Mini-Moments of Self-Care:
It can be quite uncomfortable being stressed out all day. You spend every day struggling to be as productive as possible (for others, no doubt), draining every ounce of our “battery” to accomplish a myriad of daily duties, ending each night in exhaustion and frustration. You struggle to get the kids up and ready, feed the pets, drop the kids off at school, go to work, respond to a thousand emails and attend twenty meetings, you skip lunch most days or eat at your desk because the boss has piled another load of duties on you, then back home, cook, clean, fuss and fight about dinner and showers and bedtimes… the list goes on. I feel like just reading that increased your anxiety.
Allow me to introduce “Self-Care.” Self-Care is becoming a popular phrase now that more people understand the impact of mental & emotional health throughout our daily lives. The purpose of self-care is to protect your well-being and happiness, along with “recharging your battery” so you can get through the rest of your day with resiliency, rejuvenation, and efficiency. Self-care is defined differently for everyone, but the concept is simple… recognize & release the stress, find your peace, and relax!
In the heat of a stressful moment, you want to be calm & collected, but quickly you find yourself seeing red. Believe it or not, there are approaches that can help you avoid exploding. You may recognize you have done a few of these without awareness. After reading these articles (three-part series) you will have more self-awareness and more control over how you react to stressful moments. You will also be more intentional with recharging your battery to complete the day so you can feel less drained than before.
“In the Heat of the Moment” Techniques
Walk Away for a Moment: Changing your environment can allow your brain to decrease overwhelming stimuli, become conscious of the emotion you are stuck in, recognize a different perspective, and just take a breath. Do a little self-talk (or fuss to yourself) to release that emotion. When I was working in the restaurants, employees knew the (soundproof) refrigerated cooler was where you could go scream, cry, cuss, and whatever else it took to release your frustration (it can be quite a mentally strenuous job). After you leave the cooler, you go back to your tables with the biggest smile on your face, feeling completely decompressed.
Be Aware of What You Sense: We learned about our Five Senses in elementary school. Becoming over-stimulated pertains to an overload of the senses, consciously and unconsciously. Even things you are not paying attention to, the brain still registers. For example, going to the grocery store can be overstimulating due to: (hear) the sounds of dinging registers, kids playing in the aisles, announcements over the intercom, doors opening & closing; (see) crowded aisles, the abundance of products to choose from, the florescent lighting; (touch) touching the handle on carts, grabbing products off the shelf, your shoes may not be comfortable, people bumping into you; (smell) lingering scented candles, the smell of people passing by, the cooking of the marketing samples; (taste) you could taste your gum/ candy, trying a few samples being given away, and sometimes, your brain can taste some of the more lurid smells you encounter. For some, that is way too many stimuli at one time. For others, it is exciting, and they can play in it all day. Now that we are older, we put little thought into the senses, yet they can control our emotions.
5-4-3-2-1 Technique: When feeling overwhelmed and needing to ground yourself, or minimize what you are sensing, try this: Name 5 blue things you can see. Now close your eyes for a minute. Name 4 things you can feel, name 3 things you can hear, name 2 things you can smell, and name 1 thing you taste. This can minimize what you are allowing your brain to process so you can focus on what is important. This is a distraction tactic to get yourself out of your head and back in your body.
Breathing Technique: Breathing at a natural pace can help decrease panic or relieve stress during anxious moments. The oxygen regulates bodily functions such as chest pain, sweating, hyperventilation, and rapid heart rate. There are dozens of ways to regulate your breathing, including breathing in for 5 seconds, holding for 3 seconds, and exhaling for 5 seconds. I found a guru that demonstrates quick ways to regulate breathing and when he tells you to exhale, he tells you to verbalize as you exhale, releasing the stress/ frustration.
Gratitude: First, I feel the need to begin with: Give yourself GRACE! At times, just thanking yourself for the things you can or have accomplished is highly impactful in producing a positive mindset. Honestly, how much do you have thoughts about your problems while you’re driving or waiting in line? Replacing the negative thoughts with more uplifting self-appreciations allows you to recognize your strengths, accomplishments, resilience, and competence. You are not being cocky; you are fueling your confidence. You can thank yourself for already doing the laundry before everyone got up this morning or “I am so glad we worked on his homework before the rest of the kids got home from school… one less thing to have to worry about.” Being grateful for things that have NOT happened is also a good way to show gratitude. “I’m so appreciative I slowed down so I did not hit the dog,” or “If I were to have taken that appointment, my day would have been all messed up.” There is a positive and a negative perspective in every situation. Do you choose to appreciate the positive or allow the negative to take over your mood for the rest of the day? Biggest take-away here: Self appreciation & GRACE!
Exercise/ Get Back in Tune with your Body: The first thing I think of when thinking of exercise is ADRENALINE. Adrenaline is the source of anxiety. As soon as tragedy hits, our body becomes consumed with adrenaline. Your brain is naturally wired to imagine the worst outcome, and physically preparing to either fight, freeze, or run like hell (flight). “Physical activity releases stress hormones, cortisol & adrenaline, from the body. Alongside the reduction of these hormones, exercise also increases endorphins which produce natural pain killers and mood elevators (Harvard Medical School, 2020). Exercise is tough but constantly being stressed out is tougher.