Friday, October 1, 2010

Self-Care: Pause and Refuel

When you don’t focus on making self-ishness a priority, you run the risk of burning yourself out. You experience greater anxiety and stress, are less productive and effective, and are more prone to health issues. By taking some time every day that feeds your body, mind, heart, or spirit, you are not only giving yourself the sustenance to keep going, but are respecting and honoring YOU as someone who deserves attention and nurturing.

It all starts with making your well-being the first priority – before anyone else. If you don’t fill your goblet first, you won’t have much left over to give to others. Healthy doses of stress (eustress) are a normal part of life, and help us to push ahead with impact and velocity. However, when we experience high intensity and long durations of stress (distress), our physiology moves into a “fight or flight” mode. Over prolonged periods, our physical and mental health deteriorates, and our heart and spirit scream for relief.

To drive this point home, take a moment to consider yourself in the following situations and pay close attention to how you feel. Take note of your breathing, your posture and facial expressions, and the thoughts and feelings that go along with it.
  • Driving your car in rush hour
  • Getting a last minute work assignment
  • Misplacing something in the house
  • Having something break while you're using it
  • Dealing with incompetence at work
  • Planning your budget
  • Being blamed for something
  • Waiting in a long line at the grocery store
Did you notice yourself tensing, getting irritated, or even saying, “That drives me crazy when that happens!”? When we are not practicing self-care, we are more prone to over-reacting versus taking a step back, breathing, and practicing patience. If you actively find time to reduce “distress,” you will feel less inclined to jump to hyper-emotional reactions. You will find yourself more able to choose responses that best serve you and the people around you.

You don’t need a lot of time to practice self-care. It can range from taking some deep breaths in the midst of stressful situations, to stepping away from your desk for a 10 minute break to re-center yourself, to carving out an hour or two to do something creative, relaxing, or even invigorating like a long run.

Here are some examples of self-care. They are broken down into categories, but any of these suggestions would affect all areas of body, mind, heart, and spirit.
  • Take a walk
  • Get some exercise or take a yoga class
  • Soak in the bathtub
  • Sit in the sun for 15 minutes
  • Take a nap or go to bed early
  • Get out into nature
  • Make one improvement in your diet
  • Get a massage
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day
  • Say an affirmation
  • Read (or listen to) a book for pleasure
  • Write a letter or email to a friend
  • Make a list of your short- and long-term goals
  • Sign up for a class
  • Do some journaling
  • Write a short story or poem
  • Plan your day in the morning, and review at bedtime
  • Hire a coach to help you make self-improvements
  • Listen to music you love
  • Do something creative - take pictures, paint/draw, be musical
  • Play with your child or pet – or play by yourself (operative word: play)
  • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with a close friend
  • Hug someone or ask for a hug
  • Acknowledge yourself for accomplishments you’re proud of
  • Feel your fear and take an action anyway (the definition of “courage”)
  • Write a letter to someone who has hurt you, and don’t send it
  • Visualize yourself in a peaceful place
  • Do something of service for another
  • Connect with Nature
  • Meditate
  • Pray or go to spiritual services
  • Practice daily quiet time (in whatever form)
  • Practice daily gratitude (name 5 things you’re grateful for when you wake or retire)
  • Learn about a religion or spiritual practice different from your own
  • Give a gift to someone anonymously
Practicing self-care is well worth the time, energy, and effort. You'll be more present, happier, healthier, and ultimately more effective in all that you do.

1 comment:

Judah S. Kurtz said...

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” -Melody Beattie