The pandemic has made it impossible to take a step back and take care of yourself. However, making personal care a priority is not only necessary, but also quite crucial for optimal health.
“It’s important to take time off from work and other responsibilities to take a break, reflect and cool off, even if it’s only five minutes. By taking these short breaks to take care of yourself, you will notice improvements in your mood, focus, efficiency and more, ”said Jessica Gold, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
COVID-19 has disrupted our routines and reduced social contact for over a year – and we still experience the stress and trauma of it. As we navigate our new normal, it’s important to adopt healthier habits that will improve our physical and mental well-being.
We asked mental health professionals to share five-minute self-care practices that are easy and accessible. Here’s what they had to say:
Lighten your mental load.
It can seem overwhelming when there is too much stuff piling up in your mind.
“Spend five minutes thinking about what you can get off of your brain’s plate today, or even this week. Can you postpone thinking about a decision about school plans for a few days? Can you delay mental planning from this weekend until tomorrow? Said Neha Chaudhary, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “The more you can lighten your mental load, the more free you will feel to be present here and now without additional thoughts weighing you down.”
Try a breathing exercise.
Deep breathing is a simple habit that helps cultivate mindfulness, that is, the practice of being present. Mindfulness can help calm your busy mind, improve your mood, and reduce any tension you may be feeling.
There are many breathing exercises you can do in five minutes or less, such as box breathing (inhaling for four seconds, holding the breath, then exhaling for four seconds) or diaphragmatic breathing (which involves taking a deep breath. in your stomach, abs).
“If you are feeling anxious or stressed, take a deep breath to calm yourself down. It’s something you can do anytime and anywhere, like in a meeting or on a phone call, ”Gold said.
Play your favorite song.
“Press the play button to hear a song that uplifts your mood and positively energizes you,” said Meaghan Rice, licensed clinical psychologist at Discussion space.
If there’s more than one song that makes you feel better, create a “self-care” playlist with all of your favorite music. Listen to this playlist for five minutes and dance to the tunes. The added movement will release endorphins, which increase happiness.
Start a journal.
Allow five minutes for introspection by writing down your thoughts in a journal. This practice will help you relax and increase your awareness.
“Bring your journal to work or school and spend time each day writing down how you feel. There are also many online journaling apps with prompts and activities to help you think, ”Gold said.
Read a chapter from a compendium book.
A compendium book is a collection of information relating to a specific subject. These books have fairly short chapters that can be read in a matter of minutes.
“Spend five minutes reading a short story or a chapter from a book. Even if it’s short, you’ll feel energized and embrace the joy of learning something new about a topic you love, ”said Chandan Khandaï, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Go for a walk.
Physical activity can do wonders for your mental health. While you might not have time for a full workout routine, you can take a walk in five minutes or less.
“Take a short walk outside or down a hallway to move mindfully through your day. It will put you at ease and also stimulate your thinking, ”Gold said.
Make a “thank you” list.
If negative thoughts are weighing on you, take the time to focus on what you are grateful for. It can be calming as it promotes happiness and appreciation for what you have already done.
“In five minutes, create a gratitude list of a few things for which you are grateful. It will instantly improve your mood when you feel deflated, ”Rice said.
You don’t shoot all the cylinders? Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t let your inner voice criticize and judge you. Be self-compassionate and be gentle with yourself.
“Take a break to just check on yourself and validate how you are feeling. Even if it’s only for five minutes, engaging in good self-talk can make a positive difference in your overall well-being, ”Gold said.