Are you thinking a little bit more about lifestyle balance, having positive and productive days that don’t leave you feeling burnt out, or how you can make some simple changes to rejuvenate and recharge with positive mental health habits?
Our team at RKMD is about holistic health. And we believe that life balance is not only achievable, it is essential to improving your immune system. Staying active is good; but building in that essential downtime we all need to do non-work-related activities that recharge our life-satisfaction, is not only important to boost our general mood, but also our immunity and health.
Let’s take a look at some simple changes suggested by mental health resources, that can make a big difference in the mood and energy levels we experience every day.
Think about how you feel when a family member or friend confesses “I did absolutely nothing today”. For many people, there might be a reaction of concern. Does that individual have depression? How is it possible to go a whole day without doing anything productive around the house, or work-related? Is that a sign of a mental health problem?
In the North American culture, there is a tendency toward the ‘glorification of busy’. Think about how many times you have conversations where you are explaining to a friend or family member, exactly how much you were able to pack into your day. Whether you realize it or not, being ‘too busy’ can be less of a badge of honor, and more of a signifier that you aren’t getting the right amount of recreation, relaxed social, quiet time or creative time to balance out your busy schedule.
Taking time out for yourself is never ‘wasted time’. Putting out your hammock and grabbing a book to read, and then, just maybe, taking a short nap outside in the shade with the birds singing? Sounds pretty heavenly right? So, why don’t we allow ourselves to do it more often? In many of the healthiest countries in the world, this is part of daily life. What can we learn about prioritizing relaxation to create a healthier lifestyle for ourselves?
When you start looking at those important physical and mental health breaks as valuable and as important in your schedule as other action items in your busy weekly calendar, you’ll begin to change your perspective on bad habits that praise a hectic schedule, at the cost of recharging your mind and body.
Our bodies were not meant to be run as machines, for 16 hours per day and 7 days per week. Many prominent health experts have postulated that the contemporary work schedule (particularly in North America) works contradictory to our human biological design. Which could be one of the reasons we see more instances of chronic disease, and for the first time in history, declining life expectancy rates in America.
Many of the signs and indications that we are not living a balanced life, we may miss entirely. We can get so busy habitually, that we stop listening or looking for the very obvious messages that our bodies are sending us.
Some of those physiological signs and symptoms can include:
But the body also sends us some other signs that we can miss, that indicate unhealthy changes to our mental health. A significant change in mood, from happy and optimistic to more pessimistic and negative thought patterns, may indicate chronic exhaustion. The amount of patience we have for challenging social and work situations can also change; and we can find ourselves more prone to outbursts or irritable emotional reactions to small problems.
The best place to start is with a personal inventory.
When you have reached a certain point where these symptoms and mood shifts are very noticeable, you should talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes and stress management. Your primary care provider will explain to you why cortisol and other hormones can cause significant problems for your health, when stress (and the lack of lifestyle balance and relaxation) remains a chronic condition over time.
Stress is one of the most prominent causes of a weakened immune system. Even if you are exercising, eating right and getting good sleep every night, running your day on high cortisol not only predisposes you to increased risk for specific chronic diseases, it can make you more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. You can however start to make easy, incremental changes in your schedule and lifestyle habits to create that balance and down-time to improve personal wellness. Your sleep schedule is directly related to stress.
Since many of us are driven by our daily calendars that tells us what to do and where to be, why not use your calendar as a tool to make lifestyle balance and healthy changes happen?
We spoke to some of our Affiliates, customers, family and friends for some ideas about how they incorporate breaks and personal rejuvenation into their day, and busy work schedules, and here are some of the ideas they shared with us for some creative inspiration.
If you own a dog (or two), chances are that you use your backyard as their outside time. Open the door and the dogs go flying out for their break, and then come back inside. And if you are a good pet parent, maybe you take your pets to the local dog park on the weekends for social.
There are a lot of stress busting benefits to walking your dog as a routine, daily. If the weather permits, snap on that leash and pull on your comfortable walking shoes and take your dog for a spin around one or two blocks in your neighborhood. It will help you discharge built up lactic acid in your joints. It will provide exercise and fresh air and allow you to enjoy your natural surroundings and that quiet time with your dog. It will also help burn off calories after dinner, which can reduce indigestion and improve sleep quality.
Whether you have a backyard, or you reside in a high-rise with a balcony, or some large sunny windows, virtually everyone can have a little fun with gardening. One of our Affiliates commented that she turned her 20-foot balcony into a floral and vegetable garden that was the envy of her entire apartment floor.
If you already enjoy the stress reducing and mood boosting benefits of gardening, you aren’t imagining all those benefits. Whether you live in an urban or suburban setting, gardening provides healthy exercise, fresh air, creative expression and problem solving, and the engagement with soil and plants makes us feel really good.
Check out what the American Institute of Stress has to say about the tremendous health benefits of gardening. They also share a great infographic we think you’ll like, that summarizes why gardening is great for your mood, personal fitness, and detoxifying after a busy day.
When we get chronically busy, one of the first things that happens is that we stop cooking healthy foods and snacks for ourselves. Who has the time for that? Instead, we begin to rely on convenience foods and prepackaged meals and snacks which are never the most healthy or nutritious choices.
Make it your goal to create one new healthy recipe per week. Get on Google and find something that sounds delicious, but a recipe that you have never made before. Grab the ingredients and set aside two hours to create a healthy creative meal from scratch and enjoy slow conversational eating with your partner or family.
It’s a great way to expand your healthy cooking repertoire and start creating more structured social meals at the family kitchen table. And if you live alone, you can always invite over a family member or friend to share your creative culinary fun.
Naps are not a waste of time. Sure, you can’t exactly ‘check out’ for a nap during the middle of your workday (unless you use your lunch break for a short 30-minute nap in the car… that’s possible!). But when it comes to evenings and weekends at home, are you resisting all your body’s attempts to tell you to curl up, get comfortable and shut it down for a brief recharge?
Don’t fight it! If you are at home, take the nap! Find yourself a quiet and comfortable place and enjoy. There is a reason that doctors tell us to get more rest when we are sick. Our immune systems work best when we are asleep, and that cue from your body for a nap? Listen to it. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed, less stressed, and healthier.
We hope you enjoyed our stress busting suggestions, and there are many more other ways that people successfully tone down their busy day or week and make time for important rest breaks. If you have a suggestion or a link that you would like the share, please comment below. How do you make stress reduction and lifestyle balance part of your daily routine?