Love the feeling you get after a relaxing break? Perhaps you can’t even remember the last time you had one. Regardless, for most of us, that post-holiday high fades quite quickly and probably definitely as soon as your first work email appears. Many continue to check their email whilst taking time for themselves.
We live with low-level stress all day and every day. Even a break doesn’t necessarily help us with this. What are some science-based tools and techniques that will work for sure, whether you feel on the brink of a meltdown or just feel frustrated with your commute back into the office.
Here are 5 ways to feel good every day:
- Complete your stress cycle – we can often be stuck in a stress response after we have experienced stress. Stress is a physiological process and a cycle you need to finish. How? Move your body – 20 – 50 minutes of exercise a day but also just standing up from your chair, taking a deep breath, tensing all your muscles for 20 seconds and then shaking it out will do it. Deep slow breaths also work: breathing in slowly to a count of five and exhaling for 10. Positive social interactions also work as well as laughter or stroking a pet. Or try something creative: art, music or writing.
- Unstick your emotions – One cause of burnout is being stuck in your emotions. So start separating the emotion from the cause – try to think of emotions as purely a release of neurochemicals in your brain in response to a stimulus. Let that emotion take its course and don’t swallow or stifle it. If you allow yourself to experience an emotion fully, it will come to a natural end.
- Find beauty and joy – one maybe surprising way to build resilience is in the little things that we do. We need to have a balance of both reflection and connecting outwards. That means cultivating an ability to be grateful (write it down!) and reflect on what is going well but also to focus on the external. What are some things that simply spark joy for you and how can you include more of them into your day? If the sun is shining can you take some time to sit outside? Who can you call or have an uplifting conversation with? Can you make time to read something interesting without constantly checking your phone? It’s the little things that can go farther than you think in dampening all those micro-stressors.
Have you found yourself staying up late, joylessly bingeing TV shows and doomscrolling through the news, or simply navigating your day uninspired and aimless? Chances are you’re languishing, says organizational psychologist Adam Grant. He breaks down the key indicators of languishing and presents three ways to escape that “meh” feeling and start finding your flow.
4. Get your rest – We actually need rest for a whopping 42% of our time. That’s 10 hours of every 24. You may think that’s impossible but not if we rethink what rest means. Some of that will be sleep of course – so let’s say (ideally!) 8 hours of sleep but then add in 30 minutes of stress-reducing conversation with your partner, 30 minutes of movement, 30 minutes of food prep and eating and 30 minutes of doing something that makes you feel good. Rest is, quite simply, when you stop using part of you that’s used up, worn out, damaged or inflamed so it has a chance to renew itself. So going between work and daydreaming is fine, or to take a break. In fact, it’s crucial as it gives your brain a chance to process things, and do it in a healthier way.
5. Make connections – connecting with other people is a massive factor in wellbeing. We are built for it and we need that network of support, friendship, family, children, partners and even pets. We go between needing autonomy and connection all our lives. How do you know when you need more connection? Watch for these red flags:
- When you’re asking yourself if you’re crazy
- When you feel you’re not enough
- When you’re sad
- When you’re feeling rage