Self-Care and a few thoughts on creating a sustainable practice.
I think that the clearest and most effective way to help ourselves is to take care of our needs on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. This practice empowers us to live a more fulfilled life. We are constantly trying to manage that work/life balance, often feeling like “life” gets put on the back burner, but life and work don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The relationship between work and life starts with how we treat ourselves so that life doesn’t start where work ends, but rather both can provide feelings of joy and fulfillment, simply because we feel better in our own skin.
I read a lot of self care articles that make me feel like self care is completely unattainable unless I change who I am completely. Suggestions like get up before sunrise, meditate in the morning before doing anything else, eat dinner before 7pm, no electronics 30 mins before bed…really? On what planet am I even home before 7pm? Many of us have partners, or children, or pets, or jobs, or bosses, or a combination of all of the above that make it seem like when the alarm goes off in the morning the race has begun to get it all done and get to our first commitment on time. And sometimes that race doesn’t stop until we hit the sheets 16+ hours later.
Taking care of ourselves has been proven to establish healthy boundaries, reduce stress, reduce pain and inflammation in the body, promote positive intercommunication skills, and increase feelings of balance and contentment. Interestingly, it doesn’t require a radical shift in what we do, just a little more attention to how we do it.
So how do we realistically create time to take care of ourselves, while still meeting the demands of our life, not feeling selfish, and not neglecting other responsibilities and relationships?
Here are my 5 tips for self care and how to incorporate these elements into your already over scheduled life.
1. Meet yourself where you are. If you are the type of person who is still answering emails at 11pm, when you have to wake up at 5:30am to walk the dog, feed the kids, and get to the gym, all before your 9:00am – you may want to consider changing that, but if change seems unfathomable... that’s ok. Be honest and compassionate with yourself, by taking inventory on how things are done, where you have room to change and where you don’t.
2. Meditate. So you have already analyzed what parts of the day are the most hectic. Realistically, you are not going to sit well when you are rushing to get out the door or rushing to get to sleep. Is there typically a lull in the day around 4pm? Great. Mark your calendar as busy for 15 minutes. Sit up tall and straight and bring your attention to your breath. New to meditation? Cool. There are a number of free smart phone apps that offer short, guided meditation sessions. Many yoga studios offer meditation classes and there are new meditation centers opening in cities around the country, if you are looking to sit in a community. But DO schedule time into your calendar so that you incorporate it into your routine as a priority.
3. Invest in your wellness. This can happen on many levels. Depending on your time availability and financial situation you can incorporate more or fewer of these items, but, not strangely, actually spending money triggers something in us to see self-care as being valuable. These ideas are not indulgences or things you don’t deserve. These seemingly frivolous things are actually a necessity to feeling well.
- Join a gym or a yoga studio, go the extra step and meet with a trainer or yoga instructor. Creating a personalized routine for your body and your lifestyle is essential to meeting your structural needs.
- Spend the extra money on organic fruits and vegetables. Cook and eat more whole foods. Its actually amazing how eliminating artificial ingredients can contribute to your overall sense of wellness.
- Use toxic free skin care. Our skin absorbs 60% of what we put on it. Ditch the stuff from the drug store. With quality products a little bit goes a long way and your skin will thank you.
- Book a treatment once a month. Facials, massages, Reiki or energy healing. Doing something fabulous, make you feel fabulous. And, frankly, you deserve it.
4. Journal. Take 10 minutes before you go to bed, you can even do it in bed, to journal. Not the “Dear Diary” stuff of our youth, but a place where you can write your intentions, a heartfelt vow, needs, goals, maybe a few words on how fulfill them, and definitely list the things for which you are grateful – it will make you happier, for real.
- An intention for how you interact with the world: “May I be compassionate and awake to my needs and to the needs of the situations that I face.”
- 2 goals to accomplish for the next day: (1) Pay bills. (2) Pick up laundry (the small things count!)
- 3 things that fill you with gratitude: (1) family (2) a delicious meal (3) high thread count sheets.
5. Sleep and drink water. This is pretty straight forward. I realize this is 2 things in one step, but they are equally important. Sleep and water are the 2 most essential elements that we need to live. Make sleep a priority by committing to 7 (8 if possible) hours a night and keep a refillable water bottle at your desk or in your bag so that you always have something to drink. Add a squeeze of citrus, cucumber slices, or mint leaves if drinking plain water is unappealing.
Most importantly to your self-care is the practice of compassion. We live in a society that like to judge us and puts pressure on us to judge ourselves. If we are able to eliminate the mean conversations that we have in our heads we not only create a stronger and kinder relationship with ourselves, we begin to feel better and more supported in our bodies.