then I realized I could breathe. With forced free time on my hands, I found ways to give myself mini-mental breaks regularly. You also deserve to put yourself first.
Have you gotten a chance to slow down? Build-in these five inexpensive ways to support your mental health and observe the benefits of free time for yourself mentally and emotionally.
1. Move Your Body
You must be thinking that this is something easy for me to do as a personal trainer and yoga teacher. However, I’m talking about time for YOU! If your job is active, you are still working, and work is work. If you have a 9 to 5 desk job, staring at the screen for hours can make you feel sluggish and foggy-brained. There are so many ways to get that blood pumping with a brief period of a mental break. These days you don’t need a gym or studio to sculpt or get your om on. You can find online wellness classes with a great list of experienced teachers, such as Practyce. You will discover various yoga instructors and classes to help you de-stress from your day. If you aren’t into working out, you can go for a walk in your neighborhood. Either way, take a deep breath and enjoy your alone time.
2. Get Lost In A Book
There’s something about getting lost in the story of a good book. It’s like this short escape from reality, depending on what you enjoy reading. As much as we are on our phones, I tend to enjoy a break from my electronics and read on occasion from an actual paper book. E-books can be the most affordable and quickest way to read the latest and greatest on the cheap.
Don’t forget about that library card to save on buying new books and talk about being environmentally friendly! As a new resident of Brooklyn, NY, I decided to take advantage of this method to get FREE books. These days, libraries have options for both physical and e-books depending on your preference. Whether it is an article or continuing another chapter of the story, reading early in the morning is one of my favorite ways to support my mental health. If morning is a rush with a full house, reading is also a great way to unwind before bedtime. The main thing with reading is that it allows our brains to stop multi-tasking and focus on just one thing. Yes, even sometimes, your mind needs to take a deep breath.
3. Spa Day
An actual trip to the spa is not generally cheap. It’s a luxury that many cannot afford regularly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create the same spa-like environment at home. I make it a point every weekend to take a warm bath. Sometimes I get fancy with a bath bomb, candles, wine, the whole works. Other times I draw up a warm bath and add in some Epsom salts from the drug store. There are so many ideas for at-home treatments using standard household items such as adding baking soda to your facial cleanser as an exfoliant or drops of essential oils to your bath for a heavenly scent. Create a relaxing environment with candles, music, and maybe even dessert. Why not?
4. Find Your Community
Connecting with others is more important than you might think. Call or video chat with a friend, your favorite family member, or a quick conversation with your neighbor on the driveway can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions. Much of our stress stems from the constant tasks to do from our work and home life. It’s necessary to break beyond those walls so you can step away from these stressful environments. Social connections are crucial to our survival and flourishing as the need for food, safety, and shelter. You never know when you will chat with another new mom to find ways to help with a teething baby, someone looking for a workout buddy, or a connection that can lead to business opportunities.
5. Disconnect From Your Devices
These days we have instantaneous connectivity. Emails, texts, and social media allow us to contact each other in a snap. Anyone else obsesses over the notifications and need to clear them as soon as they pop up? Having a tech-free day or setting your phone to a “do not disturb” mode allows you to limit screen time and significantly reduce your stress because you block out time to use your technological devices. Our devices are getting smarter and even allow us to set boundaries to create a healthy lifestyle. I have “do not disturb” hours specified on my phone to stop notification with any late-night emails or early morning text. This allows me to create boundaries and a healthy balance for personal time and work schedule hours, so my brain doesn’t always feel like it’s in a state of fight or flight.
I encouraged you to take a mental break to prevent burnout. It doesn’t take much to treat yourself with the care to re-center, replenish, and re-boot!
By Christine Oakes
October 23, 2020