Energizing Self-Care

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with much to be thankful for as you reflected over the last year.

This year my holiday changed significantly from years past, and I was left on Thursday to spend the day by myself.  Not to worry – my daughters cooked a marvelous meal on Saturday.  I didn’t miss out.  But as I said, I had the day to myself.  Since just about everyone else was with family and friends, there wasn’t much “socializing” to do.  I learned a lot that day about what it is to just STOP.  I work in an industry that has a high focus on self-care for the people we serve, and I’ve always been one to stress the importance of caring for one’s self so that you can continue to care for those around you.  I haven’t been so good at heeding my own advice, though.  Until Thursday.  And boy did it feel good!

And so, guessing that most of you are like the majority of full-time-working-parenting-volunteering and all-’round busy people, I wanted to share some “self care” tips.  After all, it is when we are feeling our best physically, spiritually, and emotionally that we can BE and Do our best.

Self-care is a topic most people don’t pay any attention to.  If we’re taking care of ourselves, we’re often seen as selfish, slothful, over indulgent.

Self-care really is none of that. Taking good care of yourself, physically, spiritually and emotionally not only makes your life more fulfilling and contributes to your well-being, but it also extends to others.

As Cheryl Richardson writes in her book The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time, “From years of personal experience, as well as from the work I’ve done coaching many caring and hardworking men and women, I’ve learned that when we care for ourselves deeply and deliberately, we naturally begin to care for others – our families, our friends, and the world – in a healthier and more effective way.”

She further explains that through self-care, “We become conscious and conscientious people. We tell the truth. We make choices from a place of love and compassion instead of guilt and obligation.”  I for one want to stay away from that guilt and obligation place.  Richardson offers a variety of nurturing and empowering activities for readers to try. Below are three of them.

1. Discover when, where, why and how you feel deprived.

First, determine where you feel deprived in live and what’s lacking.  From there you have a good idea on how best to approach your self-care. Richardson suggests asking these key questions:

  • Where do I feel deprived?
  • What do I need more of right now?
  • What do I need less of?
  • What do I want right now?
  • What am I yearning for?
  • Who or what is causing me to feel resentful and why?
  • What am I starving for?

Have specific, not vague answers. As Richardson writes in her book, instead of saying “I feel deprived because I have no time to myself,” you might say, “I feel deprived of solitary, uninterrupted time away from my children and husband, which allows me to do something just for me, such as read a good novel, have lunch with a friend, or take a quiet bath.”

2. Find your own rhythm and routine.

Far from being boring, routine gives our lives stability, security, safety and serenity. And routine is rejuvenating. (Think of uplifting routines like getting enough sleep, engaging in physical activities you enjoy and having a date night with your spouse or a girls’ or guys’ day out.)

Don’t change everything all at once. Richardson suggests asking yourself this powerful question: “What one routine could I put into place this month that would improve my life the most?”  Once you’ve named the routine, write it down on an index card. Then think of how you’ll schedule it into your life for the next 30 days. After a week of engaging in your new routine, consider if you feel more relaxed and healthier and less overwhelmed.  Next month try adding another routine.

3. Create an “absolute no list.”

Knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as knowing what you do want to do.  Create a list of the things you refuse to tolerate in your life.  Richardson’s friends had some great examples on their lists, including:

  • I will absolutely not join in the gossip
  • I won’t use my credit cards unless I can pay them off completely when the statement comes.
  • I will NOT rush
  • I won’t keep anything that I don’t love or need
  • No phones during dinner

Pay attention to the things that frustrate you. For example, maybe your realization that the charity you were giving to used most of the donations frivolously and you discovered that most of your support never got to the person in need. Use that for your list! Richardson says you might write the following: “I will no longer donate to a charity unless 90% of my donation goes directly to the person I’m trying to help.”

We talk to ourselves in ways other than our words, so when you’re making your list, listen to your body.  Are you feeling more relaxed?  Or is this item actually creating tension.  If putting something on the list makes you feel lighter, it was probably a good thing to add.  If just the thought of something riles you up – another hint that it should be on your list.

Put your list in a spot where you’ll see it every day.  Take time to read through it.

Extreme self-care takes practice. At first it might seem awkward to say no to something or someone. At first, you might feel guilty for taking time for yourself. But with practice, it’ll become more natural and automatic. And you’ll notice that you feel a whole lot more fulfilled.


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