Self care is essential to physical and emotional health, and we all need to take care of ourselves. But where do we find the time? You could spend hours every day reading other people’s tips and tricks for taking care of yourself, but that will only get you so far. Instead of reading, you could follow these three simple steps: 1. Take a break 2. Do something fun 3. Be intentional

Self-care can be such an elusive concept. We all know the importance of taking care of ourselves – emotional, mental, physical and spiritual – but we often find it difficult to make time for ourselves. We worry about work, our family, friends and our health. But how much self-care is enough? How many hours of sleep do we need, and what is the best way to sleep? How often should we eat, and how much should we eat? How much exercise should we do, and how should we exercise?

Self care can be a tricky topic. Many people, even those who look healthy, are not taking care of themselves. You deserve to relax, enjoy life, and to be your very best self. With that in mind, here are 3 practical tips that can help improve your own self care.

On a Friday, the memo arrived.

During the early stages of COVID-19, my good friend Beth had been working 12-hour shifts as a hospital screener.

Beth was totally exhausted, what with a demanding and stressful work, an active 2-year-old, domestic difficulties, and the tremendous emotional upheaval of a worldwide epidemic.

Her agenda was jam-packed to the brim. Coffee kept me going throughout the day, and alcohol kept me going at night. The word “sleep” conjured up images of anxious tossing and turning. It seemed difficult to exercise.

Beth, a former runner and rock climber, didn’t recognize herself. In only a few months, she seemed to have aged a decade.

So, on this particular Friday, Beth came home, switched off the vehicle, and sighed after a particularly hard shift.

She took up her phone and, on autopilot, read her email while attempting to gather the energy to get out of the vehicle.

And there it was: a well-intentioned letter from her boss, advising stressed-out employees on how to take care of themselves. It came to this conclusion:

“Take advantage of your free time at home to RELAX and RECHARGE.”

Beth tossed her phone to the ground. Her head sagged on the driving wheel, and tears streamed down her cheeks.

When she subsequently told me about it, she laughed and said, “Relax and recharge?”

“I use my ‘off’ time to care for my child, cook, clean, take the cat to the vet, and a million other things. I’m fortunate if I get a couple of hours of sleep each night. Home isn’t a good location to re-energize. It’s time for Job #2.”

We understand if self-care advice makes you want to slam your phone in frustration, sorrow, or humiliation.

People have more duties and commitments than they can reasonably handle now more than ever.

When you’re trying to answer emails, clear the dishwasher, and prevent a brave toddler from flinging herself off a bookshelf, advice like “put your feet up with a nice book” or “schedule a massage” seems banal or even ridiculous.

And yet.

People still want to prioritize their health and well-being, which creates a maddening contradiction in which self-care seems to be both more necessary and more difficult than ever before.

“The difference is amazing for those who do find a way to take time for themselves,” says Coach Pam Ruhland.

From working with over 100,000 customers, we’ve learned that even those with the greatest obstacles and the busiest schedules can thrive: moving better, feeling better, looking better, and overall acting more like the person they want to be.

Here are three methods we’ve seen work in real life if you’re having trouble taking care of yourself or mentoring someone who is.

Self-care issues aren’t simply a personal issue. They’re a systemic problem.

Some people find self-care more difficult than others.

The COVID-19 epidemic, for example, has brought to light the significant disparities in people’s employment safety, workload, and flexibility, all of which have an impact on the time, energy, attention, and other resources available for self-care.

We also know that women bear the burden of domestic, parental, and emotional labor; they are paid less on average; and they often work longer hours in order to establish professional credibility and seniority.

COVID has aggravated the situation: According to data1, women are putting in more hours on housekeeping and child care than they were before the epidemic, regardless of their job status.

Furthermore, individuals from disadvantaged groups have extra challenges in taking care of themselves and their health, including racialized persons, people with disabilities and mental health problems, and those with lower incomes and less financial stability.

While we’d want to address all of these issues in this post, we’ll stick to what we know how to do best: assisting coaches and people in improving their health.

We won’t be able to address the systemic problems all at once, but we can recognize them and provide solutions that you and your customers can implement right now.

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Even when it’s very difficult, there are three methods for prioritizing self-care.

Start small, with just 5-10 minutes each day.

I just spoke with another of my friends, whom I’ll refer to as Laura. She has two children and four dogs, operates her own counseling company, works part-time at a shelter, and is pursuing several certifications. (Of course, she’s doing all of this while dealing with a pandemic.)

Laura bemoaned the fact that she often wakes up, grabs her phone, and scrolls through her company’s Instagram account before getting out of bed.

I asked if she would consider spending a few minutes in the morning to read a book.

She said, “Sure.” “I’d want to read, meditate, practice yoga, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast with my kids every day… but it’s not going to happen.”

Laura’s response may seem almost comical—how could a few minutes of reading turn into that?—but it’s not. However, many of us may fall victim to an all-or-nothing mentality.

Ruhland says, “I try to encourage customers to concentrate on things that are really feasible for them.”

“Anything that pushes you ahead counts: a five-minute meditation, having older kids assist in the kitchen so you can read a news story, adding an additional vegetable portion to one meal, or completing 10 minutes of online yoga. Whatever offers them a taste of ‘this is for me,’” says the author.

Although five minutes a day may not seem like much, it may help you begin to show up for yourself (it helps family and friends get used to it, too).

And, if you’re accustomed to doing nothing, doing something may be unexpectedly satisfying.

How to put it to the test:

  1. Make a list of modest, 5-minute tasks that will help you tick the box for “self-care.” Choose ONE to try once a day for a few weeks.
  2. After that, try adding additional minutes to your regimen, or another brief self-care exercise.
  3. It’s important to remember that self-care isn’t only about food and exercise. It also involves your emotional and mental well-being, as well as the people you interact with, your surroundings, and your general perspective on life. (We refer to this as “deep health.”) Here’s where you may learn more about it.)

Embrace the three Ds: Delete, Delegate, and Do Less (Strategy #2).

Your alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m.

You take a breath and blink.

It’s 6 p.m., the kids are hungry, the dog needs walking, and your boss is waiting for those TPS reports…

What the hell happened to the day?

If this describes you, grab your calendar and a Sharpie, says PN Coach Dominic Matteo… and becoming more ruthless

(Friendly nudge: This may include reevaluating your limits with loved ones and/or seeking their assistance.)

How to put it to the test:

  1. Get clear on exactly how you’re spending your time. Hint! Use PN’s Planning & Time Use Worksheet (or keep a time diary for a day) to get granular. Now you’re ready to scrutinize.
  2. Remove one or more activities from your schedule. Are there any responsibilities that you don’t have to fulfill? Do you have any bad habits (like watching TV or using TikTok) that aren’t serving you anymore? What happens if a particular job isn’t completed at all? What is the worst-case scenario?
  3. Delegate as much as you can. Ask yourself, “Who else can do this?” for each job. Is it possible for your spouse to bring the lunches? Is it possible for a child from the neighborhood to mow the lawn? Do your children know how to fold (ahem, “fold”) their own clothes? What are the worst-case scenarios?
  4. Do fewer things. Set a goal for yourself: What is “good enough” in this case? What would a “A-” or a “B+” look like if you’re accustomed to aiming for an A+?

Separate your “shoulds” from your “coulds” using Strategy #3.

It’s funny how we get so caught up in thinking about what we “should” do that we forget what we actually want or need to accomplish.

However, these “shoulds” end up robbing us of our time, squandering our energy, and preventing us from feeling healthy and happy.

If we examine our “shoulds” more closely, we may discover that they aren’t all that necessary:

“Even if it takes longer, I should let my kids help me prepare breakfast.”

“Before I go to the post office, I should put on some makeup.”

“I should pay attention to the meeting of the board of education.”

“I think I can repair that leaking pipe on my own.”

Sure, we’d be able to accomplish those goals. Should we, however, do so? Is it true that they are the most efficient use of your time?

Similarly, there may be some incorrect “should nots” in there, such as “I shouldn’t let my child watch TV,” “I shouldn’t pay more for pre-cut vegetables,” and “I shouldn’t leave my colleagues at their desks.”

How to put it to the test:

  1. Take note and give it a name. Pause the next time that tiny voice in your mind says, “You should do this…” Take note of it. That’s your “should” voice, to be sure. Decide whether or not you want to retain that “should.”
  2. Sort it out. You’ll always have more useful activities to select from than time in the day, realistically. Do you need assistance? Try the Tournament of Priorities worksheet, which walks you through determining what’s more essential to you at any particular moment.

Remember, you have complete control over your priorities and the trade-offs you’re prepared to make. In the end, it’s up to you to determine what’s most essential to you.

It’s time to re-add YOU to the list.

References

To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to guide clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a manner that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

Whether you’re stressed-out or happy, your body will let you know, in ways you can feel. So, what can you do to keep your body in check?. Read more about self-care strategies for nurses and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are examples of self care strategies?

Self care strategies are things that you can do to take care of yourself. They could be as simple as taking a walk, going for a run, or meditating.

What are 5 different self care practices?

Here are 5 different self care practices that can help you feel better and more relaxed. 1) Meditation 2) Yoga 3) Deep breathing exercises 4) Reading a book or watching TV shows with positive messages 5) Listening to music

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