I don’t think anyone would disagree that we are in the midst of some very difficult times. I know every generation has said that, and I’m sure that every time it was true. But with our technological advances, and the flattening of the global playing field, it is more difficult for us to escape, even for a moment, than past generations. In this information age, we know immediately when a crisis across the globe erupts, and more importantly, we are told how it could adversely affect our daily lives. These days it is even tough to take a break and browse Facebook without the latest political headlines jumping off our home pages.
Mix that all up with our own personal dramas, and I think you have the setting for the perfect storm.
We are all trying to work through issues. Maybe it’s a job loss, or the fear of a job loss. Possibly it’s a divorce, or the stress of kids starting school. Maybe it’s teenagers spiraling out of control and turning your life into a Movie of the Week you never wanted to see. Perhaps you have even gotten to where you wanted to be–only to find out it isn’t what you expected. Whatever it may be, one thing is certain. If you keep plugging away 24/7 without a break, you are going to cave in at some point.
I like to think we all want to live the best life possible. That definition is different for each person, but certainly underlying concepts remain constant. One of those is self-care. As a wellness coach, I find it to be one of the most important tools in the toolbox. Without it, there is no way we can stay at the top of our game for any extended period of time.
Here is a coaching tip, along with a bit of common sense. If you want to be able to give to those around you, you have to be able to give to yourself. That goes for work life as well as personal life. Many of us have been raised to be persistent, keep up the fight. We can rest when everything is over. I know a lot of people who say they will reward themselves after they have reached a goal. Here’s the deal–it’s a lot easier to reach that goal when you reward yourself along the way.
A lot of people are afraid to take time for themselves for the very simple reason they feel they don’t deserve it. It goes back to the ingrained concept of not getting a reward until the task is completed. But we all deserve to take care of ourselves. And there are lots of ways to do it. My mother used to say she loved ironing. It gave her the time to stay in one place (no easy feat with four kids), and think without being disturbed. It was a win/win situation for her. She got something off her list, and didn’t have to feel guilty about snatching a half an hour or so to allow her mind to wander. Ironing wasn’t really a chore for her, it was her time to reflect on her day and renew herself for the rest of the day ahead.
There are lots of ways to practice self-care. The important thing is to use it as a time to relax and renew. Sometimes it can be indulgent, like massages and spa treatments. That sounds hedonistic, but there is a wealth of information on the benefits of massage. One of the best things you can do to increase overall well-being is to schedule regular massages.
Some people find gardening to be therapeutic. For some it isn’t time in a garden, but a hike in nature that is the perfect self-care prescription. Maybe it’s a good run, or a daily cardio workout. The key is that whatever method you chose, it needs to work for you, and it needs to take you outside of yourself for a while. I find that my morning stint on the elliptical trainer is a great time to reflect and set intentions for the day ahead. Plus I burn calories and lower cholesterol, so it’s a winning situation all around.
The important thing is to take the time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive–sometimes that would cause more harm than good. But it does need to be something that you do for you–not anyone else. When was the last time you read a book on a Sunday afternoon, even if the laundry still needed to be done or the car needed to be washed? Sometimes there is a bigger task at hand–giving yourself permission to take a break.
When the world around us becomes more challenging, the commitment to care for ourselves becomes even more important. Give yourself the time to relax and renew both mentally and physically. Treat yourself tenderly, and you will be surprised at how much more you can put into– and get out of– your daily life.
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