Lockdowns are stressful for a multitude of reasons. There’s the cancelling of plans, the immediate isolation and lack of social connection, there’s extra pressure to perform self-care and often a lack of motivation, which aren’t the best of friends.
A recent study from Moccona found that Aussies were busier than ever and struggling to get time to themselves, despite living through a number of snap lockdowns and having more time at home.
This lack of me-time is having a huge impact on our health and mental wellbeing, particularly for those juggling kids and working from home.
Although it may feel like a drag, me-time is absolutely necessary in times like these, where we’re busy, stressed and not feeling fully in control of our surroundings. It’s okay to need help and guidance, in how to best take time for yourself in this ‘working from home and busier than ever’ climate.
Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has given us his top ten ways to combat the lockdown blues:
Digi detox for 24 hours
That feeling of always being connected can make it difficult to create boundaries between your home life and work life. Doing a 24-hour digital detox can help you establish a healthier balance and allow more time for yourself. Studies have shown that the presence of a phone, even if turned off, creates feelings of being less connected or listened to. Constant texts and emails also disrupt focus and can lead to tasks taking longer.
Feel-good screen time
Whilst going digi-free from time to time is a great way to unwind, when you do have screen time, make sure it’s the sort of screen time that makes you feel good. When we watch our favourite show, it relaxes the mind because we don’t have to think about anything else while watching. Watching movies also reduces stress hormones like cortisol that are linked with a number of health issues.
Random acts of kindness
Being kind can go a long way toward improving your emotional wellbeing and is the perfect way to make the most of your me-time. A 2019 study in The Journal of Social Psychology found that people who performed kindness activities for seven days saw a boost in happiness. The degree to which their happiness increased was directly tied to the number of acts of kindness they performed.
Take a warm bath or shower
Not only does a warm bath or shower make the blood flow easier, it also makes it more oxygenated by allowing you to breathe deeper and slower, particularly when breathing in steam. Taking a hot bath can also improve immunity and relieve symptoms of that pesky winter cold. So it’s a win-win for me-time and health.
Read a book with a coffee
Reading books benefits both your physical and mental health, and those benefits can last a lifetime. With age comes a decline in memory and brain function, but regular reading may help slow the process, keeping minds sharper longer. Frequent brain exercise has proved to lower mental decline by 32%.
Go for a relaxing walk, jog or run
Doing any physical activity is better than doing none, but we should all aim to be active on most, if not all, days of the week. The important bit is to spend your me-time doing activity that you actually enjoy and makes you feel good – whether it’s a walk, run, yoga or weights – find something that works for you.
Listen to your favourite music
Although we can’t be sure exactly when human beings began listening to music, scientists have proven that listening to music benefits us individually and collectively. The power of music can improve our physical, mental, and emotional health, plus it’s a super easy and fun way to get some me-time.
Write a thank-you card
Research suggests that even months after writing a simple thank you card (or text), people’s brains are still wired to feel extra thankful. The implication is that gratitude tasks work, at least in part, because they have a self-perpetuating nature – the more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits.
Learn a new skill
Neurologists tell us that learning a new skill changes the physical structures of the brain. By stimulating neurons in the brain, more neural pathways are formed; the more pathways that are formed, the faster impulses can travel. Basically, learning something new gets our brain working hard – plus it’s a great way to spend our me-time!
Do a simple meditation exercise
Practising mindfulness consistently can change the way you think, feel, and act—because it can literally change your brain. Whether it’s doing simple breathing exercises, mindful activity or signing up to a mediation app, research has shown the benefits are huge on our health. Try it next time you’re looking to dedicate some time for yourself.