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Four ways to boost your physical, mental, and social well-being

The past months have certainly been stressful, but if you’ve been feeling particularly on edge in recent days, it might just be time to make self-care a priority in your life. You shouldn’t see caring for yourself as self-indulgence. Rather, look at it as a way to preserve your strength and energy so you can better engage with the world around you.

With all this in mind, here are few ways to take care of your physical, mental, and social well-being during these stressful times.

Give yourself an email vacation: Turn off those push notifications whenever you can. Another recommendation is to give yourself a few hours before you check your email in the morning and taking another small email “vacations” throughout your day or week. There’s a science to back the benefits of this; one small study found that when participants reduced email time, they were able to focus longer on their task and had measurably lower stress levels.

Feed your microbiome: Sometimes—especially when we’re stressed out—we all want to throw back a big double-bacon cheeseburger followed by a pint of ice cream. And there’s a good reason we feel that way: These kinds of foods are actually proven to make you feel good—temporarily. A diet high in saturated fat and sugar actually stimulates the same rewards centers in your brain as activities like gambling or sex. But even though these foods can make us feel great at the moment, the unhealthy fats and sugars alter our gut microbiome and contribute to significant brain fog and inflammation. These diet-induced changes can, in turn, have a negative impact on mental health, mood, and how your brain functions. 

Instead, go for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich grains, which will keep your gut microbiome happy. This can be as easy as adding some raspberries or blackberries to your morning oatmeal or sprinkling your lunch or dinner salad with some steamed lentils.

Turn off the TV and throw yourself a living room dance party instead: As good as rewatching your favorite show for the fifth time may feel in the moment, try to stay aware of how much screen time you’re getting—it turns out spending more than two hours a day on our devices has actually been clinically proven to harm our mental health. Instead, chuck on some music and have yourself a dance. You might not feel it at the moment, but the effects may radiate throughout the rest of your day.

Find a few mindful moments during your day—ideally in the sunshine: The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and frazzled, stop what you’re doing and take a few minutes to be mindful of everything you’re feeling throughout your body. Pay attention to your breathing. Even better, take a five-minute break outdoors: Just soak in the sun and listen to the sounds around you (bonus points for that dose of vitamin D). 

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