By Sareeta Lopez
I have always been the type to take on a lot and do it all without pause for a break. There was a point while attending my university where I was so sick I had a fever every day for about two weeks because I just didn’t have time to sleep.
Yeah, I know, I was a keener.
Now, I’m not what you would call a “keener” anymore, but I still do overwork myself because I’m the type of person who needs to be doing something constantly—whether it’s reading a book, cleaning the house, or binge-watching an entire season of a show. It’s like I have to accomplish something (even the tiniest thing) every day… everything besides my mental health.
Well, I’ve learned that mental health is ESPECIALLY important when you’re really busy, but I know it seems impossible when you’ve got a lot going on.
Listed below are ways to alleviate the stressors of your busy day that are so beneficial to your mental state:
Give yourself AT LEAST one block of time a day to take a quick break.
This could be the half hour after you get home from work, or going to bed 15 minutes early. My favorite time is after school and before bed. I use the time to connect with my partner and chat about the day and to read. The point is to use that time to wind down, maybe read a book or just lie on your bed for a few minutes and clear your mind. Whatever you do, during this time, stay away from screens. Your brain needs a break, and social media, even though we like it and want to use it, makes you feel busy and overwhelmed. It’s just the nature of it. Disconnect for only a few minutes a day, and it will help improve your mental health!
I am definitely guilty of eating frozen pizza and chicken strips when I’m swamped with work, but that only puts more stress on our bodies, resulting in exhaustion. But when I bother to get up and chop some vegetables to eat with dip as a snack and eat healthier meals, I not only feel less stressed but I feel more positive!
So take 10 minutes to chop up some carrots and celery so that you have it ready when you need a snack. Plan a couple of quick meals ahead of time so that on your busiest days you can conveniently reheat it in the microwave. The best thing is to do this in advance, so if you know you’re going to be busy, freeze some meals and thaw them out when you need it. And when you’re really busy, take an hour on the weekend and cook up a meal, so you have it for the next few days. I know, it feels like you could use your time for something better, but if you feed your body what it needs, you won’t be as tired and you won’t feel as stressed. It’s worth the effort!
If you have a friend or a significant other who can help you, ask them!
I used to have a super weird habit of not moving from my desk when I’m on a roll with writing, not even going to the washroom! So, when I was in university, a good friend of mine would check on me every so often (we lived on the same floor in residence) and she’d just open the door, say, “go to the bathroom!” and wait for me to come back so we could chat for a quick break.
These are people who care about you, so if you just let them know you’re feeling overwhelmed, they’ll want to help. If you live with your friend/significant other, ask if they do more cooking or take out the trash or whatever it is to help lighten your load. Ask a friend if they can come over at a particular time of day and force you to go to for a walk (or make you go the bathroom).
Work at least 10-20 minutes of exercise into your day.
It doesn’t need to be a big deal. Just go for a walk, and after 10 minutes, turn back. Alternatively, download Zova or QuickFit and do a couple of exercises quickly! It will do wonders for your mental health, so if you can scrounge 20 minutes of your time, you won’t regret it. It might hurt at the time (well, it will) but after you will feel a bit better! If you have to, reward yourself after – like chocolate milk, my favorite! Try to do this three times a week, but if you can’t, don’t worry about it. The point is to reduce stress, not add to it!
If you bus to work or to your activities, listen to music or read a book instead of checking your phones for emails and text messages.
Use the time to give yourself a mental break or reflect on your day. Again, any chance you have to stop feeling like you need to be doing something is vitally important! If your commute is especially long and you need the time to check those emails or do some work, then give yourself at least 15-20 minutes of a mental break during that time where you don’t do any of that work. Then get to it!
Reduce the stress by writing down everything you have floating around in your head.
Get it out of your head! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re trying to remember everything randomly. If you get all your to-dos and obligations out either on paper or in a list on your phone it will not only help you to see exactly what you have to do in a manageable way, but you’ll offload some of that stress because you don’t need to keep remembering – you can just refer to it on your phone, your planner, or wherever. It won’t be swirling around your head! So look at your list and figure out what needs to be done right away, what can wait, and do the most urgent things first.
Start saying no and cutting out things you don’t NEED to do.
When you’re super freaking busy, it’s the time to start prioritizing. You need to decide what’s most important to you. For me, I decided I don’t need to dust every single day or clean the bathroom every single week so that I can have some extra time to myself to literally. just. breathe.
If you don’t start prioritizing you-time and your mental health, your stress will start building. You need to start letting things go! Make a list of things you’re feeling pressure to do and begin generously crossing things off that you don’t have to do. Look at what you have left. Do you have the time, energy, and/or money to do them? Then do them, but ALWAYS make sure that no matter what, even if you can fit all those things in, you leave some extra time for just. Doing. NOTHING. Even for 10 minutes!
Yep. Not joking. It keeps me grounded, even if I only read for 15 minutes a day. (If you have time, or during your daily block of just 15 minutes, read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck to start. Trust me, it’s the best.)
Use a meditation app (or just simply breathe) for 5-10 minutes a day.
I used to work in the service industry in a busy downtown restaurant in Vancouver, and there were days where I had 12 tables at once, which is completely outrageous. When I felt overwhelmed and freaked out, I would stop at the till where I was entering in orders, close my eyes, and breathe for a few seconds. It was kind of incredible how well that works!
Now I use the app that came with my Bellabeat Leaf (a pretty step-tracking device) when I have a few minutes of free time and I actually remember. You might not think breathing and being mindful helps, but if you take it seriously and you give it a chance, it really does help!
Get enough sleep and make sure you have a good pillow!
I’ve been paying a lot of attention to sleep lately, because well, I suck at it apparently. I keep waking up groggy, sore, and hating mornings. I discovered my pillow was REALLY bad, so I found a new pillow that I decided to splurge on (it’s amazing, by the way – the Xtreme Comforts Memory Foam pillow on Amazon) and it helped a lot. Like, the first night I slept on it was like a dream! And it’s been consistent since then.
Besides that though, I tend to get between 6-7.5 hours of sleep each weeknight, and for me that’s not enough, even though I’m sleeping better.
It’s important to get enough sleep, because it helps you physically but it also reduces stress. Have you ever noticed how freakin’ b*tchy you are when you’re tired?! I know I can be awful. So take care of yourself and get a MINIMUM of 7 hours a night at least on average.
Even if you think you can get more work done if you stay up late, it will not only reduce your efficiency that night, it will also effect your work the next day.
I hope these tips help you out. I know they’re all things you KNOW you need to do to take care of yourself, but you struggle to do them. (I know I do!) So choose one or two of these things to incorporate into your life and practice doing them. You’re not going to do it consistently right away, but any improvement is a good improvement!
Originally published at vinazine.com.