Leading Denver Mental Health Center Says Enjoying ‘Recess’ Helps You Stay Centered

Colleagues walking outside

To say that the world today can be hectic or chaotic at times would be an understatement. Unfortunately, many adults have lost touch with one of the best tools for achieving or maintaining a sense of calmness and of being “centered.” That tool is play. Like adults, children face a number of stressors in their lives. They naturally turn to play as a way to release tension and temporarily free their mind of worries and concerns. However, since our adult daily lives are so consumed with work, family responsibilities and obligations that others rely on us to handle, making time for play isn’t as reflexive for adults as it is for children. Therefore, we need to make intentional choices to incorporate play into our routines.

The Many Benefits of Play

Ask any child what the best part of their school day is and they will almost certainly say, “Recess!” Whether you can work it into your schedule regularly or on an “as time permits” basis, taking a recess can be something that you, too, eagerly anticipate and from which you derive a variety of benefits, including:

  • Stress relief. True childlike play, away from your work, laptop and smartphone, can be an excellent way to shed your mental and emotional burdens for a few minutes.
  • Improved cognitive function and creativity. Adults who engage in playful activities often find that they have the unintended benefit of helping them think more clearly and creatively at work and elsewhere.
  • Increased energy. Even a brief midday play session can have a very positive impact on your energy level when you turn your attention to afternoon tasks.
  • Improved relationships. Nothing helps build or repair relationships like sharing laughs while playing games or enjoying adventures with one another.
  • Emotional healing. Not only is play a great way to relieve stress, it can help you release and move beyond emotional pains.
  • Improved teamwork. Many playful activities involve teamwork, a skill that can be diminished or lost for adults in our competitive culture. Reconnecting with the joy of shared victory can have a positive impact on many areas of life.

The Five-Minute Recess

Getting away from your tasks and your To Do list for 30-minutes or more can be very invigorating. However, when that’s not possible, even five minutes of “play” can be helpful. Having some interesting and engaging toys close at hand in your work environment (whether that is outside the home or at home) and allowing yourself to become completely engrossed in them for a few minutes here and there is a healthy habit to develop.

We know that play can certainly be a centering influence. Please keep it in mind. And if you have concerns about your mental health or a loved one, we are happy to talk with you and help with any counseling services. Get more information on our metro Denver mental health centers at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

How Exercise Helps You Stay Centered

There are many definitions of what it means to be “centered,” but most contain elements of feeling calm, relaxed and confident. In general, it is a very positive state that can help us get the most out of good times and better navigate challenging times. So that’s what the term means, but as we tell people at our mental health center, there are as many ways to achieve that state as there are ways to talk about. One that many people find particularly helpful is exercise.

Your Unique Workout

The first thing to point out in talking about the mental health benefits of exercise is that every person’s “workout” is different. The type and amount of exercise that someone in their 20s can perform is probably much different than someone in their 60s. The point is that you don’t have to run 10 miles to achieve a more centered state. As long as you are moving to whatever degree your age and fitness level allow, exercise will be helpful.

How a Good Workout Can Change Your Perspective

Everyone from psychologists to physicians to exercise physiologists have studied the effect that a good workout has on the body, and there is agreement across the board: exercise can help you keep both your positive and negative experiences in perspective. Here are just some of the ways:

Elevated mood

Being centered doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. But, taking steps (literally) to support a more positive mood can help keep negative emotions from throwing you off balance. And the benefit is fairly immediate. Often within 10 minutes after moderate exercise, you will feel a lift.

Improved cognitive function

It can feel very jarring to realize you’ve forgotten something important like an appointment, a person’s name, etc. Exercise has been shown to help keep the brain healthy by preventing or slowing degeneration. The resulting confidence can leave a person feeling grounded and resilient.

Decreased fight-or-flight sensitivity

The physiological and emotional changes that take place when what’s known as our “fight-or-flight” reaction is triggered are normal. They evolved to help us challenge or flee threats. Some people have a heightened sensitivity to those changes that produce fear and anxiety. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce that sensitivity, allowing a person to be more alert as needed while still being calm and centered.

Increased self-esteem

The simple act of making a commitment to exercise regularly and then following through on that promise can be very rewarding. Whether you do a vigorous cross-training program or go for a daily walk around the block, sticking with it in good times and bad times can be a way of maintaining an important sense of control over your circumstances.

Take the First Step

One of the perplexing things about exercise is that even people who have experienced its many benefits can be reluctant to get started on any particular day. We know we’ll feel great when we finish a workout (and for hours or days after), but yet we drag our feet.

The best way—and sometimes the only way—to beat that sense of inertia is simply to start moving. For example, if you intend to go for a run, don’t envision the whole process, especially those first few minutes when your body is adjusting to the exertion. Just say to yourself, “I’m going to change into my running clothes right now.” Then, “I’m going to put on my shoes.” Before you know it, knocking off these easy initial steps has given you the momentum to head out the door.

Helping Denver-Area Residents Stay Centered

Guidance and support from a skilled counselor can be another important resource in your efforts to secure good mental health. Contact our mental health center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.