I have talked about self care around here on multiple occasions and it’s importance just cannot be overstated. For that reason, I felt it important to do a post exclusively on it as I just finished up discussing stress and burn out.

self care in a stressed world - how to put on your own oxygen mask first

Since you’re amongst the living, I’m going to assume you’ve got stress. Hell, even if you’re a zombie I’m guessing you have stress (brains don’t eat themselves ya’ know!). And that stress will have an ever building effect on your mental and physical health if left unchecked.

And since you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume that at some point in your life (and maybe even now) you’ve tried to stack your plate so full and so high that it nearly knocked you over. Or, if you’re like me, it did knock you over and you laid on the floor under it’s crippling weight before you realized you can’t get up until you toss it all off and start over.

The great thing is that even if we start piling our plates a little too full, we can still manage them for a little while until we get it under control. Increasing your productivity, time management, and all that is one way to help, but another more immediately obtainable way is self care. Of course, one of the major ways to practice self care is to say no to some of those things on your plate, but if you’re stuck and there’s nothing that can be done right now about your workload, you can at least take care of yourself in other ways.

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In the last couple of weeks I’ve explained the crippling effect stress can have on our lives. It affects our health, relationships, productivity – pretty much every aspect you can think of will be effected by an excess of stress. And if you continue to live in that stressful place you can head to burn out. So your choice is to learn now how to practice self care, or you can wait until you burn out and go live entirely in self care because that’s one of the few ways to dig out (ask me how I know).

There is one thing I want to make abundantly clear about self care – it comes in MANY different forms. In can show up in your life in ways you weren’t expecting. When people think of self care, images of pedicures and beach filled vacations spring to mind. Or perhaps organic vegetables and yoga classes. While these are all forms of self care, there are so many other things that are easier to obtain than a trip to Cancun.

I’ve broken down these self care tips in an effort to demonstrate that there’s more than one aspect to it. Self care isn’t all mental or all physical. You can meditate an hour a day if you like, but if you’re still drinking too much and then fighting with your spouse, it’s unlikely the meditation is having enough positive effect.

Everyone is different. The most important things are that the self care routine you choose

  • fits your life
  • helps you mitigate your stress
  • is something you will continue to do
  • doesn’t add more stress to your life

These are all incredibly important factors. If getting to a yoga class means sitting in hours of traffic, is that going to help your stress? If following the healthy meal plan you chose means you have to spend hours in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and therefore don’t get to spend time relaxing with your family, is that really sustainable? Just because it works for your bff/coworker/random lady on the subway doesn’t mean it’s for you. Take time to try things out and if they don’t work, shake it off and try again. Have fun finding a routine. Figuring out what works for you might be the most fun part of the whole process.

PHYSICAL

  • Exercise (light or heavy, walking, running, weights, HIIT, tai chi. tae bo, whatever. Just get that body moving)
  • Massages, chiropractic work, acupuncture, acupressure, reiki.
  • Stretching – this is separate from exercise because people tend to avoid it. You need to stretch, but it doesn’t only have to be around a workout.
  • Eating healthfully – no lecture here, but find a meal plan that works for you. Whatever it is I guarantee it will be less drive thru and more vegetables. Part of self care is meal prepping. Do whatever you can on the weekends so you have healthy food to keep you going through the week.
  • Maintain regular check ups with the doctor. It’s something that goes by the wayside in adulthood, but make time for it. Something caught early is a hell of a lot easier to improve/fix than leaving it until you have to be carried to the hospital on a stretcher.
  • Get enough sleep. You can tell me all you want how great you function on 4-5 hours, and I will still tell you to try 7 for a month and tell me you don’t feel better. Shoot for 7-9 every night – or at least more often than not.

MENTAL

  • Get a mindfulness practice. There are tons to choose from. Most include some for of meditation. Get an app, read a book, take a class. Whatever you need to do to find something you like. It doesn’t even have to take more than 10 minutes a day to be effective. Just do it.
  • Prioritize your to do list. Don’t spend your life doing everyone else’s important things and then skip your own. Check out my post on urgent/important. Or just scroll to the bottom of that post and download the worksheet.
  • Figure out what energizes you, and what depletes you. And then get more energizing tasks into your life. Check out this post for more.
  • Work with your body’s ultradian rhythm that allows you to work in 90-120 minute chunks. When you get antsy, tired, or hungry it’s time for a movement break away from your desk for at least 15 minutes. Bonus points for getting outside on your break.
  • Learn something new – get a new hobby, read a non fiction book, take a class. Anything that will stretch your mind into new ways of thinking.
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EMOTIONAL

  • Find someone to talk to. Friend, family member, counselor, therapist, coach. Whatever works for you. Keeping emotions bottled up will not serve your mental well being. If you have a pre-existing mental illness and you find it’s being exacerbated by your stress, definitely seek professional help.
  • Spend real quality time with those you love. Put the phone down and have a conversation, play a board game, go out to dinner. Keeping those connections is vital to your well being. 
  • Make time to take your time. If you’re always rushing around, inhaling your food, pounding your coffee, you’re going to miss all the little moments. Not only will ensuring you have enough time to get to your appointments, eating food, and relaxing with a cup of coffee help your stress levels, it will also give you the moments to notice things that could give you a little lift.
  • Practice gratitude. When I say practice, I mean it. Actually DO something. Don’t just think “thank goodness my boss found someone to cover my shift”, go find out who it was and thank them. Or even better write them a note.
  • Watch your favorite funny movie. Or go to a comedy show. Nothing busts stress and boosts your mood like laughing.
  • Setting boundaries – at work, at home, with friends, with family. Know what you are willing to do and not do and make that clear. Don’t allow other people to pile things on you unless you are willing to take them on.

Of course there are many other ways to take care of yourself, but you can find list after list telling you to go to yoga and take a vacation. My goal here was to hit the thing that people don’t always think about as self care. These might not be the first things that pop to your mind, but most are free and easily attainable things to help you reduce stress and improve your life.

So tell me, what’s your favorite way to self care?

If you are struggling with your overwhelm and busy schedule I can help you dig out and reach for your goals again. Just send me a message and we can have a free consultation about how I can help you.

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