During the safety briefing before a flight, the flight attendant instructs you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others put theirs on. The reason for this is simple: You can't help someone else if you're incapacitated already.
Really, that's the only reason we should be pursuing self care. But digging a little deeper, self care can reduce stress, help you focus on your goals, refresh your determination, and can help prevent overload burnout.
Here are six things you can do to practice self-care:
1. Go Take a Nap. Not only is this the easiest possible goal to attain, sleep is crucial to good health, emotionally and physically. Sleep cycles, called circadian rhythms, have shown to be tied to metabolism. According to studies, if you aren't getting enough sleep, you will have a harder time losing weight. Your body will burn or conserve energy based on how much damage you need to rebuild, much of which happens while you're asleep. Disruption in sleep patterns often result in metabolic imbalance, which is a cause of obesity. Your brain needs to rest and reboot as well, so if you aren't getting a full night's sleep every night, carve out some time for a short, refreshing nap during the day.
2. Move Around. I love going to secondhand shops in January and February, looking for brand new, cheap exercise equipment. All too often, people set unrealistic fitness goals, invest in expensive equipment, get overwhelmed almost immediately, and give up. Before you embark on a new exercise program, think about the kinds of activities you like to do. Do you prefer dance? Or would you rather do something low-impact like yoga? Maybe you enjoy team sports. Or the idea of running appeals to you, even if you aren't being chased by grizzly bears. Whenever you're trying to make adjustments to your lifestyle, you should always set a series of smaller goals and work up to big changes incrementally. That way, those changes will be more sustainable. So choose a time of day and block it off on your calendar. Take the dog for a walk (or go volunteer at the shelter to walk dogs), or putter in your garden. Make a time slot to which you commit to doing something. It really doesn't matter what, as long as you put yourself in the habit of using a certain amount of time every day to dedicate to you and taking care of yourself.
3. Unplug. Make a point of logging off social media once a day and go interact with someone. Visit a friend or take a walk and introduce yourself to a neighbor. Volunteer for service organizations. Work on making face-to-face connections with other people. Join a class, or teach one! It's fine to use social media to arrange these connections, but once you are in a room with a person, focus your attention on that person. Recently I attended a concert where the band had a no phones-no cameras policy. Security would boot you out if they caught you trying to record or take pictures. And you know, it was refreshing. I was completely focused on the performance. It had been so long since I actually attended a show that wasn't littered with lit up phone screens, I hadn't realized how distracting it is and how much it detracts from the performance. The band allowed recording during their last song and instantly, a good chunk of my attention was diverted to the constellation of phone screens spread out in front of me.
4. Eat Right. Just like goals to exercise, we mean well. And then you go to work and find someone has brought in donuts. And you were in a hurry and forgot breakfast, so here we are again with the donuts. I cannot pass up a donut. It's my Kryptonite. But just like exercise, making wholesale changes and expecting them to stick overnight can set you up for failure. Choose one thing to change, such as "no more fast food" and then make an incremental change, like stopping by a fast food restaurant only once a week instead of twice. Or ordering a healthier option than what you'd normally get. Incorporate new habits slowly so you get used to them being a part of your daily life.
5. Say No. Recently, a friend of mine posted on social media that she was sick but she had a social/professional event later that night and she couldn't decide if she should go or not. Some of us talked her out of going -- rather, I gave her permission to stay home and take care of herself. You can't grow your business if you feel terrible. You cannot help or take care of others if your own health is failing. And actually, staying home when you are sick is helping others -- you are not spreading your illness around to colleagues and clients. We are not suggesting that we all go around telling people to pound sand. By all means, be helpful and loving. Just don't do it at the expense of your own health and that goes for mental health as well.
6. Practice Mindfulness. Back to that concert, mindfulness is what the no camera policy brought about. I spoke to my friends who went with me afterward and we all agreed that being 100% focused on the event in front of us make the event so much more enjoyable than if we split our attention off to worry about getting a good, clear shot or capturing just the right exact moment. I think it reduces stress when you're completely, wholly focused on what is right in front of you, rather than worrying about everything that's 100 steps ahead. Psychology Today offers a more thoughtful definition of mindfulness as well as several steps to becoming more mindful.
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