As January comes to an end, it’s hard not to reflect on time spent. After all, many have set resolutions and approached them- guns blazing. Others have taken time to rest and repair. If anything can be learned from the COVID-19 challenges, it’s that there is a time for work and a time for rest. Many of us have adopted stress management techniques to help us get by.
Those that promote all ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’ may be failing to mention two factors that help achieve those things: rest and repair. It’s simply not possible to be ‘on’ or ‘on the go’ all of the time. We aren’t programmed that way- we need time to rest and regroup.
In my book A Year of Self Care Journal, I share my perspective on self-care.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
“The umbrella of self-care is wide, and it includes the essentials we’ve likely heard about since we were kids: getting a good night’s sleep, providing your body with adequate exercise, and eating healthy foods.
It’s also so much more. It includes creating and fostering positive relationships, engaging with your community, helping others, and accepting help when it’s offered.
Self-care refers to taking responsibility for your health and wellness, empowering yourself to be the expert on you. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), self-care is a global necessity, and it encompasses a wide range of principles, as stated on the WHO website: The fundamental principles of self-care include: aspects of the individual (e.g., self-reliance, empowerment, autonomy, personal responsibility, self-efficacy) as well as the greater community (e.g., community participation, community involvement, community empowerment).
Self-care starts with your relationship with yourself and radiates outward. It involves slowing down to listen to yourself and ensuring that your needs are met. Far from being a selfish act, as a cared-for person, you are able to better engage with the world and help satisfy the needs of the community, which is also beneficial for you–a self-care boomerang.”
In the book, I identified five key areas where we could use some rest and repair: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and social. Let’s dig in.
Stress Relief: Identify Your Emotions
Emotions are like crayons: sometimes we keep using the same ones over and over again. Take note, what emotions do you feel on a regular basis?
How are you? The first step in relieving stress is identifying the effect it is having on you emotionally. In the 1970s, researchers identified six basic universal emotions, but by 2017, Dacher Keltner and colleagues at UC Berkeley extended that list to 27 different emotions: admiration, adoration, aesthetic, appreciation, amusement, anxiety, awe, awkwardness, boredom, calmness, confusion, craving, disgust, empathetic pain, entrancement, envy, excitement, fear, horror, interest, joy, nostalgia, romance, sadness, satisfaction, sexual desire, sympathy, and triumph.
Brene Brown just came out with a new book called Atlas of The Heart in which she identifies 87 different emotions. I spent my winter break with my nose in this one, and believe that it’s better to have more crayons in that crayon box.
Having the language to express and identify your emotions helps you experience them mindfully and staying out of the overwhelm. Experiencing them, observing them, letting them pass.
Stress Relievers: Intentional Rest
Stress relievers may look different for everyone, but a common reliever is scheduling an intentional rest. For example, my family and I take a screen break from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. We don’t go on screens, make phone calls, or check emails. It’s a wonderful part of the week. I have a client who puts a 30-minute lunch on her calendar every day, and her work colleagues know that’s sacred time. Another colleague meditates twice a day at the office for 15 minutes, creating their own space for downtime.
How can you schedule rest this week? Take a media break for one day this weekend or perhaps a portion of the day? Schedule quiet time into your day for 10 minutes three times this week? Take a mental health day where your only plan is not to have a plan and to just be? However you’d like to do it, intentionally plan your rest, commit to it, and gift yourself that time.
How to Use Stress Management Techniques: Three Good Things
One of the ways to manage stress is an exercise I give in A Year of Self-Care Journal called “Three Good Things” that was popularized by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Each day, at the end of the day, recall something good that happened that day.
It could have been a juicy peach you ate, with its juices dripping down your face, or a bright red cardinal that you saw out your window after a snowstorm. When you recall the event, take your time with it. Set a timer for 2½ minutes, and return yourself to the exact moment; let yourself live it again. Remember what you were doing at the time, who you were with. Give it context and detail. And, most importantly, let yourself feel the feelings again-the delight, the joy, the satisfaction, the good.
If you like, you can also take a few minutes to record the experience verbally or write it down in this week’s entry or on a separate sheet of paper. By recalling the experience in detail, you are better able to feel the emotions of the moment again. Repeat this exercise five times this week.
Taking time out to do “the little things” works wonders on helping someone manage stress. Do you think you’ll use this new stress management technique?
Stress Reduction: Learn and Engage
Learning invigorates your brain and gives you the opportunity to practice and develop a skill. As you fall deeper into an interest or hobby, you have a new way to engage with the world and with other people who have similar interests.
Is there something you’ve been thinking about learning? A new language? Playing the piano? Bird-watching? Terrarium building? Calligraphy? Knitting? When you give yourself the time and space to pursue an interest, you forge new neural connections. You may experience flow state and increasing levels of mastery, which are joyful in and of themselves and help you develop confidence.
Identify a hobby you’d like to learn more about, and dedicate five hours this week to that hobby. Give yourself extra points if you pursue something you’ve been thinking about for a while.
It’s surprising how well healthily taking our mind off of our stressors can help with stress reduction. What hobbies do you plan to take up to help with your stress reduction- if you choose to take the joint route?
Stress Reduction Techniques: Reframing
Let’s use three different lenses: pessimism (looking at what could go wrong, framing negatively), optimism (seeing what could go right, with a positive spin) and realism (unemotional perspective, fact-based).
First, look at something you’ll be doing today-perhaps going to the beach, giving a presentation, or making dinner for friends. The optimist will imagine a sunny day, an easy drive, a clean beach. The pessimist will envision a terrible speech, technical difficulties, a disrespectful audience, and negative feedback after the talk. The realist will think about the friends who will be coming, the food that will be prepared, and the way they’d like to set the table.
Each day this week, consider a situation that you are in, and spend a few moments seeing it through each of these lenses. Record your storytelling from each lens into a microphone, or write it down in this week’s entry or on a separate sheet of paper. Which lens do you naturally gravitate to? Play with perspective this week, and observe how shifting the story you tell yourself shifts your experience.
Using these stress reduction techniques will not only help you stay afloat mentally, but they will help you rest and repair more easily.