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The Science of Taking Care of Yourself

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There is no doubt that when we feel stressed, we do not make the best decisions. We can compare our brain to a computer: when too many programs are opened and running at the same time, the response period is slower, often resulting in a system crash.

The same happens with our brain. The more demands you place on it at the same time without a way to discharge the extra mental energy, the slower we’ll respond to those demands and the more mistakes we’ll make.

Typical examples include breaking a mug as you’re taking it out from the cupboard because you hand is not responding (because you’re focused on 10,000 different other things) or not seeing a blatant mistake right in front of you in that important presentation due yesterday.

Have you ever been so stressed that you started crying when someone asked you some silly question or made some inconsequential comment? I have.

At that point there is only one thing that you can do: STOP. Stop right there. Breathe.

You are the first person that you should take care of. It doesn’t matter how important everything else is. Without you, all the rest doesn’t exist.

How do you start taking care of yourself when your life is in chaos? You will need a bit of discipline but it’s worth it.

Two easy things you can do right now are:

  • Get up. Go get some coffee/tea/water. Slowly. Come back. Drink it. Slowly.

We are all so used to running from one place to another, to the non stop pace of our activities, to our day cramped with duties, it’s no wonder we can never stop. Forcing yourself to slow down even to get coffee and then taking ten minutes (or five) to enjoy it, will help you to reboot your brain and go back to your task feeling mentally fresher.

At a period of high stress in my life I kept a big bottle of water at my desk and I drank from it during the whole day. Being forced to go to the restroom made me to stop, have a walk, and come back fresher. Add to that the bonus of being hydrated and having glowing skin.

  • Clear a day in your calendar to do nothing.

Grab your planner. See when you can move appointments or be done with extremely urgent projects and make room for yourself (at least clear your after-office day). Then go home, order take out, put on your pajamas, unplug the phone, deviate your cell to voice mail and then ... do nothing!

Try not to engage in an activity involving the conscious use of your brain. Watch TV (not the news), play online, check your horoscope, talk to your plants, sleep, have a bubble bath.

Yes, it’s totally unproductive. That’s exactly the idea.

Rebooting your brain doesn’t necessarily involve expensive traveling and spa treatments, meditation in the desert and colonics. Go for them if you like them but it’s more important that you take care of yourself every day even in small ways.

Slowing down doesn’t mean being unproductive. In fact, you will discover that your senses will be sharper, your decisions better, and your success will soar.

By Claudia Juarez

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