When you think of the topic of self-care, what does that bring up for you?
How do those words make you feel?
Is there a sense of lack?
A wisp of longing?
Most people understand that taking care of ourselves is an important part of wellness, but it’s not always easy to make time. We’re over-scheduled, burned out and spreading ourselves too thin, so we just don’t carve out time for self-care.
Even if we do take some time to meditate, exercise or simply relax, the judgment monster shows up to add guilt and distraction with all of the other things we “should” be doing. Sometimes that judgment is so obnoxious we give up and let guilt win.
It’s a vicious circle. Each time we give in to guilt or negative self-talk it makes us feel worse and degrades whatever self-care we are able to eke out.
We might be telling ourselves that we’re “just fine” but our actions may show something different. We make mistakes, we get short-tempered, the burnout gets worse, we get tired or discouraged. Creativity plummets. We become short with our team and mindful leadership skills get lost in the crush of do, do, do.
7 ways to practice self-care
We can often let the self-critic rule in our inner conversations. Negativity bias points out the bad and smothers the good in our lives if we let it. Try a little self-compassion like this:
When the critical inner monster rises up, give it a name. (I call mine Esther).
Say for example you are presenting in a meeting. Some of the team is excited about your ideas and support it, and you get negative feedback from a colleague. Negativity floods your thoughts and now you doubt your value. You tell yourself all the things you did “wrong” and forget the kudos from other colleagues. When you’re hearing that critical voice, say to yourself, “hello (Esther), I hear you, but you are not the one who chooses what I feel like. How can I look at this with more compassion and hear the positive comments from others with appreciation?
Really feel the good
When something good happens, even something as simple as seeing a beautiful cloud in the sky, give yourself a few seconds to bask in that positive feeling. Identify the emotion you are feeling and how it feels in your body. Does it make you smile? Let it soak in and remember it. When we consciously interact with the positive experience we are training the neurons in our brain to fire together in response to that stimuli. The more we find the good, the less negativity can derail us.
Being kind to ourselves can be as simple as recognizing that mistakes are simply mistakes, temporary situations that do not reflect all of our being. We might think of what we would say to a friend who did the same thing? Would we be kind? Comforting? Forgiving? Be a friend to yourself. Step back from yourself just a bit and observe. Is there room here for kindness>
Exercise without judgment
You finally take the time to go to the gym, for a run, the yoga studio and then spend the whole time ruminating on how you don’t exercise enough or you’re doing it wrong? Just stop. Take a breath and enjoy the experience, however, it presents today. You took the step to do it, so do it without running yourself down. If today isn’t perfect, that’s OK. You’re there, you made the effort to be there, so enjoy it!
Treat yourself with gusto
When you treat yourself, to a special snack, a long hot soak, a drive along the coast to smell the sea air, a chat with a dear friend, do it with pleasure, not guilt or judgment. Let yourself have this, without spending the entire time feeling bad about it.
Be where you are
If you’re on vacation and your thoughts are still in the office? You’re not on vacation. The same holds true for when you go out to the movies, dinner with a friend, playing with your kids, dinner with your grand love. Be there and fully present. Keep your mind and your heart in this moment and fully experience it.
You may have heard of forest bathing? You don’t have to be deep in the forest to enjoy the benefits of being outside. Take a 5 minute walk without your mobile device and see what you see. Enjoy the sounds, the sights, the smells. Let your mind relax from all the other things you need to think about and just BE where you are. Your mind will thank you for it and you’ll feel less rushed and stressed when you get back.