Stress is inevitable.
The kids get sick, work gets tough, the essays are piled on, money gets tight…
Stress is an obstacle we face every day. Because it is inevitable, it’s not how much stress you experience, it’s how you handle it.
We buy planners, create lists, fill in our calendars, hide sticky-note memos around the house just to make sure we don’t forget that deadline, miss that meeting, show up late to that appointment, etc. Something many of us fail to do, however, is plan our free time. Amidst the dizzying chaos of everyday life, we forget the importance of having fun.
Doing something you enjoy releases endorphins which are natural stress relievers. What is life, anyway, without a little fun?
As a full-time student who works three part-time jobs, I quickly learned how draining life can be. Failing to set time aside for yourself is detrimental to your self-esteem, happiness, and overall, your productivity. Having fun (or as I prefer to call it: self-care) is completely possible (and pretty much necessary) if you do it the right way.
So, what is the right way?
There are two categories of self-care that I partake in: every day and occasional. There are things I do every day that benefit my productivity and health, and there are things that I do occasionally as a sort of reward.
Plan it out.
I often set daily goals for myself, such as completing a certain number of assignments (work or school), cleaning a certain area of the house, doing the laundry, etc. Once I have completed my daily goals, I stop working and use the rest of my time doing something I enjoy. Dispersing your work-load across multiple days can help buy you more time in the long run. Procrastinating truly is a productivity killer.
Get up and move.
Every day, I find two hours to hit the gym. Working out, breaking a sweat, and burning some energy is one of the highlights of my day. Once I leave the gym, I often find myself more energized than I was before, and I direct that energy into getting more work done. (Movement and burning energy helps release endorphins, by the way). If you aren’t used to working out, I suggest taking a walk, strolling through a park, or anything that gets you moving for 30 minutes or more.
Don’t work yourself to sleep.
As a student, it’s way too easy to be glued to my laptop screen or a textbook until I finally call it a night. Doing so, however, doesn’t allow my brain to calm down and prepare for sleep. If I stay up late stressing over an assignment or exam, my mind races when I turn off the lights. Taking some time to relax in the evenings while preparing for bed is a great way to improve your sleep health. Getting plenty of rest is key to having a productive day.
Grab coffee with a friend.
To me, sitting down to have coffee with a friend is one of the most relaxing ways to get away from everyday stress. It’s a great break that leaves me feeling energized and happy, unlike a nap. In everyday chaos, we often lose touch with our friends and family, but spending time with those you love is key to maintaining a happy life.
Take a night off.
Every once and awhile, you must just step away from it all and spend a few hours in the company of good friends, going to see a movie, grabbing dinner, etc. It’s important to remember that we are humans, not machines.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I take some time off to do things that make me feel good about my appearance, such as getting a haircut, using a face mask, plucking those eyebrows. Looking good is a confidence booster, so don’t be afraid to pamper yourself.
And finally, there is Sunday Funday: the most important day of the week. I say this, because every Sunday is the same for me. If I don’t use Sundays as a day to relax and prepare for the upcoming week, I feel four steps behind when Monday morning comes around.
Sundays are the one day of the week I make sure to enjoy myself. I take a break from the gym and opt out for a yoga class (or if the weather is permitting, go on a hike.) Because health and fitness are such a big part of my life, I also use this time to buy groceries and prepare healthy meals for my week (it helps if you learn to enjoy cooking!), or complete chores for the dreaded Monday morning. A lazy, relaxing day around the house never hurt anyone.
Since everyone is different, we will all experience fun in different ways. Work-life balance, however, is critical to everyone.
Being productive DOES NOT mean forfeiting what you love. The truth is, you can do both! Whatever it is that boosts your mood: do it. Life is much more enjoyable when you’re having fun.