Self-care is critical for stress management, wellness and overall well-being, but it is not an intuitive practice in today’s always-on, outcome-driven world. Coping with stress through self-care activities like exercise, meditation or catching up with friends may seem like an elusive luxury. Yet, research demonstrates that self-care boosts overall well-being and improves workplace performance.
Studies by University of Texas Associate Professor Kristin Neff, who created the Self-Compassion Scales, have found that women actually tend to have slightly lower levels of self-compassion and self-care than men. Women often take on caregiving roles in addition to other demands, and they can be particularly susceptible to the belief that self-care is selfish. Therefore, their own self-care falls by the wayside as they prioritize caring for others.
One way to practice self-care for physical and mental health is through mindfulness, the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Benefits include reducing stress and anxiety levels, encouraging positive emotions and bolstering social connections and emotional intelligence. Here are a few mindfulness-inspired tips to practice self-care for wellness and stress management.
- Breathe: You may not have time to sit for a 10-minute mindfulness meditation, but you always have time to take a deep breath. When stressed or distracted, people tend to take shallow, hurried breaths. The next time you notice yourself getting frazzled, breathe deeply into and out of the lower abdomen. Breathing in this way massages the vagus nerve, which calms the central nervous system.
- Practice Gratitude: The human brain has evolved with a negativity bias, meaning that human brains are wired to cling to bad memories and discount good ones. To train your brain for positivity, practice being extra aware of the good things during your day. A positive attitude will enhance your productivity and help you keep your stress levels down.
- Enjoy Time in Silence: Practicing silence on a regular basis rejuvenates the mind and body. Carve out small chunks of silent time during daily life. Ideas include committing to a daily mindful meditation practice or practicing a “digital detox” where you abstain from using technology for 15 to 75 minutes per day.
- Practice Lovingkindness Meditation: Lovingkindness meditation is a practice of cultivating love, compassion, and acceptance for yourself and all beings. It is particularly helpful in boosting self-compassion, lowering stress levels, reducing tension headaches and fostering social connectedness. Find a quiet place to sit and let your mind rest on your breath. Invite in a sense of caring for yourself, perhaps imagining yourself through the eyes of a loved one. Then, begin to send that love outwards to others. You might start with someone you love unconditionally, and then expand outward to friends, acquaintances and eventually to all beings.
- Take a Mindful Walk: Sitting behind a desk and in the car for many hours each day can make it easy to forget that the mind and body are connected. Improve your state of mind and body by taking a mindful walk. Leave your phone behind and let your mind rest on sensory inputs and body movement as you walk. Even just five minutes of mindful walking can change your perspective and raise your energy levels. If you don’t have time for a dedicated stroll, stay mindful of the body by getting up to stretch at your desk or by parking far away from your destination to get some extra mood-boosting movement.
- Make Space: Carve out a dedicated space for mindfulness and self-care in your home. Consider creating a meditation space in the corner of your bedroom or dedicating a cozy armchair for self-reflection. You can adorn your self-care space with photos, plants, candles, journals, pillows, blankets, and anything else that nourishes you. Having a regular space for self-care will make your self-care time more enjoyable and remind you of your practice whenever you see the space.
Experts recommend doing at least one small thing every day to invest in our mental and physical wellness. Self-care will help us recharge, feel better and perform better during the hours we do work and care for others.
Dorsey Standish is chief mindfulness officer of Mastermind Meditation. For more information, visit MastermindMeditate.com.
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