03 Mar Signals that Taking a Self-Care Break is Needed
Well, here we are – again. To mask or not mask, democracy under fire, and gas prices going in the wrong direction. Decisions, worries, and plans to be made. You may be missing some signals that it’s time for a self-care break.
Right now, I’m hearing people express exhaustion in regards to COVID and all that goes along with it. I am also hearing fear about the state of the world. It reminds me of the summer of 2020, but with a world-weary edge to it.
Depression for some and heightened anxiety for others. Different ways of dealing with similar concerns. More specifically, old behaviors are seeping back in to daily life. Issues like anger/yelling, over-sleeping, procrastination, obsessive thinking, and over indulgence (e.g., drinking, smoking, shopping, or eating).
It can feel defeating to experience the return of old behaviors when so much hard work has gone into to changing them. Don’t despair. Regressing to old behaviors is common when confronting ongoing stress or uncertainty. Especially, if a new way of making choices or behaving is relatively new.
Take a Break
John Gottman, PhD talks about taking a break within the context of couple counseling. He suggests taking a 20-minute break when you feel flooded. Flooding happens when the pre-frontal cortex – home of executive functioning – goes offline because the amygdala goes into overdrive. The brain is flooded with stress hormones in preparation to fight, flee, or freeze. It’s a good protective system when there is a true threat. Generally, an argument, deadline, or news does not represent a threat to physical safety.
A good indication that you’re flooded is when you are yelling, shutting down, or repeating yourself. This happens in many different kinds of relationships when we are triggered, fatigued, stressed out, or burned out. These are all relational signals that you need to excuse yourself and take a self-care break.
Other examples of needing a self-care break come up when feeling over-loaded with work, the news, health issues, family responsibilities, or basic chores around the house, including bills or the mail. When day-to-day activities cause either shut down or over-emotionality, it is time for a self-care break.
Twenty minute self-care breaks offer a reset. Other times, you need to schedule more time. Below are some ideas for both short and longer self-care breaks.
- Five to fifteen minute guided meditation using an app like Calm, Aura, Headspace.
- Place ice packs on your temples for a few seconds at a time to trigger the “diver’s reflex“.
- Listen to favorite calm or happy music.
- Drink a glass of water.
- Pet your dog or cat.
- Lay flat on your back, take a deep breath in and long exhale out like deflating a balloon.
- Read a chapter of a book.
- Take a shower.
- Clean a room.
- Fold laundry.
- Play a game or read a story to your kid(s).
Longer breaks often involve scheduling or taking some time off from regular responsibilities. A day off or week off provides time to get out of your head, feel renewed, and/or get organized. A clear, calm mind allows space to make decisions that are in line with your values.
- Take a run or hike or bike outdoors.
- Take a drive in the countryside.
- Explore a new area.
- Go on a date with your loved one or friends.
- Deep clean your house.
- Therapy session.
- Take a long nap.
- Read a book.
- Take a vacation or staycation.
- Schedule doctor and dentist appointments.
- Yard work; plant spring flowers, prune bushes, mow the lawn.
- Update your calendar; cancel meetings or plans that are unnecessary/don’t bring joy.
- Clean out your inbox.
When life feels overwhelming and old behaviors pop up, it is a signal that a self-care break is in need. Breaks as discussed above can really help. So can enough sleep, water, and food. Limit doom scrolling social media and the news.
Finally, remember, you are the expert of you. In the end, you know what helps you feel revived. You deserve to make time for it. Your mental and physical health are important factors in living a connected and meaningful life.
Kate Murphy, LCSW
Kate Murphy, a therapist in Chamblee, GA, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety. You can live a more balanced, connected, and meaningful life. Kate works with individuals and couples over the age of 18 to support healing, communicating, and experiencing joy more often.