Most of us have multiple roles in life — caregivers, partners, parents, friends, co-workers, bosses, community members. Having to juggle those roles, while being constantly inundated with information and opinions via social media, and it’s no wonder so many of us are feeling worn out.
The good news is that there are a few simple things anyone can do — starting today — that will help us deal with a period of exhaustion. Of course, the idea is to address potential stressors before they become problems with tiny behavior changes known as Microsteps (like setting an alarm for a half an hour before your bedtime so you have a chance to wind down). But it’s always a good idea to have a few research-backed tricks in your back pocket for days when you need a little pick-me-up (that don’t involve chugging a giant cup of coffee). Here are three you may want to try:
When we’re exhausted, it can be tempting to try and juggle as many tasks as possible so we can (in theory) finish earlier and then rest. But in practice, multitasking doesn’t help. When we try and take on too many things at once, it makes it even harder for us to focus and actually decreases productivity, according to the American Psychological Association. Furthermore, researchers at Stanford University reviewed more than a decade’s worth of data on multitasking and found that people who engage with multiple types of media at the same time performed worse on memory-related tasks. So if you’re already exhausted, do your brain a favor and only focus on one task at a time.
Spend some time in nature (or at least looking at it)
If you’re already working with depleted energy levels, you probably try and avoid any additional movement or stimuli, but spending some time in nature can leave you feeling energized. And no, you don’t need to take a week — or even a full day — off to reap the benefits of the great outdoors: spending even just 20 minutes walking outdoors can help reduce stress and make us feel better, according to a recent study published in Frontiers of Psychology.
Similarly, 2008 research found that not only does spending time in nature help improve our ability to pay attention, but looking at pictures of nature can have the same mentally energizing effect. As a first step, you could change the wallpaper or screensaver on your computer to an image of natural beauty that you find particularly inspiring, or keep a folder of a striking nature photos at-the-ready to click through when you need a boost.
Take a nap
Society has conditioned us to think of sleep — especially naps — as everything from luxurious to lazy, when in fact, they’re neither. How many times have you started blankly at a computer screen while you tried to think of what you’re supposed to be working on? All of those zone-outs add up, and if we were somehow able to take a 20-minute nap, chances are we’d be more creative, productive, and efficient. According to a 2006 study published in the journal Sleep, even a 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements, including increased cognitive performance and decreased sleepiness.
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