This sounds New Age-y.
Self-care. It just sounds… indulgent. Maybe even a little unnecessary. And maybe like you immediately don’t have time for it. And you know what? You’re probably right. Because right now, you might be thinking of the half-million tasks you need to get done before you collapse in front of your latest Netflix binge. (Not you? Then please, message us and tell us your secrets!).
But the reality is, you have time for what you make time for.
If the idea of taking time for yourself only conjures up bubble baths and wine (we don’t disagree), maybe it’s time to revisit the scope of self-care, and what it can mean to your everyday success and health. (A great place to jump off is our blog from last week, about mindfulness).
But if sitting still isn’t your favorite, a workout can help reduce your anxiety and improve your mood, while providing a host of physiological and physical benefits… and it can provide critical self-care that will enable you to re-focus on the other elements of your life that demand your attention.
Self-care is generally defined as the effort needed to eat and hydrate properly, reduce stress, and build resilience for the challenges of today’s modern life. And it’s no surprise with the prevalence of technology, the need to work, and oftentimes the effort required to manage a home, finances, and child-rearing, self-care may not be at the top of your list. Typically, the time to invest into one’s own mental health takes a backseat to nearly all other obligations, but science has found out putting yourself last may be a major contributing factor to not only your sense of stress, but also your unshakable sense of burnout.
Self care can take on almost any form.
“What concerns me is that all too often, I see strong, successful professionals succumb to illness and get really, really sick and only then do they manage to get the much needed break to catch their breath or slow down and change direction,” said New York-based clinician Maria Baratta, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. “I think there’s a better way, and incorporating self care every day helps to serve as an armor to protect the energy that we need in order to survive and thrive.”
In fact, self-care can act as “emotional first aid” during particularly stressful times, explains Alice Boyes, Ph.D., author of The Anxiety Toolkit. When faced with a particularly high level stressor — the loss of a job, a breakup, or like now, a health crisis — self-care can help shuffle your focus away from the negativity. By putting well-being first, Boyes says, it can help replenish energy levels, help balance out your patience and improve your efficiency, thus increasing your ability to face your stressors head on. And don’t just think it requires a bath or alone time — it can be anything you do to step out of your current stresses, and can be enhanced by setting boundaries to avoid new ones. (Struggle with saying no? Click here to learn how to say no without the guilt).
Weird Signs You Need a Break
Your brain is amazing, and multitasking while you’re working may seem like a great idea. But with our increased need to be en pointe in multiple environments (home, work, work-from-home), those moments of decompression are ever more crucial, and should also take place more often than just “when you have time,” Baratta suggests. Be mindful of the cues that indicate you might be in need of a break. Have you noticed you’re unable to focus? Have you found yourself clumsier than usual? It might be time to step away. Turning down the distractions, taking a brief walk, and hydrating for even just a few minutes will help your brain pause. And, if you’re working from home or utilizing a hybrid schedule, things can get even more janky.
Don’t presume that because you are home, your stress level is lower. The temptation to throw in a load of laundry in the midst of your work-from-home schedule can be tempting, but this can also lead to an even blurrier line between work and life. Try and keep to your typical work schedule, with the aforementioned “pauses.” Set an alarm and give yourself a few minutes each hour or so to disconnect. f you’re working on a deadline, try and squeeze in just five minutes — it can help you return to your workload with increased clarity and improved efficiency.
Then, schedule yourself daily “me time” to recharge. (If it involves wine or binge-watching your favorite show, we’re here for it!) Remember, it doesn’t have to be for long — a few minutes will help — but it should be a consistent part of your day.
Movement can be the perfect hybrid mode of self-care.
Movement as self-care
And of course, self-care can take on almost any form, not the least of which is a good workout. As any fitness enthusiast might tell you, working out can pull double-duty — not only does it improve your overall health in a myriad of ways, a good sweat session can also improve your mental focus and clarity while reducing your stress levels.
You’ll feel better.
The legendary “runners’ high” isn’t reserved just some ploy to buy you into running — your brain actually bumps up endorphin production. The effects can produce a feeling of euphoria. And while the after-effects are still being studied, researchers found exercisers experienced a reduction in pain, a reduction in anxiety, and an improved sense of well-being, likely due to the increased presence of endocannabinoids post-workout. (Don’t believe us? Try a STUDIO workout and see how you feel). The research is ongoing, but one thing is clear — workouts make you feel better.
Workouts decrease the negative effects of stress.
We can’t tell you how to remove stress from your life, but we can certainly give you additional tools to reduce the impact it has on your brain, your cells, and your organs. Since we’re less likely to experience fight-or-flight as a response to predators, we now need a means to “burn off” those hormones (after someone cuts you off in traffic or your up against a hard deadline). Exercise can give your body a place to utilize those hormones and responses in a healthier way. You’ll find you’re often more relaxed and less “wound up” post-workout.
It gives your brain a focus
Coercing your body into motion has a dynamic effect on your entire nervous system in a way that is not achievable by listening to murder mystery podcasts. Your brain is now derailed from stressing over your workload and is instead recruited into the deceptively complex role of keeping you in motion. A long walk, a session on the weight floor, or a Body Combat class offers your brain the much-needed opportunity to focus on simpler tasks in a manner not unlike meditation. Winning!
Endorphins = self care
Now more than ever, exercise can be helpful in reducing stress and improving your health. Given your current task load, it may seem more daunting than ever to find the time or enthusiasm to workout. But workouts are more available than ever before: whether you prefer in-person or live-streaming, there are more options than ever to fit a few minutes of fitness into your everyday. And with plenty of options to modify the challenges, plus scaleable workouts to fit into your schedule, exercise can be the perfect complement to your other self-care plans.
Need some inspiration? You can access hundreds of workout models in the VENT Fitness app. Or, you can view our most up-to-date schedule and try out any of our MOVE, RIDE, AQUA, or STUDIO group workouts.
Regardless of how you choose to mandate your self-care, the key is to treat it as a non-negotiable. It’s more crucial than ever to be mindful of your own level of health and well-being. Now is the time to set aside a few minutes each day, throughout the day, for ensuring you are your strongest, both physically and mentally.
Need more inspiration? Be sure to follow VENT on Instagram.
See you in the clubs!