To be at your best, you need to make time for yourself.
Start today. Say "yes" to self care with better transition practices morning, noon and evening.
Having seen literally hundreds of couples and individuals over the past 14 years, time and time again I have discovered that one of the best remedial approaches to rescue partnerships gone sideways is for individuals to commit to improving their own personal self-care. When you feel good about yourself, you may notice you feel good about others in your life too. You may have a driving need to contribute to global sustainability, to develop a more outstanding career or to become the most supportive nurturing parent ever. And what about caring for you? What about looking after your inner joyful playful loving self? What about that part of you that is wanting to let the walls come down, to make your hair curl, to let your belly out? Where do you fit into this picture? Can you say yes to your own personal time out starting today?
What do you tell yourself when you put the kibosh to your morning meditation, mindful walk or energy-boosting jog because you have an early start time at work? "My jog can wait until later." And later is when? "I'll go for a run twice later this week; it is already Thursday, so I want to wait until Monday to start my new health routine?" Is this your best inner dialogue?
And by putting your personal care on pause, have you noticed your brain and body are beginning to squeak? Are you experiencing headaches, back aches, shoulder pains, trouble sleeping? Do you notice emotional changes in yourself like irritability, reactivity, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, or cognitive deficits such as trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, or just a general discomfort? Worse, maybe you don't notice, but others do. So do you continue to ignore those physical and psychic messages, or do you say "Yes" to self-care today?
It is sad to witness partnerships go sideways because of chronically long work schedules, shift work or excessive work related travel. By keeping pressured and unbalanced schedules, you may naturally fall into a kind of dark tunnel of criticism and contempt for yourself and others. Now that the summer months are here and regular work obligations are lightening because school is out and the pressures are off, what do you notice has opened up in your life? Harold Whitman once said "Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what you need to come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive." And you can't come alive, if you aren't taking care of yourself.
I am looking forward to attending the Gottman-Seigel Summit in Seattle in two weeks. These three people are some of the current rock stars of brain and relationship research. Daniel Seigel, M.D. writes about the impacts of healthy brain states on human interactions and how you can change your brain through meditation and a practice of mindful living. John & Julie Gottman teach the ways we can create safe emotional space for each other to foster more caring relationships and possibly generational changes in the ways we relate and love.
You can have all the communication tools in the world, but if you don't live your life in balance by caring for your self and nurturing your own experience in the world, all your dedication to best practices in your career and relationship can go sideways. When you give more than you receive, you may find yourself living in scarcity and just surviving life, when all along a simple change in transition practices every day can make a massive difference to your life. When you are conscious about how you schedule your day, you will feel in control, less anxious, more creative and in more meaningful connections with others (see my last blog).
We know through clinical research that anxiety is a contagious brain state. The more anxious you are, the less attractive you are in all your relationships at work and home. The life lesson here is that if you take care of yourself and your inner calm is able to come out, then this will enhance the chances that your dreams of enjoying a loving, contributing life will come true. When you are calm and feeling whole, your most attractive version of you will show up.
In my book (Break-Up Breakthrough & Learning To Love Again), I suggest you might consider caring for yourself in the context of four elements of earth:
- Be Grounded; practice personal self-care so you can contribute to your health.
- Be Like Wind; communicate so you can come to emotional rescue when needed.
- Be Like Fire; be passionate, alive, engaged and growing.
- Be Like Water; clear out and wash away old patterns of heart confusion.
So what is your current commitment to physical health?
In the morning, do you...
- Meditate for 10 minutes? If yes, I bet you deal with stress better than most.
- Make a plan of intention for your day? Choose one thing so you set yourself up for positive feelings so you are complete when your day is done.
- Go for a brisk walk or jog? If you do this, you will build positive neural pathways with cardio exercise, and this leads to positive cellular changes throughout your body, which will help you stave off cancer, dementia, and aging.
- Rush to work because you are generally running behind schedule already? You got to bed late last night and thought you'd get that extra hour of sleep and wake up on the way to work. If you start the day this way, you will likely continue to feed a negative story that you do not have control, that you don't deserve, and that you are a victim to your circumstance. Good luck trying to get better results in approaching personal care with that kind of life.
At lunch, do you...
- Have lunch with a colleague and debrief your day and/or any stresses on your mind? Are you always trying to nurture your friendships and connections at work? Are you the "cup half full" kind of person with positive feelings about work and life overall? Then you are probably able to deal with stress better than most.
- Go for a brisk walk or jog? Then you are likely to come back from work renewed and energized. People gravitate to you as you are "good energy" to be around. You are not afraid to share your ideas with others because you have great chemistry — go, endorphins, go!
- The one who says, "Who has any time for lunch?" If that is you, then you are likely no stranger to burnout. You may struggle with weight gain/loss, and your relationships may tend to have a few roller coaster rides. You may tend to grab unhealthy high carb fast snacks and notice peaks and valleys in your energy quite regularly.
At the end of the day, do you...
- Consider one thing you feel good about completing? Are you grateful? Do you rehearse the positive? Then your confidence and your ease in life is likely on the rise. If yes, you are likely to be discovering meaning in most days and you are living a life closely connected to your core values.
- Do you take a brisk walk or jog? Do you transition from work to home well? If yes, this habit gives you renewed energy to enjoy a full evening of stimulation and activity. You sleep well, and generally eat well. You will probably live longer than most others your age. Chances are your relationships feel positive and stimulating generally.
- Or are you the one asking "Who has time for a transition activity after work?" Are you the one who can't wait to get home to turn on the television and veg out for the night? Do you pour yourself into your evening routines and then not sleep very well?
I realize that life is busy and unexpected challenges can throw us off all at times. Your ability to get back to the life you choose and to the habits you actively practice will pay off in better relationships at work and at home, along with benefits to your greater longevity and happiness. Don't take my word for it though. Make yourself your own experiment. Try out the positive activities one week and negative ones another week. What will you discover? I'd love to hear from you! This is your life. Live your best one — today!