It is no secret. Often women are the keepers of their home. And it can drive you CRAZY! How can we keep our sanity? We need to give ourselves a time out and decompress. Decompressing is essential for your mental health. But how can you do that when you have patients to see, notes to write, family to take care of, errands to run, projects to finish, etc?
STOP. First you need to stop the internal list running through your head. Yes, you are busy. However, you should never become too busy to take care of yourself. Remember the airline attendant reminds you at the beginning of each flight that in the event of an emergency, place your mask on FIRST.
How can you decompress? You have already taken the first step. You recognized that you need this time to yourself. Now take a deep breath and schedule yourself some ME time or even a ME Day where you focus on you and take time off.
1) Deep Breathing. Speaking of taking a deep breath, this is an excellent way to decompress. Deep breathing relaxes you by increasing oxygen to the brain and activating your parasympathetic system to slow down your heart rate and preparing for a ‘’rest” state. Deep breathing can help when you have only a few minutes to have to yourself.
2) Take a walk. Take a walk around your neighborhood, a park, a museum, or anywhere you feel comfortable. Take in the scenery and reflect on life.
3) Exercise. In addition to walking, you can go exercise. Exercise is a great stress reliever. It helps to increased endorphin levels which can decrease stress hormones.
4) Schedule a fun activity. Do something you like for a change. Schedule yourself a ME Date and plan an activity that will feed your soul. Activities can include yoga, an art or dance class, or a night out at the theatre. There are no fun activities off limits.
5) Disconnect from electronic devices. Whether you disconnect for 30 minutes or a day, plan time away from your phone, smart devices, or television. All of the constant reminders and alerts can cause more stress. You will see how less stressed you feel when you do not feel pressured to answer all of the device notifications.
6) Take a long shower or bath. Sometimes just having time alone while showering or bathing is enough to calm you down before dealing with the world.
7) Sleep. Getting adequate sleep is very important to decompressing and staying positive in the face of stress. Seven to eight hours per day is recommended to keep you refreshed. And if you are not getting the minimal required sleep (like 35% of the US), it is okay to try to take a short 30-minute nap to refresh you. Just do not make a habit out of taking naps. Making a consistent sleep schedule will serve you better in the long run.
8) Get a massage. Schedule a professional massage or have a loved one give you a massage. Either way, massages can be very calming and relaxing.
9) Schedule quality time with a loved one. Sometimes you need to recharge yourself and your relationship by scheduling alone time with that special someone.
10) Meditate. Clear your mind and the rest will follow. If you have 5 minutes or an hour, take some time to be present and aware of your surroundings without thinking of your long list of things to do. Your mental health takes top priority
And the most important tip- Do not wait for permission to put yourself first! A healthy mind will lead to a more productive and fulfilling life. Cheers to you!
Alana Biggers, MD, MPH, FACP, is an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She is also co-author of The Chronicles of Women in White Coats.