There is talk about the importance of self-care. Regardless of your profession, if you aren’t mindful and committed to monitoring your stress level and taking time to replenish and refresh, you can get burnt out! This is a common condition for those in the “helping others” professions. My goal is to offer suggestions for ways that you can take care of yourself.
Is that a snicker I hear and a smirk I see? “Yeah, thanks Lauren. Who has TIME to take care of themselves?!” “I can’t even get to the bathroom during the work day and I eat my lunch at my desk.” “Wait, who has time for lunch?!” OR maybe you say, “I know, I know, I should go to the gym, BUT when?”
I hear you! I get it! I’ve been there and may be there again next week…BUT it’s a fight worth fighting. And YOU are worth the fight.
We all know the typical “self-care strategies”; find a hobby, get some exercise, eat right, sleep 8 hours a night, have a safe group of peers to process with, and take a vacation, to name a few. Those are all great ways to take care of yourself and I try to practice them. However, I would like to propose some additional, easier tips I use on my own self-care journey. These are ideas and strategies I’ve integrated into my hectic days to remind me to go SLOW; be mindful, present and positive about myself, others and to look for the good around me.
1) Use jewelry– I have a couple different pieces of jewelry I wear, depending on the situation. I inherited my grandmother’s wedding ring so on days when I feel like I need a little extra dose of love I put that on and take a part of her with me. I love things with butterflies because it reminds me of new beginnings and evolution, changing from one being into another. I purchased a butterfly ring and wear it when I travel or am facing an anxiety producing situation. It reminds me that I’m changing from a highly anxious person to one who wants to be calm and at peace and who goes SLOW. I have necklaces, bracelets and earrings I wear for other situations. My son wears a woven bracelet he got while working in Haiti over a school break. It serves as a reminder of a life changing experience and to continue to pursue his dreams. It could be a watch that reminds you of the importance of time and making the most of it. All of these items can be touch stones for the day and prompts to stay focused on good. Perhaps you could find a touch stone too.
2) Use clothing-I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Put your big girl panties on” or “Put on your big boy pants”. Keeping that in mind, and thanks to a friend’s funny holiday gift story, I have a pair of Wonder Woman panties, (just like her, and now several of my other friends too). I wear them on days that I know are going to be extra stressful. They empower me and even give me a little chuckle when I finally find time to make it to the restroom. (I also have a Wonder Woman water bottle, which is a more obvious reminder to myself AND others). While we are talking about big girl panties, I should also mention I have a pair of “I love me” panties. They help me when I’m feeling a little insecure and need that little boost of self-confidence. (I bought a pair for my teenage daughter too). Maybe for you it could be a shirt with a particular message or socks or a sweatshirt, anything that helps you remember your uniqueness and greatness!
3) Use words-I’ve learned some mantras through various Oprah and Deepak Chopra meditations. They can be very beneficial. Some I remember but some I don’t, so I use a few of my own that I’ll offer here. You may have others that could be more useful for you. I’ve adopted a line from a Carrie Underwood song, it’s “Jesus take the wheel”. I say it to myself or I say it out loud when things feel out of control. It also serves as a signal to my kids when they hear me say it, they know it’s probably best to stay out of the way. Another saying I’ve heard and use is “All is well and all will be well”. Sometimes, I have to consciously choose to believe that, because there are times I don’t feel like it’s true, but I eventually get there. A dear friend and I also say “Not my circus, not my monkeys” when we see problems around us that don’t have anything to do with us. I, being an enabler in recovery, would want to jump in to help “save the day”. But I have to remember to reserve my energy and choose my battles. So sometimes it’s nice to walk away knowing I don’t need to get involved.
4) Use music-It’s amazing how music can change our mood. This is a definite go-to for me. Depending on how I’m feeling as I drive to work, I will play different types of music. Sometimes, I need 80’s classic rock, it gets me pumped up for the day. Other times I need country, to remember my childhood roots, it can be sentimental for me. Then there are times I need spa type music, it calms my spirit as I’m in traffic or processing my day or preparing for the next thing on the agenda. And finally, sometimes I need church hymns. I call it “Jesus music” and it brings me hope, peace and focus. Let me also say, there are other times I need silence, no music, just me and quiet space. I really try to use my alone time in the car for me, with music or without, it helps me decompress so I can be ready for my next full time job-mom. There are occasions when I use drive time to return calls or make calls, (hands free) to “check things off the list”. But I really try to be aware of what I need and use that time for myself.
5) Use moments-The next time you are in a waiting room or an airport gate or some “holding place” where groups of people are, notice how many are on their phones. I intentionally try to not get on my phone and read or watch people or sit in silence and catch my breath. What about while waiting to pick up your child from practice or another after school event or even walking into work, look around you, take in nature, take a breath, take a moment. There’s no question using these times to catch up on emails/text/tweets, etc. can be helpful, however, I propose that they can also be a great opportunity to catch up with yourself. Sit quietly in your car, look out the window or close your eyes. Or stand outside of your car and breath in some fresh air, stretch your arms, neck, back, legs. Notice people around you, send them love & peace, and/or count your blessings. Remembering there are lots of things to be grateful for.
There are many other “little” things you can do that could make a big difference in your day. Ultimately, be aware of what you need and allow that need to be met. Sometimes you have to be creative but figure out what works for you and do it. You deserve it!