Recognize Better Self-Care Pays Off for You and Everyone in Your Life
Even though you know you “should” take better care of yourself, for one reason or another it just isn’t happening. Likely one of the predominant reasons for self-neglect is you’re busy. Very busy. We’re talking packed to the gills, hectic-kind-of busy. Your needs are barely on the never-ending to-do list, let alone anywhere near the top.
It’s important to truly grasp that self-care is essential. Essential. Self-care means taking care of your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Ignoring those needs and being out of balance with any of them can lead to health problems, burnout, and unhappiness.
Maybe you sincerely want to take better care of yourself but aren’t sure where to start. It won’t happen overnight but the good news is taking better care of your needs doesn’t have to be complicated or all-consuming. Tweak a few sabotaging perspectives, slowly integrate healthier habits and before you know it, you’re doing it—taking better care of yourself is now part of your daily routine.
Change Your Perspective about R&R for Yourself
You live in an overstimulating world with a lot of stress. Self-care is essential to have a healthy, happy, and balanced lifestyle. Now more than ever, you need to step up your own care, tune in to your body and emotions.
“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.” —Anonymous
You’d respond in a heartbeat to help a friend or family member in need. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others (by way of example, what are you teaching your kids?!) It’s like the popular adage to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
So why aren’t you taking better care of yourself? Guilt (the gift that keeps on giving) is usually behind the reluctance towards self-care. You feel guilty asking for a day off work for “me” time, taking a needed nap, spending money on a massage, or de-stressing with a walk or meditation when your kids need help with their homework.
You’ve been conditioned to believe that self-care is selfish, over-indulgent, needy, a sign of weakness and lacking inner strength. What a bad rap for something that ultimately keeps you strong, healthy and emotionally grounded. Hmm, I wonder why self-care developed such a ridiculous bad reputation?
“Taking care of myself doesn’t mean ‘Me first.’ It means ‘Me, too.’” —L.R. Knost
There are dangerous side effects to ignoring your needs: It makes it easy to get sick or worsen existing conditions—not to mention the emotional toll of not letting off pressure and replenishing. If you think you don’t have time, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your schedule opens up when you land in a hospital bed.
Any guilt about self-care has gotta go! As Mandy Hale eloquently put it: “It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.”
Move self-care up on the list. It’s essential to take action now to lower your stress levels and anything else that triggers health problems. Prioritize any behavior that improves your overall well-being, feeds your heart and soul. Sign up for that yoga class. Pull out the coloring book and markers, or that novel you’ve been wanting to read. Eat lunch outside instead of at your desk. The possibilities are endless! And they don’t have to be big or expensive. Change your perspective and start ramping up ways to nurture yourself throughout the day. It’s a different mentality that develops into habits.
Make Regular Exercise a High Priority
I can’t overemphasize the importance of physical movement (psst: exercise). You’ve got to move those muscles every day. I don’t have to tell you about the immense health benefits from physically moving (psst: exercise). You already know that. What you likely don’t know is how to incorporate regular exercise into your life.
Okay, alright. Like anything else, start small. Keep breaking it down until it’s very doable. Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That equates to 30 minutes five times a week (try not to cringe). Keep breaking it down. It doesn’t have to be continuous exercise. Move five minutes here and 10 minutes there. Take the stairs, park in the back of the parking lot, go for a walk with a friend instead of watching a movie. It quickly adds up.
Over time you develop a different mentality of looking for ways to increase movement in your life. Then motivation is no longer an issue. Eventually, regular exercise becomes a habit. And it feels weird when you don’t do it.
Adding exercise to your daily routine doesn’t mean squeezing more into your schedule. Find time-sucking activities that you would be better off decreasing, like watching TV or playing video games. Use that time for more fulfilling endeavors.
Get Plenty of Sleep. ‘Nough Said.
You’re got to get plenty of sleep, otherwise your body and mind can’t function effectively. It’s not rocket science. You already know you need to get plenty of sleep. But it’s time now to prioritize getting those ZZZs. Your brain detoxes while you sleep. Who doesn’t need to detox their brain?!
Turn the TV off and go to bed earlier. Develop a routine of arising at a specific time, even on weekends. If you can, take power naps when you need them. Rest during your lunch hour. Find ways to consistently recharge your batteries.
Eat Healthy, Organic Food
Again, a no-brainer. Eat healthy food. That means good, organic, non-processed food. Increase your intake of vegetables, especially the dark leafy ones. Cut down on meats as much as you can. Lower your coffee and sugary drink intake. Drink good water. Significantly decrease or eliminate sugar entirely—it’s poisonous and extremely addictive (thank gawd for healthy dark chocolate.)
Start small. One thing at a time. Set a goal to decrease or eliminate an unhealthy food or eating habit. Strive for eating healthy 80% of the time, not perfection. Add in or increase a healthy food every few weeks. Eventually these behaviors turn into habits.
The more you get away from addictive food (think “salty,” “crunchy,” “cheesy,” and “sweet”), the more the cravings subside and dissipate. Your tastes change and you crave the healthier stuff—even kale. Who knew! Healthier eating will become a routine way of life and you won’t miss the junk (especially the addictive highly-processed “foods”).
Nurture Your Inner World
Self-care entails more than regular exercise and healthy eating. The other aspects to self-care involve taking care of yourself emotionally and spiritually—your inner world. What makes your heart sing? What soothes your soul? What brings you joy . . . and peace? The inside of you needs just as much nurturing and care as the outside.
“Go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your feelings need you, your perceptions need you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it. Go home and be there for all things.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
Any notion that taking time to regularly play or do what makes you happy is a waste of time is utter nonsense. Let go of that deliberately-conditioned BS. It is not self-absorption or selfish. If you don’t allow yourself time to enjoy life, it could lead to depression, burnout, dejection, illness, lack of productivity . . .
“You’ve gotta do things that make you happy. As women, we tend to give away a lot. We take care of a lot of people, and we can’t forget to take care of ourselves.” –Jennifer Lopez
It’s important to set aside time just for you to do what you enjoy. Schedule in me time on your calendar each week. If it’s on your calendar, it’s more likely to happen. It’s vital. Do it.
Overcome Your Fears
To be healthy and happy, you’ve got to release any fears. It’s fear that’s behind toxic emotions like guilt, self-hatred, and judgment. When fear is given the opportunity to run rampant, it will control your life and force you to make different choices. Fears create limitation, pain and negatively impact your well-being. Fears undermine taking good care of yourself. Fear of losing your job may drive you to put in too much overtime and wear yourself out. Fear about losing your partner may cause you to always put their desires before your own.
To let go of your fear, you need to gain more awareness about it. It’s helpful to determine the origin of your fear. Are your current fears about money originally due to being raised in a household with a lot of anxiety around finances? Is that fear about money based on reality, or is it conditioning and DNA?
Understand the motives behind your fear. Is fear of not being good enough why you drive yourself into the ground until you’re exhausted? Face your fears head on. Challenge them. Move through them.
Learn to Say “No” without Feeling Guilty
You’ve got to stop saying “yes” when you want to say “no.” Being a people pleaser may be the reason behind why you forego your needs to help others instead. Ask yourself, “Is saying yes to them saying no to my own needs?” Saying “no” doesn’t mean you’re selfish or a bad person.
Discover the beliefs that cause you to put other people’s needs before your own. It may be that you’re committing to something you don’t want to do out of fear of hurting someone or a sense of duty. Whatever the reason, it’s important to find a balance between meeting your needs and helping others meet theirs. The key is to strive for balance.
Make Yourself a Priority
There are a bajillion ways to take care of yourself. It’s time to make self-care a priority and find what works for you. It will pay off big time. You deserve it.