“Treat Yo Self!” 10 Self-Care Tips from a Recovering Self-Ignorer

Treat Yo SelfFor busy people who pour ourselves into family, jobs, service, and other legitimate priorities, self-care is often the last thing on the to-do list.  (Or is it just me?)

Historically, I’ve been TERRIBLE at self-care. Truly terrible; I am not exaggerating.  I would give up sleep, food, and forget anything less basic like nurturing my interests or feeding my mind because I was prioritizing everyone else’s needs and plans for me. More often than not, I couldn’t even verbalize what my needs were!  But that had to change.

The truth is, when we are not engaging with ourselves and addressing basic physical, spiritual and emotional needs, we become far less effective on every other front.  Trust me, there is no “hero award” for being unkind to your body, heart and mind. No one else is going to carve out space and time for you to watch over your health and recharge.

For me, failing to engage in proper self-care only resulted in being irritable, depleted, lonely, and unfulfilled… eventually even sick, depressed and so very far away from the person I wanted to be.

Maybe…probably… I am not the only person who struggles with self-care.  So I’ve compiled a few ways you can begin to nurture your deepest self.  I hope this list of self-care tips – big and small –  will get you started thinking of ways you can find a way to care for your much-loved, extremely valuable self. (And stick with me here, because some of this stuff is basic…yet still, we need to remember!)

  1. Feed your body well.  Are you hungry? Feed yourself just as you would feed your dearest love – or even a child – with foods that are nourishing, delicious, and leave you feeling better, not worse. Then savor that nourishing goodness without rushing at every possible opportunity.
  2. Stay well-hydrated. When your soul is thirsty, chances are that your body is, too. Make yourself a huge glass of your favorite good-for-you drink. (I’m a fan of water with a fresh orange slice floating in it, all-natural ginger-ale, or herbal tea.)
  3. Keep important self-care-related appointments.  I have a bad habit of canceling (or never making) medical check-ups, dentist appointments, massages, and even hair appointments because, “I don’t have time for that.” (Or I didn’t want to spend money.) But what is more important than basic upkeep?!  If we don’t want to be sick, toothless, in pain or hideous, let’s agree not to ignore those basic items of upkeep?
  4. Yoga. I used to think it was weird — something only a certain kind of people (people unlike myself) could take seriously. But when I tried it and felt an almost-instant decrease in my body’s  aches and pains, I started paying attention.  I now find yoga to be an incredible gift to my body, and also to my mind (calming it and feeding my brain some oxygen) and even to my spirit. You can find very affordable DVDs on Amazon (here is a box set with morning, evening and stress relief routines) classes and online yoga routines that are helpful for getting you started.
  5. Focus fully on this moment. Living in the future, or in the past, or even stressing about a meeting later today, are fruitless activities that will never allow you peace-of-mind. If you are constantly counting hours, anticipating what is around the corner, or even wishing for yesterday, you are unable to engage in the one moment in which you can actually do something — this moment. We all have to manage calendars, plan for the future and make good long-term decisions, so do that.  But planning for the future and living in the future are very different things. Embrace now. It’s the only moment in which you can actually do anything or make positive changes.
  6. Rest.  If your body is exhausted, find a way to get a little sleep. (If you have a newborn, there is no shame in having someone you trust come over to keep an eye on the little one so you can get a nap.) My family tries to make Saturday morning a “no plan zone” so we can have one morning in the week to get up whenever our bodies wake us.  Sleep is good and your brain needs you to sleep in order to function at its highest possible level. Michael Hyatt has a good blog post and podcast on sleep, which you can find here.
  7. Take inventory on commitments.  Do you need to resign from energy-draining committees or other commitments that are not in alignment with your priorities?  You might be one phone call away from huge relief! Or perhaps you need to start a class that focuses on a special interest or skill you want to grow.  It is amazing how addressing your passions will make you feel valued and nurtured.
  8. Maintain realistic expectations.  It is monumentally important to identify areas of your life where you are constantly disappointed.  If you end every day disappointed because you didn’t get enough done or because someone else disappointed you, maybe…just maybe…your expectations are not in line with reality.  Just sayin’.
  9. Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself a little grace. Positive self-talk is a powerful gift to yourself, to help to move your life in  a positive direction. On the other hand, giving yourself negative messages (“I’m an idiot,” “I’m so lame,” etc.) constantly tears at the fiber of your soul, even when you don’t realize it.  If you are having one of those days (or weeks, or seasons) when you just can’t win for trying, it probably isn’t because you’re an idiot. It could mean that you are living in a shadow of self-doubt, shame, exhaustion or depression and that you need a healthier perspective.  Remember your value.
  10. “Treat Yo Self!”  This idea (adopted by my family from the sitcom Parks And Rec) goes a step beyond just being gracious to yourself. It’s a chance to reward yourself in simple ways.  Sometimes a special treat, a self-care gift to yourself “just because” is a way to remind yourself that you are worthy of specialness.  A couple weeks ago, I bought myself a beautiful book called Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, and I have SAVORED every moment I’ve spent reading it.  It was such a simple thing. It wasn’t expensive or elaborate.  But it has brought me so many wonderful moments getting absorbed in a book that really feeds a part of me that is important.

Hopefully these ten tips for self-care will at least get you started thinking of ways you can be good to yourself!  And please, please share your own tips and ideas in the comments.

This Is It

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(Edited Repost)

When I still had my whole life ahead of me, I remember facing the future with a sense of expectation that one day I would wake up and find my life’s path all laid out for me in blueprint format.  (Yawn!  Sure, didn’t we all?)

Maybe I had been brainwashed by too many movies with happy endings, but I anticipated that when “my day” arrived I would be greeted each morning with a nice neat package of clearly defined – maybe even realistic – expectations.  I walked around for a good ten years wondering… “Will this be that day?”   Looking for that one magical moment in which everything would fall into place began to feel like looking for a unicorn – I might hear about it but no one I knew had ever really encountered it!

So, years later, when I was seated comfortably in a therapist’s office around age 30, I started to get the idea that maybe I was doing something wrong.  Turns out my perfectionistic vantage point was blinding me.  I was so busy anticipating some invisible “‘ever after” that I was missing the “here and now” completely.   I was “waiting for the world to change” as John Mayer sings so perfectly.  It wasn’t an easy pill to swallow to think that the change needed to be in my own mindset.

So… this is it?!   What I make of each day is the goal, rather than a waiting room in which I’m biding time for fate?  DANG IT!

Now in my 40s, I’ve seen some pretty magical moments.  Not because they were dropped on my doorstep, but because I stopped looking “out there” and began to discover the fullness and beauty in things like looking into my children’s eyes and seeing joy.  And things like putting my head on my husband’s chest and thanking God that his big warm heart was beating loud and strong in my ear.

I’m happy.  Not because destiny has been thrust upon me… but because I stopped expecting to find it elsewhere.

So today, once again, I try to live in the moment… to live knowing that this is “it”!  It’s funny, too, how as I’ve start learning to look at today as “it” some of my other hopes have begun to take shape, too, just when I stopped worrying about all that.  Slowly…but surely.  So apparently destiny resides where our hearts find peace… not in the lack thereof.

Sanity vs. Vanity

tilt-a-whirlI’ve done it again.  After saying “yes” to more people than was realistic and expecting superhuman powers from myself, I finally had the “crash and burn” that brings with it a familiar and unmistakable sense of failure.  Time to go back to the drawing board on my boundaries.  I’ll never forget reading the book Boundaries no less than 10 years ago.   The book gave examples of people who didn’t have a clue how to say “no” and those people sounded just like me!  I’ve worked hard to learn how to set boundaries, and I’ve made progress.  But still, this very day, it has been a constant battle to keep my life from resembling a tilt-a-whirl (lots of motion but going in circles at a dizzying and nauseating rate). 

 

I fluctuate constantly between sanity (knowing my limitations and living within them) and vanity (thinking that saying “yes” all the time will somehow win me favor or bonus points or my wildest dreams-come-true).  SO… for the past month or so I’ve chosen vanity.  As a result, all the favor I was going for has alluded me completely because I’ve disappointed some of my dearest friends, double-booked myself multiple times, forgotten tons of important things I needed and wanted to do… and worse, I’ve been snippy and resentful about it!  I’ve literally lost sleep over important things I didn’t accomplish because I was trying to accomplish too much. So ironic.

 

It’s time to run my neediness through a nifty little filter that wise people call “realistic expectations”.   And just in time for the holidays, too!    Reflection and gratitude go hand-in-hand… so I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that insanity and tilt-a-whirls have no place at the Thanksgiving table. Maybe that’s why God created Thanksgiving.

I’m starting right away. I’m redefining the boundaries I can joyfully live within. And my list begins with going to sleep. Right now.

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