I have learned the hard way the value of taking care of myself. I used to believe that self-care was going to the spa for a massage or a weekend away at a retreat. While I do believe these are wonderful ways to refuel and recharge, the result is short term. They will rejuvenate the soul and spirit for a short period but won’t do much to manage the day-to-day stress we all face. Truly caring for our emotional, physical, and mental well-being requires small consistent actions taken daily.
Caregivers will often say they do not have time to take care of themselves. I understand this obstacle. The job of caring for Emily is taxing and unpredictable. The intensity is often overwhelming and the stress, unless managed, can be debilitating. I learned quickly that the road to a healthier and less stressful life was not going to happen through an occasional spa visit or weekend away with my friends. I needed to create small daily habits that I could do quickly and fit into and around my schedule. My life is not set up to be at the gym working out daily or meditating for hours and the beautiful thing is I can improve my health without doing these things.
I started to incorporate small and frequent daily habits that would help reduce stress, move my body more, and increase my feeling of joy. Each can be done in 5-minutes or less. The more I can incorporate into my day the better, but even if I do just one a day, it is beneficial to my body. Short and frequent breaks can do wonders to calm the mind, body, and soul.
Here are just a few of my favorite ways to refuel in 5-minutes or less:
- Enjoy a 5-minute meditation. (Try Calm, Insight Timer, Headspace)*
- Take a quick walk around the block
- Step outside and breathe in the fresh air and soak up the sun (or rain)
- Have a dance party anywhere
- Make a playlist of your favorite songs and listen throughout the day
- Start your day with a brain dump (call it journaling, scribing, or a To-Do list) Write about anything that is on your mind
- Take a minute to do focused breathing: “Take Six” (Six slow breaths is about a minute)
- Do a 5-minute HIIT workout (YouTube has lots of short options)
- Stretch (We forget how stiff we get just doing life)
- Set a timer on your watch to remind you to stand or move each hour (get some blood flowing)
- Take a power nap or visualize for a few minutes (Set a timer. Close your eyes. Rest.)
- Grab a healthy snack and eat it without doing anything else (put down the phone)
- Sit in silence
- Invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones (this investment alone has reduced my stress)
- Read a chapter in a book
- Flip through a magazine
- Journal at the end of the day
- Begin developing the skill of practicing gratitude. Write down three things you are grateful for each day and WHY. The WHY helps you connect and creates a more meaningful practice. You can grow your practice over time.
This list is enough to get you started. Think of creative ways to add more activity into your daily routines. It takes my daughter about 30 minutes to eat her morning oatmeal and applesauce. I stand while I feed her and I take steps or walk around between each bite. It often takes her 28-30 steps to chew and swallow one bite of food. Over 30 minutes I have racked up anywhere from 250-1,000 added steps into my day. I do not have take any time out of my day to do this. I am only switching up how I perform the task. It isn’t going to have a great impact on my cardiovascular wellness or build strength, but it is enough to get the blood flowing and increases the time my body is in action rather than inaction.
Beginning to notice times in your day where you can incorporate a short break will get your brain looking for more times and more ways to quickly recharge and utilize the time you have throughout the day. The most difficult challenge is overcoming the belief that a few minutes is not enough to do anything. Because that is just not true. A 5-minute consistent practice adds up to 1, 825 minutes per year. It is possible to change your life and improve your health 5 minutes at a time.