How many times a week do you feel stressed? How many times a day? For many of us, stress is part of our daily lives, both at work and at home. It can be all too easy to get locked into a cycle of stress and burnout if you don't keep track of how you are feeling. For Mental Health Awareness Week, I’d like to look into how you can switch off from the stress and find moments of calm in your daily life.
Taking a break
So many of us are constantly on the go, endlessly activating our minds with our smartphones, social media and everyday stresses. In doing so, we keep our brains in a hyper excited state for long periods of time, pushing them to produce stress hormones continually. This undercurrent of stress means that it can take very little to push us over into crisis mode which can then lead to depression, anxiety and many other common forms of mental illness.
Taking a break means taking time to relax and let yourself be still and silent. There are lots of mindfulness products available nowadays to fill the growing need for us to disconnect from our busy world, many of which are apps. In my opinion, this is not conducive to creating a relaxed state if you are looking at the very screen where minutes ago you were checking emails and posting on social media. Switching off is a skill that you have to learn for yourself, taking it step by step and gradually improving over time.
It’s all too easy to miss out on simple moments of calm when you’re constantly on the go. We sit down in a café and get out our phones or read the newspaper. Even when we’re walking, most of us will listen to loud, busy music, continually keeping our brains buzzing.
To get out of this cycle, you have to make a plan of action as you would for any important goal in your life. Schedule your pauses. Make sure you have time to just switch off. In these moments that you have chosen to dedicate to yourself, put your devices away and sit somewhere peaceful, letting the silence wash over you.
You may like to try doing breathing exercises or meditation, whatever helps you to calm your mind. If you know that you struggle with taking breaks, you can even set yourself a timer so that you have an allotted time in which you can just relax, before ramping up again. Just 5minutes can make an enormous difference to your mental health and your ability to cope with stress.
Find what works for you
To prioritise my own mental wellbeing, I like to go out for a walk at least once a day. I have a dog so I always have a reason to get out of the house and switch off from work and the technology that’s all around me. As soon as I step out the door, I can feel the wind on my face, maybe the warmth of the sunlight, hear the rustling of leaves in the trees. I can breathe and be still, even whilst walking.
Going for a stroll is a really simple way to introduce some switching off time into your routine, whether you have a dog or not. Don’t look down at the ground or at your phone, look up and out. Look around you and take in the world. Look up at the sky and appreciate the clouds, the colours and everything you can see.
Creativity and relaxation
In my experience, some of the most accomplished business people are the ones who are able to take a step back when they need to. Being constantly busy is not necessarily the best route to success. Using your time wisely rather than constantly is the best method for achieving your goals and avoiding burnout.
You need to give yourself time to switch off and be with your own thoughts. This is when creativity comes into your life and you are able to see things from a different perspective. You can be your most productive even when you’re not realising you are, whether walking the dog or spending some time on your own in a café or at home. I strongly recommend taking time today to switch off and synchronise yourself with your inner thoughts. You may be surprised where it takes you.
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