Last week we talked about knowing your priorities. This week we move on to self-care. You are your most important priority because if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you will be doing a poor job with everything else. Maybe you can hold out for a while, but eventually, it’s going to catch up with you. Making the change is going to be hard work.
It’s going to be hard because you are likely resistant to doing it. There is so much on your plate demanding your attention and the societal norm is to put others first. Even those priorities I discussed last week—your family and friends—can take time away from you. Finding balance is going to be key.
Recognizing how it affects the bottom line, the business world (guided by psychologists) is working to make their people aware of the importance of practicing positive self-care. Schools are also dealing with this as they move into Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), but SEL is focused on students. You need to develop your own practices that ensure you are taking care of yourself.
Elizabeth Scott offers The Top 10 Self-Care Strategies for Stress Reduction. Most are obvious and can be found in many places. Implementing them, as I said, is the challenge. Here are her ten with my comments:
- Get Enough Sleep – Easier said than done. If 8 hours is out of the question, go for 7. And develop a sleep routine as you would for your children. Have everything ready for tomorrow so you don’t fret about what you have to do in the morning. Read a relaxing book. I love HEA’s (happily ever after), so I know my main characters will be together by the end no matter how bleak things look. Also, trying to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekend, can be beneficial.
- Maintain Proper Nutrition—This one is also going to need a plan. Stress makes you grab for the unhealthy snacks (as Weight Watchers keeps reminding me). Part of your positive self-care is creating a plan that results in healthy eating most days – nobody is or should be perfect. For some of you, this may mean making dinners for the week on Sunday. For others, it’s a matter of planning breakfast and lunch and keeping healthy snacks at work.
- Exercise regularly – My personal goal is to walk 12,000+ steps 3-5 times a week which is a huge difference from when I started years ago on an exercise bicycle and all I could do was 5 minutes. Do what you can to choose an exercise you like doing. This could take some time to identify, but if you don’t like it, you won’t continue.
- Maintain Social Support –This is what I discussed last week. Your family and friends are not only a priority but are also part of your positive self-care. Make time for getting together.
- Find Hobbies—For me, it’s always been reading and I’ve written about how I enjoy my games of solitaire on the computer. I find it’s a good break as long as I don’t overindulge. Walking, much to my surprise, has become a hobby which is true of any sport you like. But it could be yoga, gardening, coloring in the new coloring books, scrapbooking, knitting, or whatever suits your fancy.
- Pamper Yourself – I love this one. I joined a local chain (Massage Envy) to ensure I schedule a facial or massage once a month. Then there’s manicures and pedicures and other spa treatments that you can do at a salon or at home.
- Keep Your Mind Sharp – An easy one for librarians. Scott encourages you to see stress areas as a challenge—what I call a “chopportunity.” I have been disciplining myself in reading one article a day in one of my professional journals. I always end up with new ideas and ways of looking at things (and new blog post ideas!).
- Have the Right Attitude – This is all about Mindset. What you think about something conditions how you react which causes either an up or down spiral. You are in control of how you think, and frequently the only thing you can control in a situation is how you respond to it. Take a moment to look for ways to make it work for you.
- Process Your Emotions – Be honest about how you are feeling. For example, suppressing anger doesn’t make it go away and instead causes an increase in stress. Acknowledge it. Consider where it is coming from and how you can either deal with it or change your attitude about it. Journaling, which could also be a hobby, can be a way of processing your emotions and so can talking to friends, which connects to maintaining social support.
- Maintain a Spiritual Practice–Having belief system that grounds you whether it is a religion, spirituality, meditation, or a firmly rooted philosophy is a resource you can turn to when feeling stressed. This sort of foundational belief can offer strength, grounding, or a place to return to when, once again, stress levels get high and life is out of balance.
And as a reminder of how easy it is to fall back into your bad old ways, see Cammy Pedroja’s 7 things that are good examples of self-care, and 7 things that aren’t.
Remember Positive Self-care is you focused on you to ensure you are in the best possible frame of mind to take care of others as well as do what needs to be done. If this is new for you, I recommend picking two from the list and integrate them into your daily life – maybe one that sounds easy and one that seems like a stretch. Once you feel you have incorporated them into your life, pick two more and see how it goes.