Some days it can seem impossible to juggle work and life while trying to stay healthy at the same time. Between working, caring for your children, assisting aging parents, making time for exercise and eating healthy, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
As a family practice doctor and mother, I find myself talking with patients about managing their emotional and mental well-being almost every day. It’s a big concern for many, myself included. Here are five ways you can take charge to manage your stress and stay healthy.
Assess Your Emotional, Mental & Physical Well-Being
It’s amazing how many people have anxiety to the point where we have to assess their breathing and determine how we’re going to slow them down to prevent panic attacks. Breathing slower is a simple first step to help calm your mind. It takes as little as ten seconds, three times a day to get your adrenaline level down and help you recharge.
Focus on One Specific Task Rather than Multitasking
With modern technology comes constant interruptions from an email to a text to a social media notification. Technology is a big piece of how we function today. However, you have to stop your multitasking, otherwise your brain will continue to jump from one thing to another. It’s important to stay mentally present in the moment, so you aren’t feeling that continual rush to jump from one thing to another.
Being present also increases your efficiency. You may feel very efficient when you’re jumping from one task to the next, but research tells us this isn’t true. Focusing on one thing at a time increases your efficiency and reduces mental fatigue, which happens when your brain is constantly switching from one thing to the next.
Focusing on one specific task takes time, thought and practice, but it’s an investment in yourself and your time that’s worth making.
Adjust Your Routine to Allow Time to Shut Down Before Bed or Reset Between Work & Home
Make time before bed to get in a relaxed mindset. You can do this by shutting off the light and turning off your cellphone and alarm clock screens. Simplifying or shutting off your mind is the hardest adjustment, but it makes a big difference. Allow your mind to simplify by focusing on things such as how the covers feel on you or focusing on your breathing. This calming transition helps you get better sleep to recharge and rejuvenate your body.
It’s important to have a calming transition not only before bed, but also when you shift from work to home. Find ways to calm down after a bad day at work so it doesn’t carry over into your home. This, again, is a skill that takes practice and helps to have a positive attitude.
Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself
Setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves and negative self-talk is a natural thing we do. However, we have to realize we are human and not going to be 100 percent perfect all the time.
Realizing this will reduce stress and make for an overall healthier you.
Allow “Me Time”
Find time to do the things you enjoy for a few minutes every day. This will rejuvenate your mind and body. Also, carve out longer periods of time once in a while to invest in self-time. Do not feel guilty about taking this “me time” – whether that’s going to the gym, going on a date with your loved one, getting a massage or taking a bath. Although this may take some planning, you’ll be glad you did it!
Always remember, reducing stress to stay healthy is a marathon, not a sprint. To begin, assess where you are and find simple everyday ways to make small improvements. The more thought, practice and intentionality you put into reducing stress, the more you’ll improve your health and happiness long-term.
Jessica Heckman, MD
Jessica Heckman, MD, works with Family Medicine of Lincoln, part of Bryan Physician Network.
Want More Tips for Managing Stress?
Listen to Dr. Heckman’s podcast on Bryan Health Radio!