Do You Really Get Self-care?
Go on social media on a weekend, and you’ll see post after post about self-care Sunday - spending the day resting, relaxing, reading in bed, or going to the spa. While all of these things are great, self-care goes beyond one day of rest, or going to the gym three to four days a week, or getting your nails done regularly. Self-care is about the day in and day out ways that we honor and care for our body and our MIND. Self-care is the ultimate form of self-love, which we deserve every single day, hour, minute and second. It’s about taking care of your physical AND emotional needs. This involves sensing your inner state and taking action to meet your needs, so that you remain healthy and resilient.
How many of us push that push that inner voice aside? You know those feelings of being overwhelmed that we tell ourselves to just “power through”? We often don’t listen to that inner intuition that tells us to say NO to a commitment, when every fiber in us tells us not to, so we say yes anyway.
I started working with a new client a few months ago that came to me after gaining 20 lbs and being diagnosed with pre-diabetes in a few short months. In her initial consult she shared that her father had fallen and could no longer live on his own. She was now his sole caretaker and he was picky and set in his ways. He would only eat certain foods and anything her father wanted to eat, she provided and also ate it with him. Hence she now she was 20 lbs heavier. I knew right away that this was not the root of her weight gain. It was clear that in caring for her father she had completely neglected herself and what she needed to feel good, to feel healthy, to feel joyful. She was unhappy, overwhelmed and frustrated, and her own home no longer felt like home.
While my client may be an extreme case of ignoring our needs, do you really take the time to tune into what your body is feeling during the day? Do you know what wear down your resiliency? If you’re not sure what you need to feel healthy, resilient and joyful, start with the steps below to truly engage in self-care:
1. Check in
Check-in with yourself every few hours, and acknowledge your feelings. While this may sound easy, for many it’s not. If you’ve been ignoring your needs for a long time, this has to be cultivated, like strengthening a muscle over time. So be gentle with yourself as start your daily check-ins, and allow yourself to experience your feelings with curiosity, but without judgment. Simply acknowledge if you’re feeling anxious, frustrated, overwhelmed, angry, and sad or whatever it is you’re feeling. By acknowledging our feelings, we honor our bodies and then we can begin take action to resolve them. Deep breathing is one way to help ease how you’re feeling. When you feel a surge of emotions coming, allow yourself to relax, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths using the 4-7-8 breathing exercise outlined below.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
2. Be kind to yourself
Our inner critic can be so cruel at times. Why is it that we’ll speak to a friend with more kindness than to ourselves? Why are we so quick to judge ourselves or put ourselves down? My default sometimes involves creating a “story” about my experience that is absolutely false. I remember when I first started doing mindful eating work with clients and I had a client who was particularly tearful at the end of a session. When she didn’t respond to my follow up message to check in the next day, I told myself I’d blown it, pushed her to early to face her self-judgmental relationship with food. Turns out she was just busy with a work project and responded a few days later. In our next session she told me that I had helped her more in one session, than anyone ever had. So, yea I have to turn off my own self-dialog and expectations that things have to be perfect. As an entrepreneur, I’m learning that nothing about operating my business is perfect. It’s forced me to embrace vulnerability on a whole new level. The funny thing is being vulnerable has helped my business grow. I think it shows my clients that I’m human; that we all have our own mess and we’re doing the best we can. When I let go of the need to be perfect and started giving myself the same grace I give my clients, it reaffirmed my worthiness, and I was able to give even more of myself. We all need to believe that no matter what happens today or what’s left to accomplish tomorrow, we are simply enough - good enough, powerful enough, successful enough, smart enough, beautiful and badass enough. Start today to speak to yourself with more kindness, and love yourself and your body exactly the way it is right now. Let go of the “stories” or what you think you should have done differently. Let go of what you used to weigh. You are a gift, uniquely and wonderfully made. You just need to start believing it and speaking to yourself with more compassion. So, I want you to do start doing this everyday: Place one or two hands over your heart, close your eyes and smile. Now breathe deeply and tell yourself “_________ (insert your name) I love you. You are enough. You are a beautiful, sparkling gift to this world.”
3. Do something you love everyday
Truly engaging in self-care lifestyle involves creating time for yourself. Notice my choice of words here - create. I know we’re all busy, with endless to-dos, but it is critical to do something just for ourselves every single day. It allows us to recharge and multiplies our happiness ten-fold. Having something just for ourselves gives us something to look forward to, and makes us feel exponentially better. Even if you can only carve out five minutes, do one thing every day that is JUST FOR YOU. Not for your kids, husband or family, or for work, or school or the organizations you serve. What are the simple things that bring you joy? Perhaps it’s listening to your favorite song, or taking a warm bath, or walking along a serene path, gardening, reading a book or talking to a friend. Whatever it is, do something that puts a smile on your face, something that makes you laugh. Laughter after all is the best medicine. It relaxes our bodies, reduces stress and boosts our immune system. And when we are happy, we spread more joy to those around us. Happiness is contagious! Now, recall tip number one above about tuning into your feelings? One way to create time for yourself is to say no to those obligations that leave you feeling depleted or unfulfilled. When you get that feeling that fulfilling a request or obligation will take more from you than you have to give, say no. JUST SAY NO.
These are just three of the ways that we can truly engage in self-care everyday, as a way of life. Having a self-care Sunday routine is also still a good thing to do. So continue doing it, along with all the other ways we preserve our well-being with adequate rest, healthy eating, movement, exercise and connection with friends and family. However, don’t ignore your emotional needs the other days of the week. Because only after you satisfy your own needs, can you give the best version of you to your family, work and to the world.