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In today’s workplace, productivity is critical. With demanding schedules, constant connectivity, and longer hours, the average amount of stress per person is greater than ever. That makes it all the more important to take time for yourself. What is commonly referred to as self-care is essentially the everyday maintenance of your physical, mental, and emotional needs. Here are some steps to get you headed in the right direction.
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
A good night’s sleep helps set the tone for your next day. Going without proper rest can lead to irritability, increased stress, and wildly inhibited productivity. Prolonged sleeplessness can impair your memory and decision-making prowess, putting your body in a sustained crisis mode, which, on top of the neurological effects, also inhibits weight loss. This is why many workplaces will permit quick micronaps (small bursts of rest several minutes long) to help improve morale and efficiency.
While naps certainly can be beneficial, the best way to ensure you are well-rested is to get a full night’s sleep. The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of good quality sleep per night. It may be tempting to shortchange yourself on sleep throughout the week while promising yourself you’ll “make it up on the weekend,” but sleep doesn’t work like that. Oversleeping on the weekends will only lead to grogginess when you get to work on Monday. Caffeine and alcohol both have negative effects on sleep — caffeine remains in your body for roughly five hours after it is consumed, and while alcohol may initially appear to cause drowsiness, it actually causes restless, active sleep.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
The best way to ensure you are getting a good night’s rest is to practice proper sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to the entire body of rituals, habits, and routines surrounding bedtime. Start by regulating your bedroom — the temperature should be cool, and the room itself should be as dark and quiet possible. Also, if it’s been a while since you’ve replaced your mattress, it might be time to do so. Experts recommend that you change up your mattress every seven to 10 years (or longer, depending on the material), so take a good, hard look at your own and see if it’s starting to look and feel a little worn out. If so, make the investment.
Once your space is prepared, you can start creating your individual sleep schedule. While adults typically need between seven and nine hours, there is a great deal of difference between people — some are able to get by on six hours, while others require a full nine every night. If you don’t already know how much quality sleep you need, take a week and monitor yourself. Next, determine what time you need to go to sleep, then stick to your schedule, even on the weekends. Finally, limit the use of electrical devices an hour before bed so your mind can have a chance to start settling down.
Take Time for Yourself During the Day
Nighttime rest is important, but it is important to also give your mind time to rest during the day. Taking time to clear your mind for five to 10 minutes every now and then boosts clarity and motivation. Go even further and take longer periods of time for yourself to engage in an activity you enjoy, such as tennis or woodcarving. Relaxation time is a key way to reduce your overall stress levels, which contribute to a lack of sleep and general contentment. Exercise, meditation, and spending time with friends can also reduce stress, so be sure to make time for yourself. If you feel like you have too many ongoing projects to be able to take the time, don’t be afraid to politely say no. The extra free time gained from turning down an extra project or event will ultimately improve both your personal and work lives.
Finally, even if you feel stressed, try smiling throughout the day. Not only does smiling boost your social health by making you seem friendlier, frequent genuine smiling and looking for joy have been linked to an increase in both the quality and duration of the average adult’s life.
Self-care isn’t an expensive, time-consuming pastime. It’s simply the process of learning to know yourself and when your body and mind need a break, so take some time for yourself this week.
Life Coach / Founder of SelfCaring.info
Self-care advocate Brad Krause is inspired to help others improve their overall well-being through self-care.