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Making Time for You: A Guide to Self-Care

Date 7/6/2021
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Take Time To Take Care of YOU!

Take Time To Take Care of YOU!

Self-Care is Self-Love

During difficult times, carving out some time for yourself can seem like a luxury, if not an outright impossibility. And in the interest of watching finances or staying physically healthy, some of your usual go-to strategies may no longer be available. If you counted on a trip to the nail salon, a weekend away, or some retail therapy to feel better, the message of these times may be to challenge us all into finding new ways to take care of ourselves.

The good news is that this shake-up can be a blessing in disguise. If you’ve been relying on spending money, keeping yourself super busy, or relying on other people to feel good, you’ve been missing out on the true power of self-care as an expression of self-love. 

Putting Yourself First is NOT a Bad Thing

It takes conscious focused attention to care for yourself first. If you’re like most people, you likely give to everyone else first, and sometimes, that is ok. But a regular routine of giving out means that you deplete your inner resources and power. You cannot take care of anyone or anything else if you are worn-out. You are the priority because all that you give to the responsibilities of your life comes from your inner power. 

Let’s break down the steps to self-care, starting with getting past the obstacles that get in the way.

Commit to Getting Unstuck

If you’re feeling energetically depleted, simply getting through each day can feel like a challenge, and it’s easy for complacency to set in with regard to yourself and your needs.  Sometimes you can’t even begin to identify your needs till you make some changes to shake things up. Take a look at your surroundings and habits and see if there are small areas where you can shift the energy. Change the living room furniture. Ask Alexa to play you a new song. The key is to find some simple way to shift the energy to break out of autopilot and enable you to focus on self-care. Here are a few more ideas for shaking things up.

• Reframe a Task as a Game. Oftentimes one of the reasons we feel stuck in life is because when we grow up we forget how to play. A subtle reframe can shift the energy of a mindless task and open space for a different energy to emerge.

• Don't Be Afraid to Let Go. In her book, "If the Buddha Got Stuck," Charlotte Kasl recommends that if you want to transform your life, you need to learn to let go. In one exercise, she asks readers to hold their breath, squeeze their fists, and tighten their muscles. Then, she says to let that breath out and loosen all their muscles to feel what a difference it makes to let go. The same relaxing feeling is possible if you picture all the issues that make you feel stuck, and then mentally let them go.

• Let Water Wash Problems Away. Whether it's rushing in a river or filling your shower, water is always in motion. If you have a problem that you're trying to work through, take a bath or go for a swim and let the flowing water help get you moving. 

Make Self-Care a Priority

Now that you’ve shifted around some energy, you’ve created some space to consider caring for yourself while you’re caring for others. And that’s when a new obstacle emerges – guilt! It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of "me time" as simply being selfish. The truth is, prioritizing your own well-being is not only fair, it helps you be there for others because you’re in a better place yourself. This is just as important in times of high stress and unrest, and maybe even more so, than in the days of the “old normal.”

We’re going to start with small baby steps. Practice thinking of at least one self-care act a day as a prioritized commitment. This may be as small as committing to take one 5-minute meditation break between zoom meetings. What’s important if guilt starts to creep in is to remind yourself that you deserve to show yourself some love. Of course, sometimes emergencies will take priority at the last minute, but training yourself to view your own wellness as a top priority helps keeping it that way become the norm.

Start with a Daily Self-Care Check-in

If nothing else, each morning before you get out of bed, run through a quick scan of these four areas. This short respite will center your energy within yourself before you start giving it away to others and allow you to start your day empowered.

• Mind. What has your attention? Notice where your thoughts are gravitating and reassure your mind that you will attend to them at some point during the day.

• Body. When we’re focused on meeting other’s needs we can become oblivious to what’s going on in our bodies. Take a moment to check in with how your body feels and ask it what it needs to feel good today. 

• Heart. Give yourself a moment to daydream about what your heart is longing for. The simple act of listening to your heart, for even just a moment, is a powerfully affirming message of self-love.

• Soul. What’s your highest spiritual intention for the day? Maybe it’s simply to be kind or grateful. Checking in with yourself as a spiritual being will help you keep your human experience in perspective.

Make Time for Self-Care

It’s not uncommon to feel you have no time for self-care, but in reality, it is all about making self-care a priority. That said, here are some strategies to find time to take care of yourself. 

Schedule It. If you’re having trouble finding time to devote to yourself, try marking it in your calendar. This makes it less likely that you’ll cancel on yourself and helps it become part of your routine. When you see the slot on your calendar, treat it like a real meeting, whether it’s for 5 minutes or 30.

Get Up Early. One way to make time for self-care is to wake up an hour or so before you usually do. Getting up even fifteen minutes early can help you fight stress by giving you a little extra time each day to spend on yourself. Stretch, read, meditate, take a bath, or just watch the sun come up with a hot cup of tea. Refuse to do anything stressful in this bonus time -- it's a little gift to yourself.

Unplug Once a Day. Many stress triggers come with our constant connections to the outside world. Once a day, step away from the computer and turn off your phone. You can return missed calls and answer emails later. Take at least 20 minutes to just step back from technology. Not only will you gain 20 minutes back, you may also find that you begin to wean yourself off an addiction to social media, news and notifications which suck up our time and attention.

Get Comfortable With "No."  It’s okay to stop feeling guilty about caring for yourself first. Likewise, it’s okay to say "no" to other people. You might need to turn others down sometimes if you’re keeping your personal time a priority. Though it’s tough to say "no" if you don’t like conflict or disappointing other people, family and friends who want the best for you will understand that you need some time for yourself. 

Notice the Positive

There’s no shortage of things to worry about these days, and if we don’t make gratitude, joy and positivity a part of our self-care routine, we can quickly lose our motivation to act. Fortunately, there are some simple strategies for taking better care of yourself by focusing on the positive.

• Seek Positive Environments. As much as you can try to surround yourself with positive people. Seek out friends who provide healthy support and help you see the up side of things. Avoid people who constantly bring you down and add conflict to your life.

• Keep a Gratitude Journal. It's easy to fall into the habit of focusing on negative thoughts. Battle this tendency by keeping a journal of the positive. Each night before bed write about only the good parts of your day. This will force you to focus on the things you have to feel thankful for.

Let Yourself Laugh.
Laughter really is good medicine. Your muscles will stay relaxed for as long as 45 minutes after a good laugh. When you see something funny online, don’t just click an emoji or share – allow yourself to actually laugh out loud.

Commit to Living in the Present

In these tough times, it’s easy for us to dwell on the past and worry about the future. Getting stuck in the past can lead to depression and worrying about the future can cause anxiety. Try these approaches to focus on living in the present as part of your self-care plan. 

One Task at a Time. This may feel completely out of reach but try to wean yourself off multi-tasking for at least part of the day. If you are eating, eat. If you are reading, just read. If you are bathing, just relax and bathe. Don't read while you bathe or try to take care of several tasks at a time while you eat. As you're doing each task, don't rush it. Do the task slowly and deliberately. It may take time and practice, but it will help you stay in the present moment.

Do Less. If you think you are too busy but cannot possibly do less, think again. If you fill your days with things to do, you will be rushing from one task to the next without stopping to think about what you do and why or how you do it. Choosing fewer tasks helps you to focus on what is important to you and let go of tasks that are not as important. 

Do Nothing. Make a point of spending at least five minutes each day doing nothing. Just sit in silence and focus on your thoughts or focus on your breathing. Take time to notice the world around you and relax. 

Become Aware of Your Thoughts. Are you often focusing on things that happened in the past or spending your time worrying about the future? Learn to recognize when you are doing this, stop yourself, and focus your thoughts on the present moment and what you are doing right now instead. With a keen sense of self-control using the mind, we can help our bodies and spirits combine forces to banish off the worst negative energies. 

Don’t Lose Sight of What’s Important To You

If we don’t make time for self-love and self-care, we can easily lose track of our unique identity, aspirations and goals. Here are some additional strategies to stay connected to You.

Keep a Wish List. We all have those things we want to spend more time on but keep pushing off. Make yourself a list of these activities. Focus on things that make you happy or relaxed, not things that "need" to get done. Then, rank the things you wrote down in order of importance for you. From there, you can pick one or two things on the list to focus on at first. Once you get into the habit, you can start to move through the list.

Write Down Your Goals. Setting goals can help to give your life a sense of purpose. When you’re feeling lost, these goals will give you a true north to realign yourself to. Writing your goals down will help you stick to them. This also makes it easier to recognize when you’ve checked big goals off your list.

Get Up and Move

One of the most important aspects of self-care is to care for your body, with good food, water, rest and movement. If we don’t physically shake off negative energy, it can multiply in our bodies and our minds. It might take energy to get up and move, but once moving, your energy level will increase, and you begin to feel great. The energy it takes to get up off a chair and move is small compared to the burst of energy you receive after just five minutes of movement. 

• Find Exercise You Enjoy. Physical activity is a great stress buster. If you associate exercise with horrible 80's aerobics tapes, get out of this rut by exploring a variety of activities. Anything that gets your heart pumping will do. Try hiking, yoga, Pilates, dance, bike riding, walking the dog, or playing hard at the park with your kids.

• Invest in Yourself. When it comes to exercise, the return on investment is huge. Think about it in terms of what you put in and what you profit in return. Exercise is best with a goal of never stopping, no milestones to be met, just simple energy that will produce huge results in your life. It will also help you become more productive in love and career and increase your body muscle along with boosting your spirit where you are moved to do more and more in life rather than being content with what's been given.

Regularly Practice Stress Management

Don’t wait until you’re bending under the crushing weight of life’s stressors to do something about them. Find a stress management technique that works for you and use it on a regular basis as part of your daily self-care practice.

Get More Sleep. Getting enough sleep is more important than you may think. Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to serious mental illness, obesity, heart problems, and high blood pressure. Pick a consistent time to turn in at night, and then work backwards to allow yourself a wind-down period to increase the likelihood of falling asleep when you hit the pillow. If anxiety is causing you to lie awake a night, consult a physician or therapist for help.

Check Your Breathing. Proper breathing and breath techniques are responsible for creating new cells in our body. These new cells make up the nerves that deliver critical information to the brain. The single most important and effective way to stay positive in difficult times is really simple: breathe.

Meditate for Spirituality. Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, you'll benefit from meditating quietly on them. Whether you focus on prayer, a mantra, or nothing at all, this quiet time is a healthy daily practice.

Solicit a Different Perspective.  It’s easy to lose your direction or confuse priorities when life feels out of control. Talking through your situation can help you get back on track. If you're feeling trapped in a negative situation, talk it out from another point of view. Talking to a live psychic may give you the insights you need to take a more positive look at the future and nix some of that stress. Or try a tarot reading for some insights into your current situation and projected path.

Finally, if you’re struggling, stop and check for signs of mental illness so you can catch problems before they seriously disrupt your life. Confusion, excessive fears and worries, strong feelings of anger, prolonged feelings of sadness and depression, and the inability to handle daily problems successfully are all warning signs. If you’re experiencing any of these, don’t just ignore them. Seek help from a professional.

Remember, you’re just as important as the housework or tasks on the job that need to get done. Make sure you treat yourself accordingly. Whether it’s for a few minutes each day, or you’re able to carve out some more meaningful time for yourself, taking care of yourself first is the highest expression of self-love.

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