Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Here are 4 benefits of taking a week off for self-care

18th Dec 18 | Lifestyle

Sometimes you need to make time for yourself, otherwise you'll burn out.

Harvard Award Malala

At 29 years old, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes office in January, she’ll be the youngest woman to be elected into Congress in the USA. With her age and forward-thinking policies, she’s seen as one of the shining lights of millennial politics (and indeed, politics in general).

Many things about her are infinitely relatable of her generation – for example, she told the New York Times she’d have to wait until her first pay check before she’s able to afford the rent on an apartment in Washington DC.

Now, she’s taking some time off for self-care. She says on her Instagram stories: “I am starting a week of self care where I am taking the week off and taking care of me.”

She goes on to write: “I’ve been campaigning nonstop for two years: Through multiple jobs, double shifts, morning commutes on the subway, etc. I neglected myself in the process – before the campaign, I used to practice yoga 3-4x/week, eat nutritiously, read and write for leisure.

Ocasio-Cortez Instagram story

“As soon as everything kicked up, that all went out the window. I went from doing yoga and making wild rice and salmon dinners to eating fast food for dinner and falling asleep in my jeans and make-up.”

She makes the point that self-care is often demonised, and society values “working hard” over anything else. She adds: “I also find conversations around self-care emotionally challenging when you come from an immigrant, poor, or working class background.”

So Ocasio-Cortez is now taking a break in upstate New York with plenty of books as well as Epsom Salts, lavender oil, notebooks, pens and music.

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Speechwriting on the 6 train.

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Self-care is often not given enough attention, but taking a week for yourself can do the world of good – here are just some of the potential benefits…

1. It will stop you from burning out

Think of the 3 o’clock slump – that time of day when you start feeling distracted and a bit snoozy at work. It shows your brain needs a break, because it just can’t function at 100% all the time. The same goes for taking days off – if you’re working flat out, non-stop, chances are you’ll end up burning out.

A day or two to rest could ward off the anxiety, guilt, irritability, sadness, fatigue and lack of motivation often associated with burnout.

2. You’ll gain a bit more perspective

If you’re spending all of your time and energy on work, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. You can get wrapped up in work dramas, constantly sending emails and putting out fires, and it can all get a bit overwhelming.

Stepping away from the office for a week will help put everything in perspective – it can make you realise what things are worth getting upset over and what aren’t. Hopefully, a break will take a weight off your mind and give you a chance to focus on yourself and your relationships. And no – you really shouldn’t check your emails during this time, as that would defeat the purpose of a week of self-care.

3. It can boost your mental health

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According to Psychology Today, one of the symptoms of burnout is depression. This can vary on the spectrum from mild to more severe – if you’re in the latter stage, you should seek professional help.

If you’re in the early stages, taking some time off will do much to help your state of mind. If you take a leaf out of Ocasio-Cortez’s book, you can use the time to do things you really enjoy doing – whether it’s reading, writing or listening to music – and regain a more positive mental attitude. At the very least, it will help manage your stress levels and recharge your batteries.

4. You’ll go back with even more drive

Burnout can leave you feeling less focused, and it might take you longer to get through daily tasks. Taking some time for yourself will hopefully mean that, you’ll return to work with renewed vim and vigour.

As you’ll be more refreshed, chances are you’ll be more alert and productive, too. It also gives you the opportunity to recognise why you’re doing your job, and appreciate the things you like about it.

© Press Association 2018