I’m guilty, I admit it. I’m one of those people who takes work home. On days when I work from home, I’m guilty of working more than the eight hours a day my full-time job requires.
I can also be classified under the group of workers who leave vacation days on the table. According to Project Time Off, more than half of American workers surveyed, 55 percent, left vacation days unused in 2015.
Oftentimes when I’m not working I’m thinking about work. I can’t help it. I like what I do and there’s a lot to be done. If that’s not enough, I’m the type of person who likes to always be on-the-go. My mother says I have “ants in my pants.”
In college, I held multiple leadership roles in different organizations, worked at least two jobs at a time, and studied hard getting mostly As. When I was in my dorm room I was either getting ready to go out or was sleeping. Graduating was like culture shock.
My life completely changed. I didn't have much to do except look for a full-time job; no more student newspaper, student housing events, study groups, lunches between classes, etc. Aside from a few freelance writing assignments, I managed to score, my calendar was empty.
All the free time didn't sit well with me. I could only play so much Sims between applying for jobs. I slowly filled my calendar again and felt fulfilled. No one ever said to me, “Enjoy all the free time now. You’ll probably never have it again in your life.” Make note of that if you are a recent grad reading this.
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Fast forward to my day as a career woman, full-time job underway. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines and learning doesn’t end with college. There were always webinars to watch and books to read when the nine-to-five ended. Even after winning a handful of marketing awards and showing ROI through several marketing campaigns, I didn't stop and each milestone made me more motivated than the last to keep on working hard even if it meant losing sleep.
After years of missing out on some serious shut eye and being way more stressed out than any one person should be, I made a decision to do better for my health. I had no choice but to put some of the work down and get my “me time” in.
At first, I was resistant. As part of my “me time,” my prescription was relaxation, which didn't sit well with me. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I thought. My mind and body demanded otherwise.
Why Relaxing Is Actually One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Work
Humans are not meant to be robots.
1. Relaxing helps heal
When are our bodies are under a lot of pressure (mental or physical) our immune system gets beat up. High stress can make us sick. Researchers reported: chronic stress lasting a month or more affects the risk of catching a cold.
Related Article: Transcendental Meditation: The Solution to Stress in the Workplace
2. Relaxing makes us be more productive
“Spending more hours at work often leads to less time for sleep and insufficient sleep takes a substantial toll on performance,” reported the New York Times. That same article also discussed how relaxing makes us more productive.
3. Relaxing helps us make better decisions
Stress can affect our ability to think clearly, changing how we weigh risk and reward says Science Daily. Centers for Disease Control wrote: “competence in judgment is always comprised under stress,” noting a study that found stress to “induce a tendency to offer solutions before all decision alternatives had been considered and to scan such alternatives in a non-systematic fashion.”
Finding Time to Relax Between Hectic Schedules
I’m sure work is not your only priority; you may have kids and a house that need your attention as well. Some days, you may feel like the only time you’d get to relax may be during those few minutes as soon as you get into bed, right before you fall asleep.
Here are a few ways to relax even when your schedule is hectic.
1. Take mini breaks throughout the day – all you need are a few minutes
Feeling inspired after reading Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s book "Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World,” I set three reminders on my phone every day to practice their one-minute meditation. If you can set aside one minute, you can do this.
As part of the meditation, you simply sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor, closing your eyes and lowering your gaze. You then focus your attention on your breath and stay in touch with the sensations of your breath. See page four for the full meditation.
2. Give yourself a spa experience, at home
Going to a spa would entail getting in the car, maybe hitting some traffic, and actually going. Creating a spa experience at home, something I recently adopted from one of my favorite beauty blogs, has changed my life in a sense. I feel calmer than ever and uplifted. Why did it take me so long to do this?
You have to wash. Make this part of your wash routine at least once a week. Like the blog suggests:
- Light some candles. They help set the mood and create a relaxing atmosphere.
- Give yourself a mini facial.
- Continue the pampering with a hand massage.
- Put on soothing music.
- Follow up your hand massage with a foot massage.
- Run a hot bath and sit in it.
If you don’t have time for all of the above, the writer, Renee Volck suggests refreshing yourself on the go with a face mist.
Related Article: Flick of a Switch: How Lighting Affects Productivity and Mood
3. Taste your food, really taste your food
Something you also need to do often is eat. Have you ever taken the time to really taste your food? As I write this article, I’m finishing up my dinner. Oftentimes when I’m eating, I’m doing something else. Can you relate? But I’ve learned to set aside everything else and savor my food (at least twice a week on weekends when my schedule isn’t so hectic).
As you go to put the first piece of food in your mouth, observe it. What does it look like? What does it feel like? As you bite each piece, eat slowly, chewing your food thoroughly and breathing between bites. Don’t worry about the noises or sites around you – just focus on your food, a practice of mindfulness, the act of giving open attention to the present.
I hope my advice helps you and you can find peace in your personal life that you carry with you to better business. If you try any of these, let me know how they work out for you.