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Your Self-Care Resolution
Submitted by the USPS Employee Assistance Program
When your world has been going through changes and it seems stress is around every corner, consider a New Year’s resolution that invests in self-care and your emotional well-being. This can help you continue to perform at a high level while minimizing the impact of stress in your life.
Good habits help you improve your ability to think through situations, as well as find peaceful moments in your daily life. There are times when shifting your focus from others and putting it on yourself is essential to being able to lead.
Imagine you and your employees are on an airplane and there’s turbulence. The calmer and more focused everyone remains, the more you all can work together. If you begin by putting on your own oxygen mask first, you then can assist your team in focusing on their goals. Practicing self-care is a way to ensure you truly are present in your own life and the lives of people around you.
Consider following these self-care resolutions for 2021:
Get enough sleep at the right times for your body. Do you stay up late at night on social media or streaming TV shows? Do you wake up in the night to check your email or look at the news on your cell phone? These things distract and stimulate your brain, which will take away from your ability to have a restful night’s sleep.
Be careful of using unhealthy tactics trying to improve sleep, such as alcohol consumption, watching movies or playing video games that increase your adrenaline or sleep aids. Instead, make changes to your before-bed routine a priority in 2021 and commit yourself to getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you don’t do so already, make time in your schedule to prepare your mind and body for a restful sleep:
Stop excessive drinking. Be aware of harmful alcohol-related behaviors. Unhealthy amounts of alcohol intake for men’s psychological and physical well-being is the equivalent to more than two drinks a day or more than a total of 14 drinks in a week. For women, unhealthy amounts of drinking equals seven or more drinks per week.
Do you find you are drinking greater amounts of alcohol in order to feel a way you want or escape negative emotions? Do you continue to drink even though you realize it has a negative effect on your health and mood? Is alcohol use causing a strain on your relationships? If so, a commitment to stop or cut back on your drinking most likely is in order.
The healthiest habit to adopt regarding alcohol is to reduce consumption as much as possible or stop altogether. Start using stress-and anger-reducing methods such as deep breathing, mindfulness techniques, meditation and exercise. This will help you avoid leaning on alcohol to deal with your stress.
Stop overeating or stress-eating. Perhaps you turn to food when you are upset or eat less healthy under stress. Focus on including whole foods, fruits and vegetables in your diet, especially when snacking. Eating lean meats such as fish and poultry, as well as whole grains, will balance your energy levels and help you have a stable and calm mood.
You don’t have to deprive yourself completely of sweets, but eat them in moderation. Start paying attention to whether you are tired when you want sweets. Instead, focus on resting and relaxing more. What other things do you enjoy that help you manage strong feelings?
If your tendency is to reach for sweets when your mood is low or you lack energy, you can explore using the idea of applying a temperature extreme to help you feel calm or soothed. See if a cool feeling such as drinking ice water or a fruit smoothie has a calming effect. Their counterparts of hot teas or soups also may be used for soothing effects. Other nonfood options of temperature-soothing include holding or putting ice packs on your neck or taking a cold shower or warm bath.
Start an exercise routine. Focus on taking good care of your body in order to increase your ability to manage stress. An aerobic exercise routine is a good way to improve your mood by releasing endorphin chemicals produced in your brain. These chemicals help you feel good and increase pleasure.
Find an online exercise class to which you can commit for the new year. If you live in a warm climate, get outside. Go for walks or ride your bike or dance to music, especially if you need something to do with pent-up children. Find simple ways to get aerobic exercise into your daily routine.
Start with what you can do without judging yourself and build toward increasing the time and regularity. Exercising for 20 to 30 minutes, three to five times a week is recommended for optimal health.
Stop smoking. Smokers will benefit from finding a smoking-cessation program that feels right. Quitting has the financial benefit of you stressing less about the money you spend on cigarettes. More important is the peace of mind you get when your lungs and cardiovascular system start to heal.
Make your New Year’s commitment by setting a quit date within the first two weeks of January and share it with your family, friends and coworkers. Let them know you would appreciate their support and encouragement. If you work with other smokers, ask them not to offer you cigarettes and not smoke around you. Make sure you plan for obstacles in the first months and imagine yourself breathing fresh air in the spring.
Think of what type of support you need and other ways you may manage triggers. Make plans for weak moments and withdrawals during winter months. Do yourself a favor now by going through your home, car and work area to clean out cigarette and other tobacco/nicotine-delivery products.
Start a mindfulness practice. Starting a mindfulness practice is a wonderful foundation for a New Year’s resolution or to support other health changes you may want to make. Mindfulness can help you feel more in control of your mind and your responses to situations.
These practices stem anywhere from learning a meditation technique to deciding to practice a mindful attitude. Eliminating distractions and maintaining your full attention on a specific activity such as mindful eating or focusing on paying more attention to what you are doing as you go through your day will help you feel calmer. You can learn simple meditation and breathing techniques that are easy to enlist in stressful moments and situations at work.
Remember that your Employee Assistance Program is here to support you in the changes you would like to make for the new year. Counseling and life coaching are just a phone call away. For more information, visit EAP4YOU.com or contact your EAP at 800-327-4968 (800-EAP-4YOU); TTY: 877-493-7341.