Take a deep, slow breath in from your diaphragm, which means your belly should expand more than your chest. Then take even more time on the exhale, letting yourself deflate like a balloon, as my friend, colleague, and breathing guru Wim Hof says. Take at least fifteen breaths like this, then do a single inhale hold (breathe in and hold for as long as you can without passing out! Sapolsky explains why long exhales help you downshift from a stress state into one of relaxation and restoration: When you exhale, the parasympathetic half turns on, activating your vagus nerve in order to slow things down (this is why many forms of meditation are built around extended exhalations). Again, I'd encourage you to concentrate on your breathing itself, and notice how the breath cycle slows your heart rate down. Once your device or app has shown you the way, try to do without it and let sensation be your guide. If you can't reproduce what you think you've learned on your own, with no technology and nobody to guide you, then you haven't really mastered the skill and need to practice it more. Use the device or app once again and pay even closer attention to yourself, then put it away and retest. In other words, loving yourself isn't an inoculation that prevents discrimination against you or others who look like you. Self-love doesn't address social conditioning or challenge and change the systems it is borne out of. Prescribing self-love to an Indigenous woman doesn't reduce the number of murdered or missing Indigenous women. Practicing self-love doesn't mean that employers are going to hire a trans person (or that a lawyer won't trans-shame to get an advantage in a court case about a severed tendon! Feeling good and lavishing care upon herself doesn't prevent a fat woman from getting slurs screamed at her in a parking lot. Loving her hair doesn't prevent a Black student from getting sent home from school for wearing braids or locs. We're all navigating other people's biases against our bodies, and personal self-love, no matter how robust, doesn't prevent that. It simply helps us recover from the pain of those inevitable experiences. This is why we need to liberate our bodies. Body liberation is about claiming ownership over our bodies. In fact, the growing scientific field of ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. One recent study compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for ninety minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one.

Their results showed that nature walks lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination--which is defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions. Research shows that these activities can lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol, calming the body's fight-or-flight response. Another important self-care practice for finding balance in the digital age is to work on developing hobbies and interests outside of professional and family commitments. Find enjoyable activities that don't The state of flow or feeling like you're in the zone happens when we're fully immersed in activities that we enjoy. In short, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what we are doing, resulting in loss of our sense of space and time. Another reason for pursuing nonvirtual interests and activities that put us in a state of flow is that most of them are also good for our cognitive and emotional development. For example, a recent study with mice and humans found that brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new ones, developing neurological plasticity and building up a functional reserve that provides a hedge against future cell loss. Repeat as necessary until you've got it down. Stress Rx: Not More Stress In our app-driven quest for more, more, more, we've unwittingly added yet another stressor into our lives that threatens to tip some of us over the edge. We go from a stressful work environment to a gym and do a stressful workout, then head home to a stressful family environment, believing incorrectly that the thirty minutes or hour of frantic activity has helped us de-stress. Add in the fact that many gyms subject us to loud, unrelenting music and more TVs than you'd find in the average sports bar, and you have a full-on sensory assault that is far more demanding than all but the most extreme of stress-inducing jobs. Then we realize that we're two thousand steps short of our daily target, so we go out for a run later that night, or else dwell on how we've fallen short of our wearables' expectations yet again. In strength training, we recognize the need to include rest periods in our sessions because the body needs time to recover from the last set and rebound for the next one. We also know that it's the recovery time after exercise that leads to adaptation, not the activity itself (this doesn't just apply to lifting weights but to any kind of sport or exertion). Frank Merritt made the good point that you cannot carry a two-hundred-pound weight above your head all day; And unfortunately, the body doesn't distinguish between the type of load you're placing on it. It doesn't just release you from having to meet someone else's ideal of beauty; It's about stretching beyond the limiting stories that are usually told and dumping the cultural ideas about what makes a body valuable.

Sometimes that means allowing our bodies to just be as they are, wearing fatkinis and flaunting our stretch marks. Sometimes, as in the case of some trans people, reclaiming requires changing our bodies, perhaps through surgery and/or hormones, to transition to a body that feels like home, that represents who we are. The culture may not rise up to celebrate your body and your choices. You don't personally have the power to make that happen alone or immediately, but collectively, we can build movements that bend the arc of justice in the long term. Your power lies in being able to make choices about how you express yourself regardless of what those choices mean for others. I make choices about the cultural signifiers of gender that are under my control, like haircuts and clothes and body modification. I accept that others may not see me for who I am and that I can't control that. It's my body to inhabit regardless of what it may telegraph to others or how it may influence how I am treated. Essentially, mentally stimulating activity helps to build up our brains. Activities like reading, word puzzles, painting, and drawing not only put us in a state of flow, they're also good for our brain health. Skill-Building Strategies Below are five essential self-care tips to get you on your way to a happier and healthier you. Take care of your physical needs by getting plenty of sleep, regular exercise, and eating a balanced diet. Research has consistently shown these practices to significantly improve our concentration and cognition and to lessen depression and anxiety. Tune in to your emotions. Developing the ability to recognize and label our emotions is a necessary skill for cultivating our well-being. All too often, we are distracted by our busy lives and rarely have an opportunity to take a moment for self-reflection. Schedule regular times for self-reflection by writing in a journal or meditating. Stress is stress, and when there's no respite for weeks, months, or years, we can only expect grave consequences (pun intended). Lenny Wiersma conducted an oral interview-based study of big-wave surfers and found that those who weren't pros used their water time to manage the stress of their jobs.

Dr Mark Renneker was one of the first guys to surf Mavericks and found that surfing provided this relief from his job as an oncologist that he couldn't find any other way. He juggles all these balls in the air when he goes in every day to work with cancer patients. Coming into this extreme natural environment forces you to shut everything else out. Because if your connection shifts to your job and you don't focus on the wave, you're going to get killed. If he was out in the ocean and anything from his personal or work life came into his head, he said he knew it was a significant thing he needed to pay attention to when he was done surfing because nature will only allow the truly important thoughts to get through in those moments. So, like Mark Renneker, we need to make sure that when we spend time moving, we do so in a way that provides a respite from the constant demands we're placing on ourselves from the time we get up till the time we go to bed. An obvious way is to seek out restorative immersion in nature. But on those days that we do have to exercise indoors, I suggest doing it in a way that reduces our stress load, rather than increasing it. It's my challenge to build my resilience so that I can manage misgendering or transphobia, or any of the other ways the cultural construction of my identities can make me a target for stigma, discrimination, marginalization, and invisibility. A large part of that resilience comes from connection and from my participation in the collective struggle for belonging. Self-love is not enough, but the individual and collective pursuit of body liberation can help us heal and help us grow a new world, where we all belong. COMING HOME We're in a kayak, paddling between banks of mangrove trees. Our guide is telling me about how he studied in Canada before coming home so he could preserve, share, and teach his Mayan culture to visitors from within Mexico as well as tourists, like me, from other countries. Throughout the day we slow down or speed up to rejoin my partner and son, together in another kayak. There's no one else in sight this entire day, as we slowly paddle through the canal, listening to stories about Mayan traders from a thousand years past, their boats loaded with salt, honey, cacao, and dreams of wealth. The four of us stop to eat lunch, to swim in an open lagoon, or to explore areas our guide is keen to show us. He points out tree leaves and plants, describing their healing and culinary properties. Before you log on to social media, get in the habit of checking in with yourself. For example, if you're feeling more stressed or blue, it's probably best to skip social media for a little while.

Make your self-care a priority. Honoring the commitments we make to ourselves reinforces the notion that we matter. Create your own self-care rituals. Take time to define what self-care rituals are important to you and how to implement them in your day. For example, for some people, making time for silence and solitude may be at the top of their self-care list, while for others socializing with friends is most important. Be mindful of how and with whom you spend your time. The activities we choose to do and the people we choose to share our lives with are reflections of how we feel about ourselves. As often as you can, schedule time to do the things you enjoy with people you enjoy and love! This includes putting our devices to one side and making a conscious effort to better sense how we're moving and breathing throughout the activity. Also try to integrate stress-busting breaks into your workday. If you're trying to brainstorm, head outside and take audio notes on your phone or voice recorder. Or take the time to walk to see a colleague in person rather than copping out and just sending them a text, e-mail, or IM. Stumped by a big project? Do your workout earlier than planned to clear your mind. Every Second Counts Henry Ford was obsessed with eliminating what he viewed as wasted time from his assembly line. His methods reduced the time it took to build a car from twelve hours to less than two. When the rest of the manufacturing world caught up with what Ford was doing, efficiency became the name of the game in factories across the globe. He identifies the leaf his grandmother makes into a compress to reduce the sting from bug bites. He breaks off pieces for us to taste, enthusiastically sharing family recipes featuring individual plants.