Have you ever had a moment that made you quickly get real about your life?
I recently had a health scare and while thankfully it’s all being managed, I’ve realized the urgent need for paying close attention to my self-care. It was like time stood still when I first heard the news. What did all of this mean in terms of what I needed to do moving forward?
How was I going to figure it all out? What needed to shift around my self-care, what habits were no longer serving me that I’d have to change? There were so many questions swirling through my mind and I felt overwhelmed by it all.
Staying present is about committing to practicing self-care
Since then, I’ve been giving a lot of thought about what it really means to stay present and live to fully experience each moment I’m presented with and trusting myself that I know how to move forward when I’m feeling stuck or afraid of something I’m dealing with. It takes committing to truly looking after myself which means staying in tune with reality.
Being present is about staying in tune to the relationship between your body, mind, and spirit, and to trust your intuition and listen to the messages and direction you’re receiving. From there, it’s about stepping back and taking stock of your circumstances in order to determine what’s fact and what’s fiction around the stories you’re telling yourself.
From there, you can evaluate your current thought patterns and what actions you need to implement that will allow you to move forward in a way that will restore your sense of harmony and wellbeing. This is all about self-care.
How is self-care is essential to work life harmony?
I was in a conversation with a group of leaders who were talking about the challenging realities of their busy lives and how they were each striving to the best of their abilities to go beyond merely juggling and coping and what they were doing to bring harmony to their lives while dealing with their busy schedules and their personal challenges involving aging parents, health, work, money, relationships.
Their willingness to be vulnerable and tell it like it is encouraged the others around the table to do the same and there was total agreement that stress reduction and practicing self-care are critical to achieving and sustaining work life harmony.
So, if self-care is so important, why is it so hard to maintain?
That was the main question in our conversation. It’s puzzling to me that when life gets busy, I find it hard to look after myself and tend to my self-care which is the very thing that will help me to stay in balance and feel good about myself.
I know the reason why. Plain and simple, I default to a list of excuses and reasons why I don’t have the time to do the very things that make me feel happy, healthy, productive and in balance. However, my recent health scare was my wakeup call and it’s made me realize that my only option is to let go of the self- judgement and excuses I’ve been holding onto and to simply get on with it for the sake of my health and wellbeing.
8 Essential Steps for Practicing Self-Care
Here are eight simple ways to practice self-care that I have found enormously helpful. Some I’m better at and others continue to be a work in progress. What I know for sure is how important it is to set yourself up for success which means gradually and consistently incorporating simple ways to practice self-care on a daily basis.
- Daily rituals – having a morning and evening rituals to start and end your day with will be of great benefit to helping you maintain a body, mind and spirit connection. It’s important to be able to stay present to each moment and make a conscious effort to express gratitude for all that you have in your life.
- A morning ritual helps you plan and set the tone for your day ahead and can include activities such as making time before your day starts to be in silence, awaken your body with stretches and deep breathing, enjoy a cup of tea while you read a short inspirational passage. Taking this sacred time for yourself first thing in the morning will help the rest of your day run more smoothly. An evening ritual is a time of self-reflection and a way to acknowledge yourself for what you are doing well as well as identify areas you’d like to improve on. This will help you to understand yourself on a deeper level and you may want to consider keeping a journal to record your thoughts, observations and progress. Scheduling this time of quiet reflection prior to going to sleep allows for your mind to download the day’s events and for your mind to destress and your body to relax. These rituals don’t have to be time consuming (mine are 15-30 minutes each) and the most important thing is to make sure you dedicate this time no matter what.
- Managing thoughts and emotions – believe it or not, we are in control of how we choose to think, feel and respond to situations we experience for this will ultimately play a great role in the outcomes we create. For that reason, it’s important for your physical and emotional wellbeing to practice mindful awareness which will allow you to observe your thoughts and emotions and whether you will react or respond to challenging situations which present themselves. Be mindful that you are valuable and by understanding your feelings and being clear on who you want to show up as, you’ll be able to better process these thoughts and emotions and move through to your desired behaviour. It’s also important to pay attention to the way you speak to yourself (self-talk) and to make sure to be kind and generous to yourself as you would to another that you care about. All of this is essential to your wellbeing as well as helpful for reducing stress in your life and creating work life balance.
- Eat healthy foods – in order to maintain a body, mind, spirit connection, a healthy diet helps to reduce our vulnerability to the stressors that daily life can and will bring. The catch 22 is, the more stressed we feel, the more difficult it is to make healthy food choices which leads to a vicious cycle that can be hard to break. This area is one of my greatest challenges and I’ve found that the more prepared I am around keeping healthy foods readily available, I’m less apt to give in to my unhealthy cravings. I’ve also found that when I maintain healthy eating habits, I feel better, I have more energy and I’m able to handle my stress much better.
- Engage in regular physical activity – this is vital to our physical and emotional wellbeing. Most important is to find the activities that you truly enjoy and to build theses activities into a schedule that you’re prepared to stick to. For example, I love to walk and my dog needs to walk which makes us perfect workout buddies!. Exercise releases endorphins which help us to feel good and over the long term, helps to reduce our stress levels and create a feeling of physical and emotional harmony.
- Get plenty of rest – it’s so important to listen to our bodies and rest when needed. Studies show that it’s important to our physical and emotional wellbeing to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. In fact, lack of sleep can negatively impact our ability to function, handle stress and be productive. It’s about making sure you have strategies in place to support healthy sleep habits which can include an evening ritual of quiet time before bed, unplugging from technology or listening to a sleep meditation recording. Of course, if your schedule allows for it, a power nap midday can be just what you need to boost your energy!
- Stay connected – we are social beings and staying connected to people we enjoy and find interesting will help keep us happier and healthier and also contribute to helping us reduce our stress levels. In a busy world where so much time is spent connecting online, it’s important to monitor and minimize time spent on our devices and social media. Connecting with friends can pick you up when you’re down, bring us out when we’re feeling isolated, and provide a listening ear when we need to be heard.
- Enjoy a hobby – this will do wonders for reducing stress and fuel your passion and creativity, not to mention it will keep your mind active and sharp. I took up the guitar 7 years ago and had no idea how much I would love learning how to play it. In fact, a part of my morning ritual is to enjoy a short practice time before I go to work and I notice how over time, this has elevated my mood and infused me with creative energy at the start of each new day. The most important point is to choose something you’ve been wanting to do (gardening, crossword puzzles, cooking, painting, music, the list goes on) and just do it – without judgement, without comparison and without the need for perfection. Chances are pretty high that in time, that hobby will become something you love to do!
- Trust your intuition – it’s critical that we train ourselves to listen to the still, small voice within that serves as our inner guide, that tells us what we need in our lives, and, that lets us know the answers to our questions. It’s easy to ignore our intuition instead choosing to look to others for their opinions in order to arrive at a decision. For this reason, it’s important to get in the habit of asking our intuition for advice and guidance and to truly listen to what we’re being told. Trusting ourselves is key to know that we already have the information we need within ourselves. Listening to our intuition is so important to our self-care and overall wellbeing.
So, what now?
- Schedule time to practice self-care every day – consistently committing to a few minutes at the start and end of each day will make a big difference to how you feel physically and emotionally
- Try out the steps I’ve shared above, create your own, and fine tune the ones that work best for you
- Build your own dedicated self-care practice that will help you to create a healthy, happy lifestyle
- Enjoy the benefits of how this will make you feel
Remember, what you consistently practice becomes habit!