One hour for you
Sometimes we say about work, “I’m going to take a mental health day,” which simply means taking a day off a bit unexpectedly to do what we want. It’s a great way to diffuse stress that has suddenly ramped up. In another article, I’ll talk about beating stress preemptively.
For now, let’s look at what we can do when we can’t allocate an entire day away from work or our stress sources.
Can we take an hour off? Just an hour to close our eyes and practice mindfulness. Of course, mindfulness can enrich our day with just 10 minutes.
Say we devote 10 minutes to re-tuning our breathing, get some peace with the river of mental gunk that’s racing downhill and allowing our bodies to reset to a calmer, more peaceful state.
We still have 50 minutes. Does our job allow us to take a stroll outside? A cigarette break does not count as a stroll! A ten minute walk, even if we’re simply going back and forth will stimulate blood flow, even if we’re walking under an umbrella in a rain. If it’s sunny, or what passes for it, get outside and get your face turned up.
The helpful energy of the sun is not easily blocked by clouds. Much the same way you can still sunburn on a cloudy day in summertime, the rays that help our skin produce Vitamin D are always there. Of course, this is hard to do in winter! In winter, a quick dash in and out is a fine way to start the shiver reflex.
That redistributes blood flow and energizes several major systems, including attentiveness and wakefulness. Spend only a minute or two outside on cold days, or you’ll end up getting sleepy as you thaw!
What else can we do with our time? Can we chat with a work friend? Call home and check on the family? What about a healthy snack? Stress accumulates from many sources; it gets stored in our bodies and our minds in different locations. That’s why even when we solve a problem or nullify a stressor we’re stuck with a nagging feeling that something is still wrong.
That feeling alone can rob us of peace, if we let it. Try some of these “mental health hour” activities. See if they do make a difference to you. Remember, if you can’t carve out an hour for yourself, 10 minutes or less is plenty to practice mindfulness.