In this field, we tend to focus on how we can serve others. But sometimes you have to take a deep breath and focus on yourself. Don’t forget that you need to take care of yourself too.
I was reminded of all this because I know that I sometimes forget to take a break and take care of myself. It was very useful then when a few of our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators and I went to a seminar by MCDVS this week on stress management techniques, so I wanted to share a couple of them with you.
First, we have to be careful what we put in our bodies. Food is the fuel that keeps you going. Try to eat balanced, whole meals – don’t make my mistake of thinking that a box of crackers can be dinner! Don’t skimp on the veggies and fruits which are full of goodness for the body – aim to have a rainbow of whole foods in your cart. That way you can snack on proteins and greens, and not just carbs. To avoid the 3 pm energy slump, try having a healthy snack every three hours or so to keep your blood sugar up. At the seminar we were treated to cinnamon-dusted almonds, full of protein with a nice little sweetness. Mmm!
Equally important though is physical activity – especially with all this good eating you’re doing now! As little as five minutes of exercise is enough to stimulate endorphins and decrease stress, so don’t claim that you don’t have enough time. If, like me, you sit at a desk all day, make sure to take regular breaks to get up and stretch, maybe take a walk around the office. The web is full of nifty exercises you can also do at your desk.
The real capstone though is sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body knows it. Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, not the 6 that the average person gets. If you’re having trouble going to sleep, try these tips:
- Turn off all your electronics at least half an hour before you lay down
- Make sure you’re done eating two hours before bedtime
- Move up your bed time in small amounts – fifteen minutes at a time at most
A little extra sleep can make a huge difference in your day – give it a shot!
The final piece of advice was to make sure that you remember to relax. We tend to get caught up in a day-to-day routine; we don’t always have time to wonder if your routine still suits you as you are now. It helps to reflect upon your everyday actions and think about how they fit into your values.
The key isn’t to make big changes – it’s just to be mindful and purposeful in everything you do. You are worth the time and the effort, and you will be glad you did it.