And just like that, another busy year draws to a close. Whether you’re cashing out or skimping on leave this season, don’t forget how important it is to de-stress.
Time out isn’t just pleasurable – it’s critical to your sustained wellbeing. Not taking enough time to unwind can negatively impact both your physical and your mental health, leading to burnout. And while times of intense stress and conflict is a given in life, how we respond to the strain will determine whether we crash – or ride it out with resilience.
Here are some simple but valuable tips to ease you into the end of the year, and start practicing for the new one.
1. Relax your body
Do you ever find yourself frowning, squinting or hunching when you concentrate? Repeatedly doing so for long stretches can contribute to fatigue, tension headaches and muscle pain, says Vitality biokineticist, Mari Leach. “Set regular little reminders – like pop-ups or hourly fitness device vibrations – to prompt you to consciously untense your body” and try these steps:
- Lower and push back your shoulders. Roll your neck clockwise and then counter-clockwise. Avoid sloughing of the shoulders and upper back by lifting up your chest and this will automatically pull in your chin and pull back your shoulders.
- Try do some gentle exercises for your neck and shoulders by rolling your shoulders forward and backwards and moving your head from side-to-side. Tuck your chin in towards your chest and then look up again to loosen up your neck.
- Stand up if you’re sitting, stretch your arms up and behind you, and wring out your hands (especially if you do a lot of typing). If it’s not too awkward, do 10 squats or calf raises, and roll your ankles.
- Put your hands behind your head with elbows pointing outwards, then lean back over the back of your chair to stretch the chest muscles and loosen up your thoracic spine.
- Look away into the middle distance or close your eyes for 10 seconds.
- Try to fit movement into your everyday, like taking the stairs instead of the lifts or going for a walk around the block during lunch breaks. Mari adds that a habit of brisk walking or aerobic equivalent can do wonders for your wellbeing.
- As often as possible, try to get at least seven hours of sleep every night, and optimise your daily routine and home environment to this goal.
2. Breathe more deeply
We’re often told as kids to breathe and count to 10 when upset or angry – and for good reason. It sounds simple, but it’s effective: consciously taking long, slow, deep breaths when stressed or anxious gets more oxygen to your body, which can have a calming effect.
Whenever you find yourself becoming agitated, impatient or nervous, be it at work or in a tense family situation, take a few slow, deep breaths before you react. Count to four as you draw breath through your nose, and just as slowly, blow out through your mouth. This will also give you time to consider if what you’re about to say or do will help or hinder the situation!
3. Detox from digital
None of us can live without technology, but we should be aware of the evidence stacking up on the many negative effects of continuous connectivity for our health. Take tech-free stretches when you’re at home – at the very least, put your phone on silent and set it aside for mealtimes and before you sleep.
Rather use the time you might have spent checking work emails, scrolling through social media or mindlessly browsing YouTube to eat together with your family and talk to those you care about. You can also use your digital detox time for prayer, mediation or mindfulness practices.
Being constantly glued to a screen is inconvenient and discourteous at best, and downright harmful at worst. It robs you of meaningful, face-to-face interactions and social connections, which are integral to your everyday quality of life, and of time to meditate, which has a host of scientifically-validated benefits.
4. Do something you love
Not everyone’s idea of relaxation is the same. Some people are energised by settling down with a good book, painting or playing music, some by hiking or running, some by cooking, gardening or decluttering, and some by exploring new places or meeting old friends.
Whatever it is that stills your mind, helps you process your thoughts and experiences, enriches your soul and makes you appreciate life more – schedule time each week to immerse yourself in it. So don’t let another year slip by without enjoying each part of your well-earned break – and try practicing some of these stress-relieving techniques today!
The South African workforce is amongst the most stressed in the world, according to a Bloomberg Business survey which rated our stress levels second, only to Nigeria.
It is important that employers understand the cost of present but disengaged employees on business and ultimately the impact of poor health on a company’s bottom line.