It's been a very long, stressful year for everyone, but there's no question that women are bearing the brunt of this pandemic. Between working from home, home schooling, maintaining social distancing, managing a family's immune health and wellness - there's a lot on women's plates these days - and there's not a whole lot of time, if any, for maintaining your own mental wellbeing and health.
It's so important to make time for you - time to unwind, destress and rest. It may seem impossible, but let us assure that it is not. You can regain calm in your life by making the process manageable, and we think the best way to do this is one small step at a time. Ultimately, it's not just your mental wellbeing that will benefit - but eliminating stress will also have a positive impact on your immune system.
Here are 10 things that will help reduce stress and improve your immune health. We hope you can build at least one of these practices into your day, week or month.
- Walk it out. Taking a walk is an easy and accessible way to get some good cardiovascular exercise into your day - as well as some fresh air! Both are so important for reducing stress and helping immune system performance. Ideally take a walk by yourself, to help clear your head, but if you can't escape the kids or the dog, bring them along. We have a feeling they will benefit as well!
- Write it out. Sometimes just jotting down your thoughts is therapy in and of itself. Make a list of things to do - from daily chores like grocery shopping to the aspirational wishes such as trips and activities on the horizon. Consider starting a gratitude journal that offers you chances to reflect on the good things in your life. Find a quote to inspire you, write it down or post it where it's visible (like your screensaver). Taking time to reflect on your thoughts and writing them down with purpose can be both a cathartic and restorative exercise.
- Read. Whether it's an article online or a magazine or a book before going to sleep - take a break from the noise and find some time to dive into a good read. If even for a few minutes, reading offers a nice distraction from the monotony - and often hectic-ness - of the day.
- Listen to soothing music. Music can have a relaxing effect on the body, whether it's popular, classical or even nature sounds. Find the genre that works best for you and build it into your day - while working, cooking, driving, etc.
- Consider meditation. Mindful meditation allows you to connect and focus on your breath. You can meditate for as little as five minutes, but the benefits include stress relief, clarity of mind and improved focus. A big plus is that you don't need anything to meditate - you just start by taking a comfortable seat. You can use an app to help you meditate or download a meditation to help guide you.
- Diffuse essential oils. Using scents to treat your mood is called aromatherapy and can help reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety. Essential oils such as lavender, bergamot and rose are just a few that help to reduce anxiety.
- Take a nap. Research shows that a nap can not only make you feel more refreshed but it can reverse the effects of poor sleep by restoring hormones and proteins involved in stress and immune health. If you can't fit a 30-minute nap into your day, even just putting your head down for 5 minutes can be soothing and beneficial.
- Reduce caffeine. The thought of kicking your caffeine habit may be stressful in and of itself, but limiting your in-take may do some good. There's an association between caffeine and anxiety, so consider swapping a cup of joe for a mug of herbal tea - or hot lemon water.
- Eliminate or reduce social media. Social media is pervasive and unless you are able to manage it effectively, it can be quite stressful. If even temporarily (try one month!) consider deleting social media apps from your phone, turn off social notifications or set a bedtime for social media consumption. We can assure you that these small changes will allow you to focus more on what matters which will ultimately benefit your mental wellbeing.
- Laugh. They say laughter is the best medicine - and it's also a great way to unwind and de-stress. Consider watching a funny movie or just spending time with people (or pets) who make you happy! If you can't get together in person, call them or, better yet, FaceTime them! Laughter soothes tension, improves your mood benefits your immune system!