Why You Should Steal a Restorative 5 Minutes For Yourself, Even When it Feels Impossible
Right now, the present moment is so challenging for so many of us.
Some of us are adjusting to new parenthood during a pandemic without the support people we were banking on to help. As if new parenthood wasn’t isolating and difficult enough. It is exhausting and bittersweet (if not straight up heartbreaking) work.
Some of us feel like this pandemic has put our relationships with our partners in a pressure cooker. As if our culture doesn’t already encourage us to expect our partners to be everything we need (best friend, lover, co-parent, housekeeper, chef, bill payer, therapist, deep conversationalist, personal growth challenger…). Now we need them to do it all in a vacuum, and without chewing their food or breathing too loudly.
Some of us are struggling to work from home, with or without kids. Working from home is starting to feel more like living at work. And others are struggling with a lack of work and financial insecurity. Nothing feels like enough.
Some of us are relieved to no longer be our children’s school teachers at home, only to wonder now how we’ll now keep our children active, safe, happy and engaged this summer with so few summer activities opening up.
Some of us are trying to examine our privilege, talk to our white friends and family, bring about structural change, fight for black lives, redefine what it means to live in community with others.
So many of us take on too much all at once, give everything we’ve got to everyone else.
We know that in order to keep giving, we have to give to ourselves first. But who’s got the time?
Right now, maybe the best we can do is steal a mere five minutes for ourselves. Luckily, a lot can shift in five minutes. The smallest things can reap benefits that sometimes can make or break our day.
I talk a lot about the power of self-care and doing “small things often”. So, let’s talk about what that actually looks like and why it matters.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my #DropEverythingAndBreathe challenge I’ve been sharing in my stories.
Each day, I’ve been sharing one idea for something simple and easy you can do to take a moment for yourself to ground, tune into yourself, and recalibrate a bit. Things like standing in the grass barefoot, doodling on scrap paper, calling a friend, making your bed, among so many others.
My hope is that, by offering a wide variety of things to try that are easy to do, don’t cost you money, and don’t take much time, you can experiment with these ideas and find a few that work for you.
If you’ve missed any of them, don’t worry--you can watch ALL daily posts in my Highlights on my profile! I hope you’ll get inspired to give it a try.
But, in case you need a little more motivation to try it out, I want to share THREE REASONS WHY you need to take little breaks each day, and ONE CAVEAT:
1. Breaks improve memory and learning.
Ever noticed that when you’re overloaded, you’re more likely to lose your keys or ask the same question twice because you’ve already forgotten the answer? Ever noticed that you sometimes have your best ideas when you’re taking a shower? Or that the solution to a problem naturally comes when taking a walk? Or that thing you forgot to do suddenly pops back into your mind when you’re trying to go to sleep at night?
We all know that sleep helps to improve our memory and our capacity to learn new things. But there’s also evidence that “waking rest” does the same thing. In other words, taking breaks! Downtime allows our brains to effectively process memories and makes room for creative thought to surface.
2. Breaks prevent decision fatigue.
Ever felt like if someone asks you “What’s for dinner?” it just might be the thing that stumps you or pushes you over the edge? When you’re constantly making choices throughout your day, you’re expending precious mental energy, even if you don’t feel physically tired from it. Willpower and reasoning can be the first things to go. We get more impulsive. We start to look for shortcuts. We order pizza while the healthy greens we bought at the store with good intentions wilt from age. Or snap at our partners or kids for even asking about dinner.
Even brief breaks refresh our minds for that next decision we have to make, no matter how big or small the decision may be.
3. Breaks restore our motivation to pursue longer-term goals.
You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” It reminds us not to go too hard too soon. In a literal marathon, runners slow their pace at different points. They monitor their needs, stop at water stations, take bathroom breaks, retie their shoelaces, walk when they need to, hug or high-five family and friends supporting them from the sidelines. Long-distance runners know they can’t sustain speed or progress without these things.
Of course the same is true for the rest of us too, even if you have no desire to run anywhere. Challenging tasks like long-term weight loss, reinventing your career, saving for a new home, building a successful marriage….anything worth doing requires little mental breaks so we can keep going. These tiny breaks help us to design the life we truly want to live while avoiding burnout.
And now, the caveat: Sometimes the breaks we choose only further drain our reserves.
Things like drinking too much coffee, complaining about a problem to a friend or coworker, or choosing an unhealthy snack that doesn’t quite satisfy all exacerbate our fatigue.
These breaks are draining because they don’t address the underlying root of the problem and they are often the kinds of breaks we choose when it’s already “too late." We’re already feeling tapped out and at our wit’s end.
Instead, steal a moment for yourself before you’re feeling wiped out and choose something that will replenish you.
Check out my #DropEverythingAndBreathe challenge on Instagram for 30+ healthy, restorative ideas to try.
Try a different suggestion each day or just choose a few that you like and stick to those. And notice the difference it can make.