It’s not a secret that most of us go around in a near-constant state of stress. Adulting isn’t what we dreamed it would be when we were kids and we’d cry, “I can’t wait til I grow up and I can do whatever I want.” Ah, the innocence of youth.
Constant stress takes a terrible toll on the body. It’s actually quite toxic. Stress impacts our sleep, our health, our eating, our relationships, our job performance and our mental health. So what’s a stressed out adult to do? Here’s my suggestion: make a date with yourself.
That’s right. I want you to schedule a few hours that are just for you, and when you can be totally alone, uninterrupted and focused on yourself.
I know what you’re thinking. “But Rose, I’ve got kids to take care of. The laundry is piling up. The yard is a mess. I’m behind at work. I don’t have TIME to give myself some time.”
Well busy person, I think you are dead wrong. Let me ask you something: do you change the oil in your car? Do you replace your furnace filters? Do you clean the lint trap in your dryer? You do, don’t you? You do these things because they’re preventative. You do them because you know if you don’t do them, sooner or later something is going to break down because of your inattention.
Your body is the same way. You make time for your annual “women’s wellness” check, right? You get your flu shot, your mammogram, your prostate check, or your colonoscopy, right? I would argue that getting a break from toxic stress and recharging your endocrine system is equally important. It’s not selfish, it’s healthy. And it needs to be done more than once a year.
So how do you make time? Some suggestions:
- Make an agreement with your spouse or partner that one Saturday or Sunday afternoon a month will be your time to be alone and do whatever you want
- Get a babysitter or trade babysitting with another parent
- Use a vacation day from work
- Send the kids or dogs to daycare
- Schedule your “me time” just like any other appointment – and keep it
- Turn a blind eye on your to-do list for a few hours
OK, so you’re alone now. Great. You’ve made the first step. Now it’s time to figure out what’s most restful for you. And I mean restful. This is not the time to go to Crossfit or see the latest Avengers movie. In order to fully rest, relax your adrenals and re-set, you need to so something quiet. Something you don’t need your brain for. You need to, dare I say it, be alone with your thoughts, have little or no distraction and be able to just breathe.
Some ideas to consider:
- Get a massage
- Practice meditation
- Go to a slow-paced yoga class, like gentle, restorative, yin or nidra
- Go for a hike or do something easy-paced in nature
- Use a float tank
- Soak in a hot tub
- Lay on a quiet beach
- Do an adult coloring book
- Stare into space
- Watch the clouds go by
- Stare at the stars
When all the distractions are gone and you can truly just be with yourself, magic happens. Your adrenals begin to quiet down. Your blood pressure decreases. Your breath slows down. Your pineal gland makes melatonin so you’ll sleep better. Your thymus makes white blood cells to fight infection. Your brain stops its frantic processing. You become relaxed.
Today I engaged in what was, for me, the trifecta of relaxation. I went to a gentle yoga class. I got a deep tissue massage that included cupping to draw out inflammation and toxins. Then I did a 90-minute float in a sensory deprivation tank. I settled more deeply into relaxation with each activity and tonight I feel like a new woman.
I recognize that I have privilege to be able to afford to spend most of my day relaxing. But there are lots of things you can do that are free or low-cost. Use YouTube videos for yoga or meditation. If you live near a beach or the forest, walking or sitting outside is free. Do some self-massage with a tennis ball or foam roller. Kick everyone out of the house and take a nice warm bubble bath by candlelight.
Be creative. The most important thing is that you are alone, it’s low-stimulation and quiet, there are no interruptions (don’t forget to turn off your phone) and that you are breathing deeply and consciously.
It’s you time. Do some preventative maintenance on yourself. Relax and recharge. You’ll be glad you did.
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