Find your ‘me time’

woman smiling and reading a book, find your me time, recognize and reduce your stress, COVID-19 has negatively impacted mental health, practice gratitude, relaxation technique

Everyone feels and reacts to stress in different ways. Stress is the way your mind and body react to a threat or a challenge. Simple things, like a crying child, can cause stress. You also feel stress when you’re in danger, like during a robbery or car crash. Even positive things, like getting married, can be stressful.

A ‘stressor’ is an event or situation that causes stress. Stressors can be physical, social or relational, financial, organizational, physiological, or a life event. ‘Stress’ is how you react to a stressor. Stress can take a toll on your heart. February is American Heart Month, a time when people should focus on their cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association (AHA), along with other organizations, is promoting ‘me time’ to emphasize the need to recognize and reduce your stress.

During this pandemic, stress has run rampant. According to the AHA, one in two US adults report that COVID-19 has negatively impacted mental health.

The definition of ‘me time’ is ‘time spent relaxing on one’s own as opposed to working or doing things for others, seen as an opportunity to reduce stress or restore energy”. While you may feel too busy to de-stress – you can decide to take back your ‘me time’, one moment at a time. Reduce stress for a healthier version of you. And yes, ‘me time’ is so important, it’s even in the dictionary!

‘Me time’ does not have to be a whole day at the spa. Whether it’s 10-20 minutes or a couple of hours, it is possible to squeeze ‘me time’ into the middle of the day.

Unplug: Ban all electronics, social media, email, and phone calls for a set amount of time. Does news stress you out? Tune it out.

Call an old friend: Maintaining positive relationships is food for the soul. Call up an old friend or family member that you miss talking to, for no reason other than to catch up.

Find a go-to relaxation technique: Breathe deeply, meditate, visualize, listen to music, read, pray, and/or relax each muscle in your body.

Wait: Count to 10 before you speak or react or, if you can, walk away from the situation for a while or sleep on it.

Move: Go for a walk hike, run, or bike ride to clear your head. Try yoga or pilates.

Treat yourself: Ice cream, cheesecake, fresh strawberries with whipped cream – whatever strikes your fancy – eat it slowly and deliberately, and enjoy every luscious bite.

Journal: Some get relief from putting their thoughts on paper.

Practice gratitude: Acknowledge the good parts of your day or life.

Call your pet: Don’t laugh. Pets can help manage anxiety by providing companionship and support.

Effective long-term stress management strategies require building and using skills to remove the stressor(s) by problem solving on changing the situation or the way you think about the situation. Accept that you cannot control everything. Find ways to let go of worry about situations you cannot change. Learn to say ‘no’ to additional responsibilities when you are too busy or stressed.

Managing your constant stress manages your health and may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Say, “This is MY time!”

Tags: aha, heart, stress

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