Sunday Mail - Body and Soul - - FRONT PAGE -

Ex­er­cise, nu­tri­tious food and plenty of sleep are the ob­vi­ous build­ing blocks for good health, but “me-time” is another es­sen­tial. What works for you will be dif­fer­ent to what works for some­one else, but one thing is con­sis­tent: Fail­ing to take that time will not only make you un­pleas­ant to be around, but re­search shows it can also in­crease your risk of anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and ill­ness. The stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol helps main­tain blood pres­sure, im­mune func­tion and the body’s anti-in­flam­ma­tory pro­cesses. As life throws us curve balls, our cor­ti­sol lev­els in­crease, but when we do some­thing that slows us down or makes us feel good, these lev­els re­turn to nor­mal.

“When we don’t stop, our cor­ti­sol doesn’t go down and our bod­ies stop func­tion­ing prop­erly,” Dr Claudia Lee, an in­te­gra­tive and pre­ven­ta­tive GP, says. “That’s when you start putting the milk in the cup­board, you can’t con­cen­trate, your li­bido goes down and your ir­ri­tabil­ity goes through the roof.”

Chronic stress is what re­sults when the body con­sis­tently pro­duces high lev­els of cor­ti­sol. This can lead to mood and anx­i­ety dis­or­ders, de­pres­sion and in­som­nia. It also weak­ens the im­mune sys­tem, mak­ing us more sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­ease and viruses, as well as putting us at an in­creased risk of chronic ill­ness.

Starv­ing your body of me-time usu­ally goes hand-in-hand with lack of qual­ity sleep or ex­er­cise and a poor diet, all of which have been linked to an in­creased risk of se­ri­ous ill­nesses such as heart dis­ease, obe­sity and di­a­betes. body+soul yoga ex­pert Kate Kendall says. “We of­ten say yes to ev­ery­thing and tend to spread our­selves too thinly.”

Men are bet­ter at fit­ting down­time into their day but sports psy­chol­o­gist Michael Inglis says they also of­ten pre­fer to fly solo.

“Women tend to be more so­cial be­ings so are more likely to en­joy me-time with other peo­ple,” he says. “Men can be more soli­tary so are less likely to call some­one to share me-time with, es­pe­cially as they get older. That’s a real shame and some­thing to be aware of, as so­cial in­ter­ac­tion is a huge part of our ex­is­tence and fre­quently brings its own health ben­e­fits.”

“As a so­ci­ety, we have in­creas­ingly lost the abil­ity to stop and ac­knowl­edge the good things we’ve done be­cause we feel a cer­tain amount of pres­sure to move straight onto the next thing,” he says. “That small ac­tion of ac­knowl­edg­ing, though, can be re­ally sat­is­fy­ing and ful­fill­ing.”

No mat­ter what me-time is for you, it shouldn’t be at the bot­tom of your to-do list.

“A lot of peo­ple I meet do ev­ery­thing else they need to be­fore they have me-time, which means it of­ten doesn’t hap­pen at all,” Inglis says. “But we need to pri­ori­tise it and be proac­tive about fit­ting it in. It’s not an in­dul­gence – it’s an im­por­tant part of life.”

Lee adds, “We should be hav­ing a bit of me-time ev­ery day, but it’s worth sched­ul­ing monthly and yearly me-time.”

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