Start with Self Care
These are challenging times. Finding moments of calm amid the demands of family, work, relationships and competing priorities can be hard. The modern world is fast-paced and demanding. To take care of others, you must take care of yourself. Your well-being is a priority.
Well-being starts with recognizing that our behaviors have a significant impact on our health and wellness. It’s about adopting healthy habits such as adequate sleep, balanced diet and movement, while avoiding destructive habits such as tobacco, drugs and alcohol.
Listen to your body. Know the signs of stress. And, ask for help before you think you need it. Keep an eye out for muscle tension, headaches, upset stomach or difficulty sleeping. Be compassionate with yourself, and with others.
We’ve developed a bounty of tips and terrific resources to help you discover or deepen your self care. Take time today to calm the chaos and explore ways to boost your physical and emotional well-being.
Self Care Tips and Resources
Sufficient sleep is not a luxury. It's a “vital sign” of good health. While sleeping, your body is repairing tissues, consolidating your memory, releasing hormones that regulate growth and appetite, restoring energy and boosting the immune system. Try creating a routine 15 minutes prior to sleep. Make your sleep area as comfortable and calming as possible to promote restful sleep.
Fact: Did you know?
Good, quality rest charges your batteries so you can be more effective and better manage stress. Adequate sleep is vital for various brain functions, including cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. Aim to sleep seven to nine hours nightly and try sticking to a routine of the same bedtime and wake-up time.
Tips for Restful Sleep
- Develop a wind-down routine that includes limiting screen time
- Make the sleeping environment dark and cool
- If you exercise, avoid doing so an hour before bedtime
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation and relaxation exercises prior to bedtime
- Can’t get to sleep after 20 minutes? Don’t resist – get up and do a calm activity like breathing exercises or reading
- Explore: Check out Joel Guarna, PhD tips on healthy sleep and explore useful worksheets to help you catch those Z’s in no time!
- Read: Harvard Health article: Sleep to Solve a Problem
- Act: Discover lifestyle changes that can help with sleeplessness.
Regular and consistent exercise can increase energy levels and metabolism. It’s true—regular physical activity can decrease levels of fatigue and increase overall well-being. Try some exercises to boost your energy like walking, swimming or biking. Counter fatigue with your feet – you’ll be amazed at how even a short, brisk walk can boost your energy. It is the ideal antidote to stress-related fatigue, and especially those mid-afternoon doldrums.
Fact: Did you know?
Many people associate movement with a sweaty gym workout. However, movement is the art of just moving your body. Think of all the benefits: improved mood, stress relief, increased blood flow, improved brain health, increased energy levels and decreased anxiety. Focus on movement vs. “working out.” Find fun ways to incorporate movement in your daily life.
Tips for Moving your Body
- Incorporate movement into each day: stand, rather than sit, take the stairs, stretch, garden, go for a walk.
- Check out movement and physical activity basics for different groups
- Take a 10-minute walk 2-3 times a day, start small with two days a week and work up to five days a week. Even 10-minute bursts of heart-pumping activity are beneficial.
- Find an activity partner to hold you accountable.
- Choose activities that you enjoy. Stick with it by adding variety so you don't get bored.
- Movement is good for your health; always keep safety in mind. Consult your health care professional before starting new fitness routines.
- Explore: Access the Mindful Movement series recordings, worksheets and tip sheets on:
- How to Rediscover Joy in Physical Activity
- Overcoming Inertia to Get Moving
- Choosing the Best Movement for Me
- Read: How exercise and moving your body can protect your mental health - The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise Article
- Act: Set a daily movement goal and keep track using a worksheet or free fitness tracker.
Different types of food can affect energy levels. Processed foods have little nutrition or fiber and provide little to no energy. Whole, unprocessed foods provide nutrients and sustained energy. Try eating three smaller meals and two in-between snacks each day, so your body has a steady supply of fuel. Rule of thumb: eat a variety of whole foods and a variety of colors. Look for fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, small amounts of fat and whole grains.
Fact: Did you know?
True or False: Food is just fuel used by your body to function? True…but did you know you can improve mental clarity by choosing nutritious options? There is a strong link between your gut health and mental health. Small changes to your diet can have a huge impact on your energy and productivity. When you pay attention to what you put in your body, it can alter the way you feel.
Tips to Fuel your Body and Mind
- Make smart food choices is a necessary part of everyone's daily life. To balance mood and stabilize blood sugar, try eating food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds at regular intervals throughout the day
- Hydration is key. Your body depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue and organ needs water to work properly. Learn more about how much water you need each day.
- When it comes to healthy eating and weight management, there is no one-size fits-all approach.
- Explore: Are you craving a positive, rational approach to eating? Explore three Mindful Eating sessions and handouts.
- Read: Learn about five strategies to maximize your energy through food - Eating to Boost Energy.
- Act: Watch how the food you eat directly impacts your mood.
Recharge, refresh and improve your mood. Deep breathing activates the body’s relaxation response. Try this "Eight Seconds to Reset" routine:
- Slowly, inhale through your nose counting to four.
- Then, slowly exhale counting to four.
- Tap into this eight-second-deep breathing practice multiple times throughout your day for a refreshed perspective.
Fact: Did you know?
There is one activity that elevates your body, mind, and soul at the same time – simple breathing. When we are mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind and increase our attention to others well-being. Mindfulness encourages you to pay attention to your thoughts, emotions and body.
Tips to Connect with your Breath
- Move with your breath. Yoga with Adriene provides high-quality yoga and mindfulness at no cost to inspire people of all ages, shapes and sizes.
- STOP is a simple one-minute practice that provides a way to step out of “auto pilot” into the present moment: STOP stands for:
- S - Stop
- T - Take a breath
- O - Observe what’s going on
- P - Proceed
- Mindful breathing help calm the mind, center, and improves focus. Check out these 8 breathing exercises.
- Try this 10-Minute Practice to Ground, Breathe and Soothe
- Explore: Access tools and resources on stress management and mindfulness education. It includes relaxation practices and additional resources that can help you understand stress and what you can do to increase your ability to live a happier and healthier life – even in the face of adversity.
- Read: Learn the basics of emotional intelligence, mindfulness and yoga with Whil and Journey programs available through Virgin Pulse
- Act: Pop into a MaineHealth mid-week Mindfulness session, every Wednesday at Noon with your fellow colleagues all are welcome, no need to register, no prior experience necessary. Learn more about drop-in meditation.
Talking to others has been shown to decrease loneliness and increase a sense of connection. Talk to coworkers with shared experiences. Say “hello” to someone on your walk. Share a “thank you” and show appreciation. Need a little more support or someone to just listen? The MaineHealth Resources for Living Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to all MaineHealth employees and family members.
Fact: Did you know?
Time spent with friends and loved ones can release the “feel good” hormone – oxytocin. Social connections and relationships affect our physical, mental and emotional health. Research shows one of the most important indicators of happiness is having strong social connections. Blood pressure and heart rate improve even with short, positive social interactions. Below are some tips that may help you create and keep important connections in your life.
Tips for Increasing Connection
- Make a social connection without social media.
- Try reaching out to an old friend by phone.
- Walk with a colleague at the end of a shift.
- Join a virtual book group or outdoor fitness class. The hardest part is taking the first step; you will be happy you did!
- The MaineHealth Resources for Living Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to all MaineHealth employees and family members. This is a free, confidential resource designed to help you during challenging times
- Explore: Friends can prompt one another to adopt healthy habits, celebrate success, and encourage engagement. Check out Virgin Pulse Social Groups to find like-minded coworkers - in and outside of work. The options are limitless. Don’t see the right group for you? Try starting one today!
- Read: Article – Harvard Health: 3 ways to build brain-boosting social connections
All work and no play is no fun. If you've got too much on your plate, distinguish between the "shoulds" and the "musts." Make time for you!
Fact: Did you know?
Multi-tasking seems like the best way to accomplish a lot at once. However, research has shown it may lower the quality of work, reduce comprehension and tank productivity. When you feel overwhelmed, take five minutes to make a list and decide what is urgent and what can wait to prioritize your commitments.
Tips on Time Management
- Leave “busy” to the bees. Shift your focus from reactive to proactive.
- Schedule a walk, down-time, or thinking time at least 10 minutes per day. It’s a great reminder to be mindful of your priorities and think about what’s most important to you.
- There are three parts to time management:
- Prioritize tasks and activities
- Control procrastination
- Manage commitments
- Control your distractions, environment and technology. It can make you feel less frazzled.
- Explore/Read: 20 Time Management Tips
- Act: Set priorities. Check out the Eisenhower Matrix to organize tasks.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish. Tending to your own needs and practicing good self-care recharges the batteries and creates a happy, more present self. Personal energy is what pushes you out of bed and keeps you running at peak efficiency throughout the day.
Fact: Did you know?
We work together to care for our patients and communities; it is also important to care for ourselves. Remind yourself and coworkers that you are important. Recognize when you are overwhelmed, communicate with your team, and ask for help. Your well-being is a priority.
Tips on Taking it Easy
- Prioritize tasks. Tackle high-priority tasks first. If you have something particularly unpleasant to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
- Delegate responsibility. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Let go of the desire to control every little step. You’ll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.
- Aim to do your best. No one can ask for more than that.
- Seek help when needed.
- Refresh from stress. Engage in simple steps to enhance your emotional health and relieve stress with powerful stress reduction resources found here.
- Explore: Step away from the daily grind and do something fun, discover a new hobby or activity that is not work related. Starting a new hobby does not require a huge financial investment. Discover your creativity and have fun learning new skills. Here are a few ideas:
- Learn a new language
- Explore a new podcast
- Journal, scrapbook or paint
- Join a social group or book club
- Set up a crafting table
- Try a new outdoor activity like gardening, hiking or snowshoeing
- Dig into some do it yourself (DIY) projects at home
- Find a hobby that can reenergize your routine
- Read: Staying Positive through Setbacks
- Act: Acknowledge 10 Incredible Things That Happen to Your Body When You Relax
Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Whatever you call it – forest bathing, ecotherapy, mindfulness in nature, green time, or the wilderness cure -- humans evolved in the great outdoors, and your brain benefits from a journey back to nature. If you’re feeling blue, try going outside to green, natural spaces.
We are turning the corner to an amazing time of year – peak foliage! Take a break, a walk and a deep breath – enjoy the unique colors of fall in New England! For the latest leaf-peeping status, check out the Maine report here or the NH report here.
- A stroll in the woods or a visit to the local garden will do wonders
- Spend Time in Nature to Reduce Stress and Anxiety | American Heart Association
Fact: Did you know?
Five minutes walking in nature improves mood, self-esteem and relaxation. Frequent exposure to nature helps memory, reduces anxiety and depression, while promoting a sense of well-being and fulfillment. Physical activity in a green space can reduce stress and lowers cortisol levels by 15 percent.
Tips for Taking a Break from Screen Time
- For every 20 minutes of screen time, spend at least 20 seconds focusing on something 20 feet away.
- Schedule outdoor breaks throughout the day.
- Check out a local garden or walking trails instead of checking your phone.
- Explore: Take a walk-in nature and take advantage of our great outdoors. New Hampshire and Maine have amazing trails for all ability levels:
- Read: Living within 1/2 mile of a green space decreases mental distress and anxiety, while boosting heart and metabolic health. Learn more. Exposure to nature has endless health benefits for you and the planet
- Act: Want to start a new healthy habit? Select a Virgin Pulse Healthy Habit such as Fresh Air or Get Outside to get gentle reminders to make nature a priority.