Every single hour of every day, we have choices. We have choices about how we view what we are experiencing. Every choice we make is creating a habit, or a neural pathway, in our brain, that stays connected. The more we think a certain way, it becomes easier to travel down that path, because our neural synaptic connections are created and sustained by how we think. In other words, If we persistently think negatively, then we will have trouble seeing the positive, even if there is positive to be seen.
Resolutions are common in January. So many of us want to start out the new year with resolve to do things better. When it comes to resolutions, make your own self-care important and a part of your daily life. You don't have to do it all at once, but make sure you are doing something on a regular basis to prioritize your health and well being. Here are some ideas to start with:
- Don’t feel guilty when you take time to take care of yourself, and remember that your needs matter too.
One of the most common issues my female clients face is guilt about taking care of themselves. When I get all up in her grill about self care, phrases such as, "I feel so selfish," "I can't because I feel guilty" start to surface.
I get really annoyed when I hear the phrase, "She let herself go," because I know that is not the case. The real issue is that she is putting you first and her family first, her house first, her friends first, meals first, laundry first, groceries first, the kids homework first. Anyone who asks for help comes first and she comes last (of course this is all done with a smile on her face). She cares so much about others that she cannot seem to get around to taking care of herself. She's last on the list and there are only so many hours in the day.
“Mom push me!” my daughter begged me and looked at me with playful eyes. I reluctantly sidled over to help her out because I know she doesn’t really need me to push her anymore. I gave her a few good shoves to propel her up to a satisfactory height. Observing her delight, I thought, “Why let her have all the fun?” and glanced over at the empty swing next to her.
To do lists, errands, deadlines, and goals are all good things. But they can create anxiety and anxiety creates stress and stress wears on your body. Our society has record levels of a variety of severe health problems. We all know about the impending problems but tend to ignore the signs because our to do list is just too important. More important than your health. God knew this would be a problem and mandated a day of rest or “sabbath” every week. How many of us actually follow this important command? I know I don’t as often as I need to.
Now that I am on a vacation (that I rarely take) I feel my body start to relax. The first day here we just slept and relaxed. Interestingly I thought I wouldn’t sleep at night because I had rested so much during the day, but to the contrary I slept like a baby. Most likely my body was making up for the lack of rest over weeks and weeks of failing to take a sabbath. Of course I realize that doing housework instead of going into the office is still work, but somehow it still needs to be done. It's the repetative task that seem to get us. But what about self-care? What would happen if instead of getting it all done you stopped to rest a little?
I preach self-care to my clients. I practice self-care myself but admit I haven’t been as vigilant about it recently. Self-care is so important. It communicates self respect and it helps you last for the long haul. Make sure you implement self-care in your weekly life. What self-care methods have you neglected? What do you need to be ruthless about protecting in your self-care regimen? Don’t forget to; take baths, go for walks, eat healthy, take naps, get a massage, or talk to a friend on the phone. Your body and your soul need it.
I welcome your comments.
I set my alarm for 5:10 am so I could head out to Colorado Springs for a Continuing Education seminar. I remember thinking that I was over scheduled this week and wondering how this was going to affect me. I reassured myself it would be okay.
I used to push myself past my limits regularly. Somehow I would always find time to crash and recover but 11 years ago I learned the hard way that it is not a good idea to push yourself past your limits on a regular basis. That was before I had kids when time to “recover” has become more and more difficult to find.
I groggily got up at 5 am on this midweek day, and headed out to Colorado Springs for my seminar on Play Therapy Techniques. I was excited about this seminar but was also acutely aware of how fatigued I was. My son had had the flu on the weekend and I was up with him at night helping him and cleaning up throw up. Then by Monday I had an upset tummy myself but chose to push through it since my clients are counting on me to be there for them and I knew I would be taking the next week off.
Because of the scheduled time off, I had a full work week with long days. I managed to make it through but felt the effects on my body as I slogged into the next day with the enthusiasm of a hippo wallowing in the mud. Then by Friday I got home from work and my husband seemed cheerful and excited to emphasize that I had made it through the tough week. Even with the flowers he brought me my happiness waned. I was grouchy and couldn’t even stand the sound of my favorite music. I turned off the radio. I reminded him in a monotone voice that I still had a Toastmasters meeting the next day.
I was supposed to do a speech after the main meeting for the nursing home residents in the “Speech-a-thon.” Fortunately I came to my senses and chose not to do the speech-a-thon but went to the main meeting with my makeup on to cover over my dark circles, and a smile (faking it was one of my old coping skills). I managed to win “best evaluator” and even did a Table Topics talk when you are given a topic on the spot to talk about without preparation time. By the end of the meeting my muscles in my neck and back ached and my head hurt. I knew I was well over my limit.
What is a “limit” and why is it so important? Learning what my limits are and respecting myself enough to honor them was one of the main components to my recovery from the severe burnout I experienced 11 years ago. It is also one of the concepts I try to teach my clients when learning to manage stress and anxiety.
A limit is an invisible line that exists between emotional, physical, and psychological well being and becoming anxious, irritable and stressed. Once you have crossed the line it is important to pull yourself in quickly by slowing down, implementing self care, and getting rest.
There was a time in my life I had no perception of a limit. I had no awareness that one should exist and I lived past my limits all of the time. I thought I was just driven and “hard working.” My need to please others, to work hard, and be involved was tremendous. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do, and I had an insatiable need to do because I lacked the self esteem to understand that my worth was not linked to how well I did things. I would push and push. I pushed myself all of the time, and the funny thing is, when people find out you are a hard worker, something else happens...you get asked to do more things. Then I found that the pressure also came from others that were expecting me to do for them. I was programed to feel that nothing was ever good enough so I would strive and strive to perfect things.
My burnout was actually a gift. It was a gift that helped me to understand what a limit is and how to enforce it. I learned that you can’t expect anyone else to enforce it for you. You have to first respect yourself and your well being enough to be determined to honor your own limits. I went over them this past week and the result was not pretty. I don’t even like being around myself when I am in that place. Fortunately, last week was an exception and there were parts that were out of my control. I’ll get back on track and be determined to take better care of myself this week. That should be easy since I am on vacation. What are your limits? How can you honor your limits this week?
I welcome your comments.
Imbalance Causes Strain:
Balance is one of the biggest challenges in today’s society. Striving for it is a challenge worth pursuing. Imbalance comes when we spend too much time, effort, or thought on something that steals time away from other important things in our life. When we are overly focused in one direction, other areas of our lives suffer. Pressures to perform at work, our own perfectionism, demands from others can all create a lack of balance. Imbalance in our lives can cause incredible strain. It can also lead to burnout.
Is there imbalance in your life? Are you weighted too heavily in one direction or another? If so, what can you do to change it?
Start by asking a series of questions; What is it that has fallen off the back of the truck while you have been so busy pursuing other goals? What is it that you want to have back in your life? What are the things that drain you? What are the things that revive you? Is where you are headed so important that you don’t have time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life? How do you slow down enough to regain perspective on what truly is important and find the balance to maintain it?
Follow Through on Change:
Once you have asked the questions needed to see what needs to change you need to change. Asking the questions isn’t enough. You must actively shift your priorities back to what is essential; time with family, time with friends, time with your spouse or your children. Rest time is essential to recover from the burden of stressors in our day to day lives. Rest can include sleep, relaxing, time doing something that you enjoy doing such as reading, fishing, calling a good friend.
Why is this so important? Because life can slip away when we are too busy chasing dreams. Sometimes when my daughter looks at me with her large beautiful eyes and says, “Mom play with me,” I have to stop and consider what is most important at that moment. Knowing she will soon be asking for the car keys instead of asking to play, I stop and get on the floor and play with the paper dolls for a moment and savor every moment of it. Dishes may sit in the sink, work projects are calling my name, but I choose to let the world stop for a moment and savor a piece of heaven to bring the balance back. What or who is it that you need to pay more attention to? What do you need to pay less attention to in order to accomplish that.
Stop for a minute and savor a moment of life. Let the harried pace slow down and do the work to keep a balance in your life. Perspective on what is truly important to you helps to focus your time. Stop and consider what needs to change. You will be happier and more fulfilled.