We live in a hectic world. Demands seem to come from every direction. Just when you think you have a little extra time for yourself, someone calls with an emergency, your boss or client asks you to take on another project, or your child or significant other reminds you about that last minute thing you either forgot or didn’t know about. It just never seems to end.
Life has a way of getting out of control. It’s like stepping on the rollercoaster and not being able to get back off until the ride is over. Up and down, around, upside down, it yanks you here and there, back and forth, and all you can do is hold on for dear life. Sometimes it would be nice to just hit the brakes and step off whenever you feel like you need a minute to yourself.
Well, you’re in luck. Following are five ways that you can hit the pause button right now, no matter what craziness is going on in your life, so you can take a moment, catch your breath, and focus on yourself, even if for only a few minutes.
Take a breather… Literally
Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress, calm yourself, and get re-centered. It’s super easy, too. Whether you’re stopped at a traffic light, stuck on hold on the phone, or waiting in line at the grocery store, take a few seconds to focus on your breathing. If you’re able to close your eyes, even better, but it’s not necessary.
One simple technique that is instantly calming is called “square breathing”. All you have to do is breathe in through your nose while slowly counting to four, hold it for four counts, let out slowly through your mouth for four counts, then hold again to the count of four. Do this a few times – 4-4-4-4 – like a square, to instantly feel more relaxed and clear-headed.
It’s effective because it increases alpha brainwaves. When your brain is in an “alpha” state, it’s calm, relaxed, yet alert. It’s the state your brain goes into when you’re focused on being in the present, and it’s the optimal state for learning. If you prefer guided breathing exercises or need reminders to take a moment to breathe, use a guided breathing app whenever you have even just a few seconds.
When you think of meditation, you probably picture a yogi sitting in lotus position saying “Om” over and over for hours on end. You wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s only one of countless ways to meditate. The great thing about mediation is that it’s versatile and can be done anytime, anywhere, without anyone even knowing.
Similar to breathing, and often done in conjunction, meditation is used to focus on the present moment and calm your monkey mind. If you’ve never tried it before, you might be thinking that you can’t meditate or that you’ll do it wrong. It does take a little practice, but it’s something that you’ll start noticing the effects quite quickly. The great thing is that you don’t need to spend hours doing it, either. Even as little as one minute is effective.
The easiest way to meditate is to simply focus on your breathing – inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Then, take it a step further by trying to keep your mind blank. If you can, imagine a white movie screen or a peaceful setting, then just sit there and focus on it for however long you want. Each time a random thought pops into your mind, notice it, acknowledge it, and then send it on its way.
No need to stress about it or get frustrated if you can’t keep your mind clear. Our brains are used to being over-active, so it takes time to train your brain to just relax and stay blank. However, after even a handful of times, you’ll have fewer and fewer thoughts fighting for attention, and you’ll start to notice that you feel calmer, more level-headed, and more in the present moment.
If you find it too difficult to start out on your own, or you keep forgetting to make time to meditate, use a guided meditation app. Through the app, you can also set notifications to remind you to take a few minutes throughout your day. Just 1-2 minutes a day can give you amazing results.
Keep meal time simple
When you’re feeling tired, stressed, and over-extended, the last thing you want to do is spend hours in the kitchen – unless that happens to be the thing that relieves stress for you. Assuming you’re like most women, though, cooking is just one more item on your to-do list, and whether you’re doing it for just yourself or for your family, it can really feel like a chore at times.
To save yourself time during the week, take some time on the weekend, or when you’re not so busy, to look for some easy recipes online. Being in a hurry doesn’t mean you have to eat unhealthy foods. Look for recipes with few ingredients and minimal prep time. If you or your family don’t mind leftovers, cook a double batch and either freeze leftovers, or eat them for lunch throughout the week.
The great thing is that it’s easy to find recipes online through apps, blogs, and websites. It does take a few minutes of planning once a week, plus a trip to the grocery store, but it definitely saves precious time from having to figure out what to make for dinner when you’re exhausted. Plus, when you’re tired, you have less willpower to eat healthy, so having a plan in advance will help you stick to your nutrition goals.
When you’re crunched for time, one of the first things to go is exercise. It makes sense, though, because going to the gym is at least an hour commitment, and probably more when you account for changing your clothes, showering, and the time it takes to go to/from the gym. When you feel like you don’t even have a minute to spare, how can you possibly carve out time for exercise?
The good news is that there are other ways to get in some daily activity besides going to the gym. In fact, some things are so simple that you don’t even need to leave your chair – although getting up and moving around is always recommended.
Thanks to amazing apps and blogs, you can get simple exercise ideas right from your phone. If you’re able to get outside for even 5-10 minutes, the easiest form of exercise is just going for a walk. Add in a little challenge by taking some stairs, and make daily and weekly goals for yourself by using a step counter.
If you have a few spare minutes at home, do a quick yoga session or some body weight exercises using a guided app. For times when you’re stuck at a desk or you can’t get away, there are even apps with simple stretches that can be done while sitting or standing. No matter your situation, there are countless ways to get even a little bit of movement in every day, and if you have trouble remembering, you can even set notifications to remind you.
Take a power nap
On those days when you just don’t have the extra oomph to power through, try to get in a power nap. Although not a common part of working culture in most Western countries, napping is actually a normal part of the work day in many SE Asian countries. During the lunch hour, it’s common practice in companies to turn out the lights so employees can nap at their desks.
Unfortunately, you probably don’t have the luxury of napping at your desk, but if you’re able to get away for even a short time, hide away in your car for 10-20 minutes to catch a few Zzzs. If you stay at home with young children, try to grab a quick nap while your kids are napping. Limit your snoozing to 15-20 minutes to avoid grogginess, but even a nap that short will give you the extra pick-me-up you need to get through the day – sans caffeine.
If you use a sleep tracking device, you can even see how well you slept in that short period. A full sleep cycle that goes through all five stages of brainwaves is approximately 90 minutes. So you won’t complete a full cycle with a power nap. However, even a partial cycle can leave you feeling rejuvenated and clear-headed.
It can be really challenging to find time for yourself when your life is busy and full of demands. However, thanks to technology, it’s increasingly becoming easier and more possible to steal a few minutes here and there. So use these five tips, as well as countless others through the Bellabeat app, and take advantage of the technology at your fingertips to make your life easier and save that precious time for focusing more on yourself. To learn about more ways to make time for yourself, take the quiz and get customized recommendations just for you.