You can’t pour from an empty cup
By Barbara Pierce
Life is busy. You work all day, eat lunch at your desk, get home to care for your partner and children, tackle the endless responsibilities that come with being an adult.
Unfortunately, powering through without a pause can do you more harm than good, psychologists say.
It’s important to sneak in some “mental health breaks” throughout the day.
Nourishing yourself first, to ensure that you’re not “pouring from an empty cup,” is a priority that will help you take care of everyone who counts on you, said wellness coach Lisa Marie Chirico, founder of Care Planet, a website focusing on health and wellness.
Taking the time to work mental health breaks into your day is a part of this. Your brain can’t focus all the time. If you try to force it into the focus mode for too long, it loses its ability to do that.
“After I’ve worked steadily for several hours, I lose it,” said office manager Christine Mason of Pearson, Florida. “I try to Google something and I can’t even remember what I was looking for. When I take a break and do something else for a few minutes, the juices come flowing again.”
Simply put, a mental health break is anything that allows you to step back, relax, and recharge your brain, so the juices coming flowing again. Mental health breaks can look different for everyone. Some mental health breaks may only last a few minutes. Others may include a week-long vacation.
Ideal is a mixture of the two, smaller breaks to keep you going throughout the week, along with longer breaks to help perform a deeper reset.
“No activity is too trivial or small,” suggested Chirico, who has written two self-help style books.
These small moments can help you ground yourself, boost your mood, improve focus, improve productivity and decision making, and make you happier in your job.
You may have a good idea of what a mental health break would look like for you, but here are a few ideas of how to spend that break time.
• Walk outside with work mates, or by yourself, during your lunch hour, advised Chirico.
“Research proves that time spent in nature nourishes our bodies and minds on several levels,” she said.
Walking with others increases the chemicals in your brain, the key to feelings of well-being.
Also, the movement caused by walking increase circulation, makes you more alert, and helps to decrease tension in your body.
• Stretch: If you are like many who sit behind a desk for hours, get out of your chair at least once an hour to walk around and stretch your arms and legs.
Sneak in a few stretches, that can be as simple as gently rotating your neck, doing shoulder or ankle rolls, lifting your hands above your head or bending down to touch your toes.
• Take screen breaks throughout the day. Five minutes in every hour should be spent away from the screen. It’s also important to make sure you change posture regularly.
For your eyes, try the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look up from your screen at something about 20 feet away for about 20 seconds, to give the muscles in your eyes a chance to relax.
• Connect with friends and family: Improve your mood throughout the day by checking in with those you care about. Connecting with others raises the level of the chemicals in your brain which produces feelings of well-being and helps alleviate stress.
“Contact an old friend that you haven’t spoken to in a long time, phone your parents during your commute to work,” suggested Chirico. Or make a coffee or lunch date with your partner or with work mates.
How do you know when you need a break? Listen to your body. Do your eyes hurt from looking into the computer screen? Are your legs stiff from sitting in the same position for too long? Are you yawning every 90 seconds?
These are just a few of the signals your body is sending to tell you it’s time for a break. Too often, though, we ignore these signals because we think that a break will cut into our productivity. But, actually, a few minutes away from your work will enhance your capacity.
Our bodies go through cycles each day where energy peaks and then subsides. Most of us have more energy in the morning, but get tired in the middle of the afternoon. Plan a break during this natural down cycle when your body is tired and needs a recharge.
The bottom line is: a mental health break can be anything you want it to be. Whatever it is, just make sure it’s something that leaves you feeling relaxed and recharged.
“In the middle of our busy lives, we need to remember that, just like plants, we need air, water and love to thrive,” Chirico said.
Chirico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or see https://careplanet.co/
Keep Your Mental Health Top of Mind This Holiday Season
With many people separated from loved ones last holiday season due to the coronavirus pandemic, families and friends across Western New York are planning to restore their holiday traditions this year.
The mental health counselors with Catholic Charities of Buffalo are sharing tips and coping strategies to help ease stress and feeling overwhelmed amidst the festivities.
“The holiday season can be a trying time for many of us, but after missing out on celebrations last year and the pandemic still lingering, that can bring an added layer of stress this year,” said Michelle Abraham, assistant director of clinical services, Catholic Charities. “While it’s a time of giving to others, we can’t lose sight of the importance of our own mental health and wellness.”
This holiday, consider incorporating some of these tips from Catholic Charities’ mental health counselors:
• From ingredients for special meals to gift giving and trips to the store, plan ahead to avoid both procrastination and stress.
• Refrain from over-indulging in both spending and food to avoid feelings of regret after the holidays.
• Use meditation and mindfulness to deal with stressful holiday gatherings. If you start to feel overwhelmed, take deep breaths, step outside for a few minutes if needed, and ask others for help.
• Participate in activities that bring you joy during the holiday season. Pick a couple of activities or special traditions to enjoy rather than trying to do all the holiday things. Overextending can cause undue stress.
• Engage in self-care activities and take advantage of any time off you may have during the holidays. A new year is right around the corner, so try to recharge by doing something restorative and rejuvenating.
• Maintain a normal routine to the best of your ability. Eating regular, nutritious meals and getting enough sleep will help with your overall mood.
• Be kind. Everyone is dealing with their own challenges, so be considerate of others’ feelings. Engage in simple acts of kindness. From saying thank you to a store employee to donating a toy to a child who may go without, think of an easy way you can bring joy to yourself and to others this giving season.
Catholic Charities’ team of professional and highly trained counseling experts are available to assist families, children, adults, and seniors with day-to-day troubles and serious concerns throughout Western New York. For more information on these or any of Catholic Charities’ programs visit, ccwny.org.
Submitted by Catholic Charities of Buffalo.