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Self-care and Productivity

Are you feeling stressed? Overwhelmed?

The year 2020 is really proving to be one we will remember for many years to come. We are living through some pretty historic times. It all started with a global pandemic, which not only had a severe impact on the health of many (both physical and mental), but also an economic impact. Rising tensions across the globe related to the Black Lives Matter movement due to the recent killing of George Floyd being the tipping point causing mass protests against police violence and systemic racism.

The way we work has changed dramatically with unemployment skyrocketing and others working from home.

It is only normal that stress levels will rise, we have ALL been affected in one way or another. While Productivity is important to keep things moving, let’s not get carried away and over work ourselves. I’d like to take some time to point out that while productivity is key, we cannot and should not sacrifice our well being in the name of productivity. In fact, if we improve self-care it will impact our productivity positively.

I’ll share a few tips with you below to help you improve your energy levels which will help you achieve your daily goals without sacrificing your well-being.

1.) Go to bed early

Okay okay, so you’ve heard this before. However, do you actually do it? If you do, well done (I am clapping for you 😊)! If you are anything like me, then you might not pay much attention to this. I’ve always been very highly driven on achieving my goals no matter what it takes, and sleep was a sacrifice I was willing to make. There comes a time though when you need to take a sleep back and just do what is best for you and your well-being. Burn out is real and no goal is worth your health. Here is a little break down:

· Why sleep is important:

- Health Risks – Such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer is commonly developed in people who regularly get fewer than six hours of sleep.

- Weight gain - Lack of sleep causes an increased craving for sweet, starchy and salty food due to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, says Dr. Manson.

- Brain cleaning function - this occurs when your brain is at rest. When you're asleep, a waste clearance system in the body known as the glymphatic system runs what is essentially a rinse cycle in the brain, using cerebrospinal fluid (the clear fluid found in the brain and spine). Experts believe that this fluid flows more freely through the brain when it is at rest during the night. During this time, it washes away a harmful protein known as beta-amyloid. When this process doesn't occur, scientists believe that beta-amyloid can build up, forming the plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

- Relaxed & Happy – Of course we can’t not mention how good you feel when you have had a good sleep. It just makes starting the day with a positive attitude easier, no matter what hardships we are currently facing in our lives.

· How to improve your sleep

- Go to bed early – Perhaps you don’t want to go to bed early, that’s ok as long as you sleep the 7-8 recommended hours. However, why would you actively seek to wake up later? I personally love the concept of the 5am club, if you haven’t heard of it, I would recommend you research about it. My key take-away from the concept is that you get a head start on the rest of the world to do whatever you want without getting interrupted.

- Switch off electronics - (at least don’t look at them anymore) at least an hour prior to switching the lights off. Do something relaxing to you that doesn’t require much energy. I have tried a 10 mins yoga before bed session which helps relax the muscles and the mind and it has had a wonderful effect on destressing me.

- Stop thinking – Sometimes you are doing all the right things but when it comes down to it you just can’t stop thinking. The best app I’ve found that has helped me during such times is “Calm”, they have free videos on YouTube of either someone talking or just sounds of the water, etc. It is so relaxing, if you focus your attention on that rather than your thoughts, you’ll fall asleep in no time.

- Headstands – Yes, this is a less traditional one. It helps to circulate refreshed blood to our glands and brain, hypothalamus and pituitary, which control all the other glands in our body. It also cleanses and detoxifies the adrenal glands, putting us into a positive state of mind, decreasing the amount of negative thoughts that we have. If you cannot do a headstand – maybe a great time to learn?

2.) Stay Hydrated - Drink water

A non-negotiable is drinking more water and making sure you’re staying hydrated. At least one litre to a litre-and-a-half a day should do the trick as not only do you lose water throughout the night but being well hydrated can help reduce awakenings and disruptions caused by dehydration, such as a dry mouth and leg cramps. If you often forget to stay hydrated, set alarms evenly throughout your day, and drink a cup of water whenever they ring.

3.) Food for better sleep

Kiwi - It has been thought that eating 1 or 2 medium sized kiwis can help sleep. A study has suggested that Kiwi is one of the best foods to eat to improve sleep quality. Kiwi contains antioxidants and serotonin which has been said to help sleep disorders. A study found that after 4 weeks, waking time after sleep onset, and sleep onset latency were significantly decreased and total sleep time and sleep efficiency were significantly increased.

Cherries - Drinking tart cherry juice before bed has been said to increase the amount of time you sleep for as well as your sleep quality. Cherries contain Melatonin, which regulates your body’s internal clock and your sleep-wake cycles.

Almonds - Almonds are a great source of many nutrients; as little as just one ounce can provide 32% of your daily recommended amount of Manganese. It has also been suggested that eating almonds regularly can decrease risks associated with chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Almonds have been linked to boosting sleep quality because of their Melatonin levels; Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep.

Chamomile Tea - Chamomile tea is popular among many who use foods to enhance their sleeping patterns and behaviours. It contains many properties that are not only good for boosting your immune system, reducing anxiety and depression and improving skin health. It helps you to get good night’s sleep as Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that promotes sleepiness and reduces insomnia.

Rice - In particular, white rice. This is because white rice has low fibre, nutrients and antioxidants and is high in carbohydrates. Tryptophan in your brain increases when eating carbohydrates, which is why when we often eat a lot of carbs we feel drowsy.

4.) Morning exercise

When you wake up in the morning make it a habit to slowly mobilise your body by doing some exercise. The level of intensity is up to you, you can go for a full on HIIT session, a little jog, or a simple stretch. This is important as exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. You can read more about this in the “Exercising to relax” article by Harvard Medical School. This contributes to you being more productive during the day and making better decisions. Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that morning exercise improves attention, visual learning, and decision-making.

5.) Planning

By nature, I am a very organised person. I love to plan for the future, and I am very goal orientated. Therefore, I am constantly planning and let me tell you, no big goal is achievable without little goals in between. You can either do this in the mornings after exercising with your first coffee or Matcha Chai or before you go to bed. You can write it on paper, or you can type it on your phone. There are so many apps out there, but to be honest I just stick to the “Notes” application. There is however more power in using paper and pen. “Writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS),” reports “The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you're actively focusing on at the moment –– something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront.”

There’s also scientific proof that the pen is mightier than the keyboard. Yes, while typing information into your computer, laptop or mobile device is effective, it’s not as efficient as writing it down. There’s a connection between handwriting and cognitive abilities.

6.) Action time

Now you’ve set out your goals, you are feeling rested, energised and ready to go. On your list of tasks for the day you should prioritise based on criticality. If something has a deadline, make sure it’s done first. Use a calendar to set deadlines for yourself, using reminders can also be a great way to keep you on track.

- Pomodoro Technique

This is a fantastic way to power through work in deep concentration for a continued period of time and then take a short break. This is usually 20-25mins of work and then a 5 mins break. Take a walk during the day, there is nothing like fresh air to clear your mind and get flooded with inspiration and great ideas.

- Smart Goals

Perhaps I should have mentioned this in the planning section, but it is important that when you set out your long-term goals, you use the SMART guidelines. SMART is an effective tool that provides the clarity, focus and motivation you need to achieve your goals. It can also improve your ability to reach them by encouraging you to define your objectives and set a completion date.

· Specific – What? Why? Who? Where? Define the action required.

· Measurable – Define what completion of the task looks like.

· Achievable - How realistic is the goal? Are there any constraints, such as financial?

· Relevant - reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based.

· Time bound – Set deadlines, what can I do today? In a month? In 6 months?

Well I am certainly more passionate about this topic than I realised and could go on for days. However, I think I might have said enough for today and I am hoping this should help you as a starting point in your journey. Your journey to incorporate self-care into your daily routine and not have to sacrifice well-being for productivity.

Remember if one of your goals is to track your expenses, be sure to get your free expense tracker here.

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