Building Self-Care into Our Routines

By Dr. Vaishna Sathananthan

For many of us, as we enter into September, our lazy summer days become replaced with workday routines and daily tasks. Maintaining self-care as we transition back into more structured schedules is vital for our mind, body and soul. I have been reading Daniel H. Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, and came across some simple, easy, self-care activities that can be done throughout the week, or even squeezed in during a busy Saturday.

 

Nap breaks

Make the time for quick naps.

  • Schedule your nap between 2-3 pm, or approximately 7 hours after waking.
  • Keep naps to 10-20 minutes. Napping for less than 25 minutes has been found to be the most restorative for productivity, mood and daily functioning. Consider using your phone as a timer and set it for 25 minutes before your next mid-day snooze.

 

Nature breaks

There is no better time than Fall to get outside.

  • Walk outside during your lunch break or incorporate an evening stroll after dinner with your family or pet.
  • Find a bench near your work place and eat your lunch outside instead of at your desk. Fresh air, sunshine and a change of scenery can be the perfect afternoon pick-me-up your brain needs before tackling the remaining work day.

 

Meditation breaks

Meditation has been shown to improve memory, concentration, and body’s healing during times of illness. If you haven’t tried meditation yet or it sounds overwhelming, fear not: there are great options to help you.

  • Try HeadSpace, one of my favourite apps, for short guided meditations and encouraging reminders.
  • Check out UCLA’s website for free guided sessions as short as three minutes in length​​​​​, or search the Internet for a length and theme that appeals to you.  

 

Breathing exercises

Controlled breathing can decrease your body’s cortisol levels (also known as the body’s stress hormone), improve thinking, and actually boost one’s immunity.

  • The next time you are stuck in traffic or waiting in the grocery line, try taking a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling to the count of five. Repeat it a few times, for a minute or two, and notice how you feel.

 

My Own Tip: Meal breaks

One of the simplest things we can do to take care of ourselves is to ensure we eat well. By well, I mean nutritious, healthy food. Remember to include at least 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies/day. Instead of reaching for a sugary snack or salty treat to improve your energy levels, consider an apple before lunch, a salad at dinner, a banana with your breakfast. These small changes can make an immense difference on your mind and body as you power through the Fall season.

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